The year began with an NFT gold rush and as it comes to a close, the digital space is beginning to expand beyond NFTs: welcome to the beginnings of the metaverse.
by Micki Pease
When novelist Neal Stephenson coined the term “metaverse,” it was no more than a sci-fi fantasy, a word to describe an immersive and idealistic 3D virtual world. Today, that virtual world is no longer a fantasy but a very real possibility; the metaverse will be the virtual embodiment of the Internet, where people interact, exchange goods, see live performances, socialize, even get a job. Through a combination of 3D virtual spaces, projected experiences, and augmented reality, IRL will meet URL to create whole new worlds.
If you’ve already bought an NFT or played a game of Fortnite, you’ve already participated in the beginning of the metaverse. Video games like Minecraft, World of Warcraft, and Roblox have started to flesh out what the metaverse may look like by creating their own interactive realms. From digital concerts and digital economies in gaming to NFTs and cryptocurrencies, we’ve seen just a portion of the metaverse’s potential, which aims to interweave even more continuity from the real world.
Brands in the Metaverse
Though the metaverse is in its infancy, brands are racing to be part of the action. Sneaker brands seem to have the jump on the rest, with exclusive metaverse drops and NFT collabs.
Nike + Air Jordan
One week ahead of their official real-world launch on December 11, players could buy the Air Jordan IX Cool Greys in Fortnite’s metaverse before their IRL release. The release includes the classic Jordan’s as well as a new line of Nike wear, decked out in the cool grey accessories for Fortnite players to deck out their characters. Nike plans to continue expanding its offerings for the metaverse.
The activewear conglomerate intends to use its iconic swoosh, Jumpman logo, and more of its iconic trademarks for non-downloadable virtual footwear, clothing, headwear and more. Nike is even hiring for a Virtual Material Designer to help create 3D virtual assets for future direct-to-avatar merchandise.
Adidas has also entered the fray by announcing their collaboration with Bored Ape Yacht Club, gmoney NFT, and PUNKS Comic. On their Twitter, Adidas swapped their profile picture out for the infamous Bored Ape wearing an Adidas tracksuit and posted a video of the 3D avatars of all 3 brands dropping presumably into the metaverse, a not-so-subtle nod to the drop in at the beginning of a Fortnite game. Though it’s not totally clear what the brand will be doing within the metaverse, we know they purchased a plot of virtual real-estate on the platform Sandbox, one of the virtual realm worlds building out this new model of society. We expect to see some exclusive NFTs and digital drops here soon.
Coke has also been partaking in the metaverse madness. On Decentraland, Coke auctioned a Friendship Box containing three NFTS, including a friendship card, exclusive audio visualizer with audio clips of a virtual Coke, and a custom Coca-cola bubble jacket. Additionally, the winning bid received a real cooler filled with cans of Coke. The NFTs sold as a single asset for nearly $576k.
Why it Matters
Whether or not your brand is ready for the shift, the metaverse is growing. The metaverse will likely completely reshape the way we communicate, think, work, and play. Your workplace might include virtual office hours in a hybrid work environment, or you might meet friends for a concert in cyberscape. However the metaverse comes to fruition, it’s clear that this generation is seeking innovative and immersive experiences to connect with one another. After an increasingly digital year imbued with work-from-home and virtual meetings, creating technologies that blend the aspects of physical presence into digital spaces seems particularly pertinent. Using new technologies with the metaverse will help us to not only connect, but to feel present with one another.
As brands take speculative risks on 3D worlds that have yet to be developed, we heed caution to brands looking to jump headlong into the metaverse craze. The uncertainty around what platforms will build the most successful 3D realms and what technologies will exist even in a the near future, limits what brands can achieve in the years leading up to a fully realized metaverse. With the potential for connection so imminent, we think the possibilities are endless for brands in this new virtual space. The metaverse will allow creators to literally defy the laws of reality and expand their creativity in these new found virtual worlds.
Brands will have to navigate both the real and virtual worlds where the lines will frequently be blurred. Authenticity when interacting with customers will be of the utmost importance, as status and success in the real world will not necessarily translate into triumph in the metaverse.