Things are moving fast in the metaverse. Depending on who you speak to, this futuristic virtual world is either the next big thing for marketing — and for almost everything else — or an over-hyped fad. Here’s what’s been happening recently:
Sony drops PlayStation VR2 headset. PlayStation offered fans a first look into its new PS VR2 headset this week. It looks vaguely similar to Meta’s Oculus Quest 2 headset; but whereas Meta’s product is more blocky and angular, PlayStation’s is rounder and curvier. “The circular orb shape represents the 360-degree view that players feel when they enter the virtual reality world, so this shape captures it nicely,” Hideaki Nishino, senior vice president of platform experience at PlayStation, said in a blog post. This new model from PlayStation illustrates an ongoing challenge faced by the small handful of companies that are innovating in the VR headset space: to create products that are not only technologically cutting-edge, but also aesthetically appealing and comfortable. “Our goal is to create a headset that will not only become an attractive part of your living room decor, but will also keep you immersed in your game world, to the point where you almost forget you are using a headset or controller,” says Nishino. “That’s why we paid very close attention to the ergonomics of the headset and conducted extensive testing to ensure a comfortable feel for a variety of head sizes.”
Key takeaway: VR headset design will continue to evolve with each new product launch and iteration; in just a few years VR headsets could be as different from those that we have today as the PS5 is from the original PlayStation — same game, radically different leagues.
JPMorgan banks on the metaverse. JPMorgan Chase became the first bank to establish a presence in the metaverse when it opened a Decentraland-based lounge. We recently checked it out: your avatar is dropped outside of the entrance, beyond which you’ll see a 3D digital rendering of a Bengal tiger roaming around in circles (for no obvious reason) beneath a framed photograph of the bank’s CEO, Jamie Dimon, gracing the wall. Upstairs, you’ll find a triad of digital monitors displaying various images — one of them is interactive, and it will play footage from a recorded panel.
The metaverse has obviously been on JPMorgan’s radar for some time: In January, the banking giant released a document called “Opportunities in the metaverse: how businesses can explore the metaverse and navigate the hype vs. reality,” in which it lays out a framework for how the metaverse could change the way we socialize, work, and bank. It predicts, for example, that “with the emergence of decentralized finance, collateralized lending primitives and the composability of blockchain token-based digital assets, a next-generation financing company could potentially leverage digital clothing as collateral to underwrite virtual land and property mortgages.” In plain English: web3-based finance could very well be the future.
Key takeaway: The opening of JPMorgan’s new virtual lounge is the bank planting its flag in the metaverse, a statement declaring: “we are here.” They join a lot of brands that are creating locations where people (sorry, avatars) don’t actually have much to do. But that’s not to say that such campaigns are a waste of time — they may prove to be seeds which grow more fruitful virtual campaigns down the road, and they can also signal to consumers that they have their eyes fixed on the future and are not technological laggards.
Wrangler celebrates its 75th anniversary with NFT drop featuring Leon Bridges.
Wrangler is ringing in its 75th birthday by teaming up with Grammy-winning musician — and Wrangler’s “2022 global men’s ambassador” — Leon Bridges for “a suite of NFT drops featuring ultra-exclusive fashion, music, and art experiences.” In the first stage of its NFT drop, Wrangler will launch 75 “Icon-Tier” NFTs, each featuring an animation of Bridges dancing, which can unlock access to an exclusive event as well as virtual Wrangler wearables. Then, in September, the brand will release “a one-and-only Legendary-Tier NFT” which will feature a two-piece, full-denim Wrangler outfit that the brand created for Bridges. “Fashion, technology and music influence us all, and I love the way Wrangler is interconnecting all three on this wild ride,” Bridges said a statement. “Through Wrangler, I channel my Texas roots and the essence of who I am, so I’m honored to help the brand celebrate its history while continuing to write the future.”
Key takeaway: Brands are continuing to develop new ways of blending fashion, pop culture, and emergent technologies to establish a foothold in the growing virtual marketplace. NFT drops can be about so much more than just the tokens themselves — they can also, for example, open the door to additional events (as is the case with the new Wrangler campaign); they are keys that can open the door to a whole universe of branding opportunities — if brands know how to launch and manage them appropriately.
Havas Group announces “meta-flagship” Havas Village. Havas Group has announced that it “has become the first communications group to plant its flag in the Sandbox, opening its first virtual village in the metaverse.” Havas Village is an office complex owned by the brand — there are currently over 60 brick-and-mortar Havas Villages spread across the globe. This first virtual Havas Village represents the firm’s first real foray into the metaverse, a virtual landscape which “provides a wealth of new media and new opportunities for the communications sector and for brands,” says Yannick Bolloré, chairman and chief executive officer at Havas Group. “Whether the aim is to create original and meaningful experiences, reach out to new target audiences, or simply reinforce an existing bond, the possibilities are practically endless. Havas Group can count on a cutting-edge team of metaverse experts to lead this new venture and expertly guide brands into and around these virtual worlds. Our new Havas Village will be a ‘meta-flagship’ for the Group, drawing all our engaged communities together in an enriched extension of our bricks-and-mortar Villages.” The virtual Havas Village is slated to open in The Sandbox, a popular blockchain-based video game, in late April.
Key takeaway: The metaverse has long been touted as the future of work, and we’re gradually beginning to see that future become a reality. Especially since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many employers have come to appreciate the benefits of leveraging the metaverse as a workspace. Vice Media Group, for example, also opened its first office in the metaverse earlier this week. The news from Havas Group will likely be part of a continuing trend as brands across industries continue to test new ways of leveraging the metaverse to improve their employee, client, and customer experiences.