Nice to “Meta” You: Brands Become Versed with Metaverse
The idea of living through the eyes of one’s digital avatar may not be such a far-fetched notion for today’s digitized world. While Facebook (Meta) decided to dip into the immersive universe of Metaverse—a hybrid reality where the “physical” and the “digital” are said to collide—with much hype and fanfare recently, there have been multiple brands across industries who had already embarked on the journey to be a part of the Metaverse in various shapes and forms much before. We look at some of the key metaverse initiatives in this post.
The concept of an interconnected and interoperable ecosystem isn’t entirely new. The theory stems as far back as 1992, where it was depicted more as a virtual gaming environment that people could interact with using virtual reality headsets, and has been in practice for gamers through examples like Second Life and Fortnite. Several other online gaming firms have since then built upon this design, with names such as Roblox and Epic Games at the forefront – creating virtual worlds that offer not only the possibility to socialize and host virtual events, but also participate in a digital economy. The Sandbox gaming ecosystem was hot on the heels in welcoming new users to its community-driven platform through its “learn and earn” program to promote participation in the Metaverse. Decentraland is another gaming destination that allows players to invest in avatar wearables, land and other such digital goods in the Decentraland Marketplace backed by ethereum blockchain. Recently, Pokémon Go’s developer Niantic also jumped the bandwagon with the release of its Real World AR platform Lightship, an initiative that opens the tech-vault through which other developers can build similar reality apps. Axie Infinity is one such NFT-based online game, which enables players to truly own and trade in-game resources.
The portfolio has subsequently diversified towards different industries – as many BigTechs realized the business potential of joining the next generation of internet. Verizone, for example, introduced in-stadium 5G solutions to create the first-ever 5G Stadium in Fortnite Creative, in an attempt to elevate the fans’ viewing experiences. Popular electronics corporation Samsung made its metaverse debut by teaming up with Naver Z to use the ZEPETO platform for its own “My House” VR world. Global consultancy firm PwC also joined the game by purchasing a plot of digital real estate on The Sandbox. It wasn’t long before players such as Apple and Google also revealed their own plans of entering the augmentation competition with their respective sets of AR/VR headsets.
Social experiences account for a core ingredient in the metaverse framework, and it goes without saying that the journey for this was advanced with Facebook’s rebranding announcement of Meta – a brand that brings forward a new chapter of online 3D socialization by connecting people, creators, and communities together. Social networking app Snapchat has been notable for its impressive editing lenses and AR options to create content, and has taken this a step further by launching a feature that allows users to create their own, personal virtual human. Dating apps Tinder and Bumble have also swiped right on the metaverse universe, with Tinder rolling out its new interface called Explore, and Bumble planning to take on the Web 3.0 lens to create more meaningful experiences on the social discovery app.
Banks from South Korea have been the first-movers betting on the metaverse craze, putting employees and customers in virtually-built spaces in hopes to change the banking landscape through virtual training and consulting. Hana Bank took the opportunity to design a computer-generated version of their Hana Global Campus, where the bank’s CEO Park Sung-ho and new entry-level employees toured the Incheon campus via ZEPETO. On a similar note was Wells Fargo’s ‘Together Experience’ tour that allowed customers to engage with exciting virtual environments using the Oculus Rift Development Kit 2 and WizDish locomotion treadmill. BNP Paribas had its own take towards digital transformation, by giving its customers the opportunity to use VR techniques to help assist in banking operations and account management. Citibank’s “Backstage at Citi'' project similarly redefined how banks can profit through live performances held through virtual reality-based concerts. Coinbase’s blockchain technology is also amongst those who want a piece of metaverse, bringing its crypto-exchange abilities to the ubiquitous virtual worlds.
As more and more significant players make their moves into this hybrid realm, many others are also turning their heads towards the assortment of possibilities it has to serve. E-commerce retailer Walmart is venturing into the metaverse space through plans to create its own collectible NFTs and crypto offerings. Others among the retail sector that are merging culture and DeFi include popular beverage companies Coca-Cola and Pepsi, having unveiled their own respective NFT collectibles; and even prominent fashion brands such as Gucci, H&M, Louis Vuitton and Zara, that are changing the game of online shopping by fabricating around more individualized experiences.
With the ongoing race to become an active and established part of the metaverse ecosystem, brands from various spheres have shared their own perspectives surrounding the gains and concerns from this mixed-reality overlay. The shift towards adapting to a more seamless digital environment seems to be the likely periphery we’re all moving towards.