I like the way Cathy Hackl, renowned “Godmother of the Metaverse,” and author of “Navigating the Metaverse: A Guide to Limitless Possibilities in a Web 3.0 World” frames the current situation.
“I see the metaverse as the next step in how humans will engage with technology. It is a further convergence of our physical and digital lives. And, in some ways, it’s about the internet breaking free from the rectangles in our hands, desks and walls, and existing all around us. The metaverse makes our world into a combined experience of virtual and physical. In other words, it’s about shared virtual experiences that can happen in the physical, as well as the virtual world. We’re at the end of Web 2.0 which connected people and heading into Web 3.0 which connects people, places, and things. To me, the metaverse is an extension of what comes next for human creativity. It is also about our identity and digital ownership. The metaverse will be enabled by many different technologies like blockchain, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, virtual reality, 5G, edge computing and beyond.”
No longer if, but when.
As Hackl points out, while the infrastructure and creative realization of the digital universe is still very much in a nascent stage, the activity connected to building it is exploding. In the past year, we posted not one, not two, but three different blogs about NFTs and the growth of the digital universe. Even then, it felt like the metaverse was realistically still years away. It doesn’t feel like that anymore. Culturally, the metaverse seems to be everywhere and where many were once highly skeptical about a digital universe, NFTs, crypto and the like, reality – both actual and virtual – is right in front of us. The metaverse is no longer a far away if, but a when. And when is a lot sooner than we might think.
In the future, when history questions when the tipping point came for our embrace of the metaverse, 2022 may well be the year. Even though we’re years from the vast universe we know is coming, the concept of complete sensory immersion and augmented reality is quickly reaching critical mass. Exhibits like the Van Gogh Art Exhibit moving around the country, the more fully immersive Illuminarium Experiences in Atlanta and Las Vegas, and even brand experiments like the Nikeland/Roblox Experience at the Nike store on 5th Avenue in New York give us a glimpse of a more heightened all-sensory entertainment experience away from home. Where things will get really interesting – especially for those of us in advertising and marketing – is when the once blurred, now disappearing line between entertainment and commerce comes home. In the gaming world, it already has.
Branding in Web 3.0.
A recent CNBC article about the metaverse and the economy noted, “Luxury fashion brand Balenciaga has already teamed up with Fortnite to deliver to users designer ‘skins’ to wear inside the game. Gucci has done the same with Roblox, and Louis Vuitton and Ralph Lauren have launched their own Roblox experiences. Brian Trunzo, Metaverse Lead at Polygon Studios, which focuses on gaming, NFTs and Web3 efforts linked to the Polygon digital currency and Ethereum blockchain network, says nimble, smart streetwear brands are already in the space as well. ‘The players have finally taken the field, and the game is about to truly start.’”
In the same article, according to Avery Akkineni, president of VaynerNFT, “There’s a direct commercialization opportunity in the gaming space … people are very used to paying $20, $50, $100 per skin.” And, like in real life, people are willing to pay to make themselves look good. As Akkineni noted, “The digital version of Gucci’s Dionysus bag sold on Roblox for more than the bag’s IRL retail price.” That might seem ridiculous were it not for the fact consumers are paying millions of dollars for virtual real estate and creating a digital land rush on Decentraland where the cheapest property is $11,000. Last year, NFTs accounted for $17 billion in revenue. It would be easy to dismiss all this as a “gamer” thing, or some fringe technology unworthy of attention or investment. If that’s where you are, perhaps this will change your mind.