April 11, 2023

Metaverse Highlights: Week of April 11, 2023

This week, we highlight  negative and positive news for the metaverse sectors. On the negative side, Disney and other companies are laying off metaverse-based employees to focus on core strengths amidst a difficult economic climate. On the positive side, other companies such as Ralph Lauren and the fashion industry, in general, are doubling down, and even unrelated moves – such as Meta’s pivot to AI – may, in fact, be part of a broader metaverse strategy. 

In other news, Tim Cook also defended mixed-reality headsets as potentially game-changing devices, the Centre Pompidou is releasing an NFT exhibition, a lost David Bowie track is being released as an NFT, and Polygon continues to establish itself as a major player in the crypto space. Harvard Business Review has started publishing metaverse-related material amidst mainstream topics.   

Together, these developments point to the mainstream adoption of metaverse technologies, even if the macro environment has moderated the risk appetite of some. Lastly, on the regulatory front, Elizabeth Warren continues to champion an anti-crypto bill as Wyoming is a welcoming, pro-crypto state. 


The bottom line: Thanks to a partnership with service provider BitPay, American fashion brand Ralph Lauren will begin accepting cryptocurrency payments at its newly opened store in Miami's Design District, becoming the retailer's first location to do so. In addition, the brand is working with web3 community Poolsuite to release a co-branded non-fungible token (NFT) that will give exclusive access to a "special event" and digital wearables.

The bottom line: In the first iteration of a Metaverse Fashion Show, brands were just learning how to exist in the metaverse.   This year, creative and integrated marketing strategies  showcased real brand narratives.   Hilfiger’s Decentraland space was a sales hub that allowed users to buy physical items or direct them to their Ready Player Me (RPM)  Avatar wand wear digital wearables across Decentraland, Roblox, and other worlds such as Spatial.  Hugo Boss created an immersive showroom where visitors could purchase physical versions of the five looks displayed in the space, and there was gamified element encouraging users to complete a quest and  a digital version of a BOSS suit shown on the Miami runway that could be worn across a variety of platforms.

The bottom line: Tim Cook, GQ’s latest cover boy, has a sales pitch for a mixed-reality headset. “The idea that you could overlay the physical world with things from the digital world could greatly enhance people’s communication, people’s connection.” Apple’s plunge into the so-called metaverse would offer a jolt to a flagging industry and serious competition to Meta, Google, Microsoft, and others.

The bottom line: Disney did an about-face on its metaverse strategy this week, laying off the high-tech team formed by the previous CEO Bob Chapek just last year. The Mouse House, like so many companies, is readjusting its priorities away from risky bets in extended reality and focusing more on its core products of video streaming, parks, and movies amid a strained economy.

The bottom line: Surging user activity on Ethereum layer-2 scaling solution Polygon in March saw the network become the second-largest blockchain gaming network in terms of unique active wallets (UAWs). According to the “Blockchain Games Report” published by the analytics platform DappRadar, the number of UAWs engaging with games on Polygon hit 138,081 in March, marking an increase of 53% from February.

The bottom line: Wyoming has one of the nation’s most comprehensive, advanced regulatory structures for blockchain, and it is their willingness to confront the issues raised by the emerging technology head-on that is positioning them to benefit most from its development. The certainty that such a forward-thinking policy provides has given Wyoming a strong pull on cryptocurrency companies, beating out more traditional tech and finance hubs.

The bottom line: Layer 1 protocol Avalanche (AVAX) is releasing “Evergreen Subnets” – a suite of blockchain deployments, tooling, and customization services – for financial institutions. The firms will be able to launch their Evergreen subnets for research and development and for “production-ready use cases,” said Ava Labs, the builders behind the Avalanche blockchain, in a press release.

The bottom line: The brand lead for Yuga Labs — creators of the wildly popular Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs — says that an exhibition of NFT works that opened at the Centre Pompidou in Paris earlier this week signals “at least that museums are taking this space seriously.” Noah Davis, who left Christie’s last year for Yuga Labs, says museums are starting to “understand the potential for blockchain as a medium and NFTs as a medium to augment what artists can do. So having that validation is definitely important.”

The bottom line: Gala Music, a subsidiary of the Web3 startup Gala Games, has joined forces with music producer Larry Dvoskin and publisher Warner Chappell Music to unveil an unreleased version of David Bowie’s 1983 track “Let’s Dance” as part of a limited edition collection of NFTs. Gala Music plans to launch 3,003 NFTs that showcase Bowie-inspired artwork on April 14, four decades after the original release of “Let’s Dance.“

The bottom line: More than 50 legislative items relating to crypto and digital asset policy made their debut on Capitol Hill last Congressional session. Lawmakers say that industry members can expect to see some make a second appearance this session. In particular, Sen. Elizabeth Warren said in a hearing earlier this year that she would give her Digital Asset Anti-Money Laundering Act another go on the Senate floor this session.

The bottom line: Meta has given up on the metaverse. On the contrary, Meta's new AI is a stepping-stone approach to that same 3D future, putting in the work now to make software development as simple as using natural human language. After all, one of the biggest problems with Meta's metaverse push wasn't just that the general public wasn't ready for 3D digital worlds. It also lacked a robust ecosystem of developers for its virtual reality and metaverse segment. Put simply, the metaverse is expensive – but generative AI could make it cheaper to develop. So Meta is laying down those stepping stones for a 3D future.

The bottom line: The metaverse impacts the most fundamental elements of marketing and the value of a brand.  Critical to success will be 1) mastering “the drop” — virtual collectibles such as art, designs, and memorabilia that are sporadically airdropped to customers’ digital wallets as a way of rewarding loyalty, promoting new launches, or simply reinforcing brand values; 2) Building games and contents into the core of the consumer experience.

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