On a normal visit to a sports stadium, you don’t bump into 20-meter-tall giants outside the gate. But this isn’t your typical sports stadium. This is MLB Virtual Ballpark – the first metaverse for a pro sports league.
Surveys show that majority of TV viewers are using a second screen as well. Among Gen Z and Millennials, the percentage is up to 95%. While watching sports, they are also using social media, shopping, texting and gaming. Gen Z is twice as likely as Boomers to pay for sports content. But their chances of seeing the entire live event are slim.
“We know older generations are still enjoying full events in a more traditional experience,” said Luis Vicente, president of sports and entertainment investment company Apex Capital. “For younger audiences, you need to be more innovative and keep providing them with content in new and fresh ways that naturally make them want to enjoy their favorite sporting moments”.
MLB Virtual Ballpark promises to integrate these modes of consumption. But more evidence is needed that this is more than just a gimmick. “Then the value proposition of what that space enables comes to life."
A few days later, there is a new attempt to convert the detractors. Another virtual world has opened up for a very immersive sporting experience: a quiz with Navankov Kanu, the iconic former footballer of English team Arsenal.
In this virtual world, the focus has shifted from leagues and teams to athletes and communities. The more than 1,100 attendees could interact with each other and with Kanu. Spraying stardust on the session was current Arsenal team legend Oleksandr Zinchenko, who came over to ask a question. There was also a more formal interview conducted by Robbie Lyall, founder of Arsenal fan forum AFTV.
Lyle said, “Football is all about opinion and these experiences allow fans to come and have conversations about football.” “I see the metaverse becoming another platform like Twitter, TikTok, YouTube where fans can connect and have fun together.”
Both Ballpark and Kanu Q&A were developed by London-based tech firm Improbable. Founded in 2012, the company’s giant simulation has attracted a valuation of $3bn (€2.7bn), but the road to profitability has been a tumultuous one. In 2021 the company recorded a loss of £152mn.
The following January, Improbable unveiled a new strategy: away from multiplayer games and toward tech’s latest obsession: the metaverse.