Welcome to Part 2 of our primer on all things Metaverse. In case you missed it, the first part of Allison+Partners’ guide to entering the metaverse is here. We already covered the origins, what people can (and will) do there and the basics of business in the metaverse. Now we address the trillion-dollar questions:
- What are your key business opportunities in the metaverse?
- Are you ready to test or jump into its waters?
The metaverse hopes to create a single virtual space, akin to a digital city or grand lobby, connecting all of the entertainment, social and shopping experiences currently found in separate games, apps, websites and physical locations. Think of it as the 2020’s evolution of the 1990s’ World Wide Web, but experienced in 3D, primarily through VR or AR wearables – a collision of worlds and brands in one central, easily explorable place. While this unified metaverse doesn’t exist yet, multiple companies are already building pieces, ranging from the technology infrastructure to lobbies and destinations.
Metaverse business opportunities
There’s no shortage of ways to dip your company’s toes into the metaverse pool. Even today, businesses have opportunities to create metaverse content, including everything from digital 2D signage – augmented reality floating navigation arrows, billboard ads, price tags, and names or ID cards for people – to virtual 3D objects, people and buildings permanently anchored to real-world locations. Meta just announced tools that enable and incentivize creators to monetize 3D creations within its early metaverse destination, Horizon Worlds. Businesses can also create traditional still or moving content, such as art, photos, fireworks, movies and live entertainment that could be optimized for in-metaverse viewing.
Today, the critical question is how many people will actually see content inside the metaverse while its infrastructure remains under construction. Some brands are approaching with caution, planting simple flags akin to ads in the metaverse, while others are jumping in and creating larger experiences – digital spaces that mimic or augment the brand's physical locations. Some of the most interesting examples of large brand activations include:
- Samsung’s virtual store Samsung 837X exists as a digital twin of the real-life Samsung 837 store in NYC, in Decentraland as a public gathering space.
- Anheuser-Busch InBev took an enterprise approach, creating complete virtual models of its breweries, synchronized with the real physical breweries, so its brewmasters can control the brewing process remotely.
- McDonalds created an “interactive Hall of Zodiacs” as an AltspaceVR and Spatial exhibition to celebrate Lunar New Year and has been registering trademarks both to sell digital products inside the metaverse and deliver real food based on in-metaverse orders.
- Nike acquired RTFKT, a company specializing in digital recreations of physical objects, so it can create virtual collectibles that will appeal to athletes, gamers and broader pop culture.
- Game developer Bandai Namco committed $130 million building its own “IP metaverse” as a superstructure to connect its own franchises in the metaverse era.
- Disney created a new SVP role to define how consumers will “experience Disney’s coming metaverse,” but hasn’t announced specifics yet.
Multiple metaverse platforms already compete to develop the walkable, searchable lobby leading to all the destinations people might explore, including the financial, computing and technology infrastructures that support everything behind the scenes. Meta debuted the aforementioned Horizon Worlds, HTC Vive has the Viveverse and Sony launched (but abandoned) PlayStation Home – all public lobbies focused on gaming and social experiences. No company has released a comprehensive, perfect platform to power the metaverse, but Meta, HTC Vive, Decentraland and game companies, such as Roblox and Epic Games (Fortnite), are actively working on options. Given the vast number of digital experiences that will be connected in the metaverse, these platforms and infrastructure will eventually be as important as Google’s search engine, if not moreso.
It’s no coincidence some of these companies developed the earliest Mixed Reality wearables to let people "see" digital content as if it's real; Meta, HTC Vive and Sony started with VR, while Google started with AR. There’s been plenty of skepticism and some false starts for both the innovators and the early adopters, but the hardware and software keep getting better, while interest and adoption have grown.
Is it time to hang your metaverse shingle?
If you’re interested in exploring the metaverse's potential for your brand, we recommend following these steps to position yourself for success.
- Learn about the platform players and alternate visions of the metaverse. Meta has positioned itself at the center of the metaverse, but there are other visionary companies with different platforms, including Pokémon Go and real-world metaverse developer Niantic, AltSpace VR and HoloLens maker Microsoft, open/decentralized platform Decentraland, and the previously mentioned HTC Vive. Game engine makers Epic Games (Unreal Engine) and Unity will also likely have major roles in building metaverse experiences
- Understand hardware's role in facilitating the metaverse. VR and AR headsets continue to improve at a brisk pace, and better hardware to access metaverse experiences will arrive over the next year. Qualcomm supplies most of the hardware technologies behind today’s most popular VR and AR hardware solutions, including Meta's Oculus Quest headsets, Snap Spectacles and Nreal's Light, all of which are fully mobile and can be used as you walk around. Sony will release its long-awaited PlayStation VR2 headset, which will be tethered to a PlayStation 5 console. Apple is known to be working on related technologies, but has reportedly downplayed interest in the metaverse and initially will focus on a premium indoor VR/AR headset.
- Stake your claim with a smart comms strategy and messaging. Balancing all of today's metaverse hype against low current adoption, it's inadvisable to either downplay the metaverse's potential or anchor a brand/business too heavily in it right now – just like swapping all your cash for cryptocurrencies, there might be an upside, but there’s also plenty of risk. There's no question brands are pushing the metaverse forward, but a truly global experience could be years away.
Smart messaging embraces the metaverse's potential and provides concrete examples of how your business will take steps to embrace the opportunities as they become real, either as a pioneer or follower in the space. To achieve credibility, your integrated marketing teams must become familiar with the metaverse as a concept and conversant in the technologies.
4. Develop activations to spotlight your role. Though the metaverse isn't functional as a whole, you can still create assets and experiences that make sense for your brand in both early and later stages of metaverse development. For instance, you could pick a metaverse platform, then advertise, build an app or build an experience, such as a virtual storefront. But as daily average user counts are currently low, deeply consider the ROI and audience before investing; ask what your business and users will actually get out of the experience over defined periods of time. And understand that whatever you're building will evolve as the hardware, software and service infrastructures supporting the metaverse change.
Once you've done your homework, you'll be ready to make an educated decision: Is it time to enter the metaverse, or hold off until the user base grows? In either case, we’re here to help guide you.
Jeremy Horwitz is Allison+Partners' head of content for the Technology group, drawing upon three decades of prior experience as a journalist and entrepreneur to provide brand positioning, media relations, and content development counsel. Specializing in communications for the consumer electronics, semiconductor, gaming, and B2B sectors, he also has a deep background in diverse areas ranging from intellectual property law to popular entertainment, international dining, and luxury hospitality.