all about this virtual universe that attracts tech giants

What is the metaverse?

The metaverse (or metaverse in French) refers to an experience in a three-dimensional virtual environment, where it is possible to evolve through an avatar or a hologram. This alternative reality allows you to interact with other people but also to learn, work or play. The metaverse uses augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to create a collective universe. Thanks to these advanced techniques, the metaverse uses the rules of verbal and non-verbal communication similar to reality: gestures, facial expressions, tone of voice …

Historically, the term “metaverse” first appeared in 1992, in the novel “Virtual samurai”, written by Neal Stephenson. The world described there plunges us into a science fiction universe, which may be closer to our future reality.

The metaverse, a source of inspiration in the cultural world

Books, films, video games … The virtual world inspires in multiple cultural sectors. On the cinematic side, we obviously think of the dystopian universe of the Matrix or, more recently, of the film Ready Player One by Steven Spielberg.

At the same time, video game giants are betting big on this parallel world. During health-related confinements, games like Fortnite, Roblox or Animal Crossing – all of which offer metaverses – have seen their player numbers explode. For example, as of May 2020, Fortnite had 350 million registered players. Even stronger, Battle Royale mode amassed 3.2 billion hours of gameplay in April 2020, during its first confinement.

When the metaverse becomes a profitable space

Those who say new space for the community say new business opportunities for brands looking for visibility. If it seems that we are witnessing the beginnings of the metaverse, the most creative companies have already been able to seize the opportunities it offers: virtual events, partnerships, product placement, virtual shopping … the options are endless. Here are some examples of marketing and commercial actions carried out by brands:

  • Fortnite and Travis Scott, with the organization and broadcasting of a live concert in the video game. In total, over 12 million players attended the live event when it first aired on April 23, 2020.

  • Roblox and Gucci, with the creation of a limited-time virtual exhibition space alongside the Gucci Garden physical event. The luxury brand, which had decided to market its products in virtual format for the occasion, managed to sell a more expensive virtual bag ($ 4,115) than its physical version (sold in stores for $ 3,500).
  • The creation of virtual influencers on social networks, such as Lil Miquela, a virtual personality who has 3 million subscribers on Instagram. Brands like Calvin Klein, Samsung, Prada and even Spotify have already teamed up with the influencer. According to OnBuy, a sponsored post posted on Lil Miquela’s profile would cost £ 6,550.

Of course, the connection is easy between the metaverse and NFTs, which allow access to unique digital property titles. For example, the decentralized fund dedicated to NFTs Black pool acquired the land where the Eiffel Tower is built in the metaverse Beyond reality, for $ 105,000.

The metaverse therefore offers multiple opportunities for brands. On the other hand, it is important to make a distinction between the consumer and the avatar he has created for himself. Users, in fact, imagine a character in their effigy, while modifying the details of their choices. Marketing actions are therefore aimed at fictitious representations and it becomes difficult to imagine characters as close as possible to the reality of final consumers. Cathy Hackl, Metaverse strategist and augmented reality lecturer, even talks about a new relationship with the client: Direct-to-Avatar (D2A).

Can the metaverse change the rules of our society?

In addition to the world of video games, the metaverse seems to be deeply rooted in society. It would seem that the various confinements have accelerated the digitization process in everyday life (aperitifs and virtual games with friends, live concert on social networks, series to watch simultaneously, etc.), but also in companies.

So, in 2014, Facebook bought virtual reality company Oculus VR for $ 2 billion (a profitable investment when we know that Mark Zuckerberg paid $ 14 billion for WhatsApp). Then, in 2020, Facebook launched Horizon, a virtual reality and multiplayer social network based on the Oculus VR headset. After the entertainment, the Facebook group is now confronting the world of work with the Oculus Horizon Workrooms project, which proposes to use a metaverse to allow employees to virtually meet in a meeting room, as shown in the video below.

To go even further, Mark Zuckerberg now employs 10,000 people to work on virtual reality and augmented reality. In an interview conducted by The Verge, the entrepreneur said he sees the metaverse as “an embodied Internet, where instead of just looking at the content, you are in it”. The race to conquer the metaverse is therefore launched, and Facebook has the attention to get there first:

I think in the next 5 years, in the next chapter of our business, we will go from people who see us primarily as a social media company to being a metaverse company, “said Mark Zuckerberg.

On September 27, Facebook also announced a $ 50 million investment to ensure the metaverse is built responsibly, in partnership with global experts, consumer groups and policy makers.

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