Is the metaverse a hot topic for the boardroom?
There is no doubt that the Metaverse is becoming increasingly important for CEOs and board executives. For brand leaders, the interest lies in the Metaverse’s potential to provide new opportunities for creating and building brand awareness. After all, brands are organisations’ most valuable intangible assets, and board members are always looking into ways they can orchestrate and influence the relationships between organisations and the outer world.
What IS fundamentally different
The transition from Web2 to Web3 is underpinning the real shift to what we now call the Metaverse. Let me talk a bit about Web2 and Web3. At first, the internet was a hype, but it quickly became mainstream and changed the world. It later evolved to Web2, the version of the internet most of us know today: one dominated by companies who provide services in exchange for your data.
Web2 has brought us developments in technology that have allowed users to share their thoughts and opinions with others. This created new ways of organising and connecting with other people and promoted a greater degree of collaboration.
However, there are problems with Web2 in the areas of ownership, monetisation, and versatility (2022, Lamiya Boumlaki & Sajid Ismail). These developments now led to the creation of Web3, which is the protocol layer for peer-to-peer, uncoupled and user-centric applications — all supported and made possible through blockchain technology. Combined, we call this The Metaverse.
Where the Metaverse is today
Technological developments, particularly in immersive and AI technologies, have raised the excitement around the Metaverse. Some of the most influential companies have made significant moves to get ahead and move into the Metaverse of things. The most well-known of these is Facebook’s rebranding to Meta and its series of large acquisitions of VR, gaming, and AI companies. Microsoft is making moves, too, having already started the process of acquiring Activision Blizzard – a company of 10,000 people and owner of such popular games as Candy Crush and Call of Duty. This raises Microsoft’s position in the gaming industry, putting them just behind Sony and Tencent. More recently, Microsoft launched their own Metaverse called Mesh. Entertainment giant Disney is also gearing up for entry into the Metaverse race. US-based GPU leader NVIDIA also recently launched the Omniverse software — a platform designed for artists and creatives to build virtual worlds.
But as futuristic and exciting as these plans are, the Metaverse remains within the realm of gaming. Most consumer brands launching and auctioning off NFTs entered the Metaverse through collaborations with gaming platforms. For example, luxury label Balenciaga launched a series of exclusive digital items for the popular game Fortnite in September 2021. Later that year, department store Selfridges and clothing label Charli Cohen launched ‘Electric City’, a virtual city where gamers can purchase both digital and physical items. Fashion house Gucci also launched the Gucci Garden Experience, a two-week digital art installation on Roblox that same year.