Roblox is supporting new efforts on its popular game platform for teaching children – Copyright AFP / File Ishara S. KODIKARA
The internet’s vision of the metaverse is far from reality, but brands from Ferrari to Nike are already rushing to experiment and build audiences, in part out of fear of missing out.
The clamor over virtual goods comes amid feverish predictions that the metaverse – a virtual reality version of the internet – will eventually replace today’s web.
But some virtual worlds, for example the Fortnite and Minecraft games or the Roblox platform, are already open for business.
âI think a lot of it is experimentation,â said Ryan Mullins, founder of the virtual sneaker app Aglet.
âIf it turns out that we’re making a couple thousand dollars or somethingâ¦ great, but I think a lot (of companies) think ‘innovate, disrupt or die’,â he added, echoing a philosophy of Silicon Valley sometimes brutal evolution.
Fashion has been at the forefront, with a digital clothing line from Uniqlo on Minecraft or Balenciaga outfits and sneakers available on Fortnite.
Designers are also entering the new realm of NFTs – non-fungible tokens that are unique digital objects such as drawings or animations.
âThis represents a huge opportunity for brands, who will enter early and be able to build a persistent presence … on a truly global scale,â said Christina Wootton, vice president of partnerships at Roblox.
– Welcome to “Nikeland” –
During the Halloween holiday, Mexican fast food chain Chipotle opened a virtual, pop-up restaurant on Roblox, the first of its kind.
The brand offered coupons to get a free burrito in a real restaurant, but also virtual costumes to dress up your avatar and a treasure hunt.
In July, Ferrari launched a replica of its new 296 GTB model with Fortnite, which won’t be available in the real world until 2022 but could be raced in-game.
Nike had previously opened “Nikeland”, a virtual showroom on Roblox, and announced Monday that it had purchased digital sneaker company RTFKT – pronounced “artifact.”
For businesses that exist primarily in the physical world, the concept of the metaverse is first and foremost a giant laboratory with direct pathways to the young population sought after by advertisers.
âThe revenue will come in if this thing persists, but we want to make sure that our brand is in these early environments,â said Mullins of Aglet.
As Roblox’s first restaurant, Chipotle said he sees future “opportunities to directly drive sales.”
The metaverse is also a wealth of data, offering valuable insight into the perception of a product, even if it doesn’t yet exist in the real world.
To fully master the environment in which the brand is introduced, some companies like Louis Vuitton have created their own version of the metaverse.
To celebrate its 200th anniversary, the brand launched âLouis the Gameâ in August, which includes an NFT hunt by digital art pioneer Beeple.
– ‘Authentic’ in the metaverse –
However, since there is no unified platform yet, users cannot transfer a Gucci bag purchased on Roblox to other games like Sandbox or Animal Crossing.
This is one of the priorities of Mark Zuckerberg, who heads the parent company of Facebook which was renamed “Meta” in October to signal the change in metaverse of the platform.
Since the world’s leading social network unveiled its ambitions, “things have accelerated even further,” said consultant Cathy Hackl, who has been contacted by many brands seeking metaverse advice.
âNot all brands need to jump in the metaverse,â she said, noting, however, that companies at least need to know about it.
Unless companies are building their own virtual world, they will have to follow the codes of each platform they appear on.
âIt’s about showing up and trying to be authentic in space,â Mullins said.