Even though the value of the metaverse is still debated by marketers, big brands continue to invest in the virtual space, hoping to score points with consumers.
For example, the National Football League recently launched the NFL Zone, a multi-faceted metaverse experience built into Fortnite Creative. Brought to you by Visa, the digital space is designed to engage football fans and also attract Fortnite players, eventually winning over a whole new audience, particularly Gen Z, who have shown a declining interest in traditional sports.
“We believe in meeting fans where they are,” said Ed Kiang, NFL vice president of video games. “The Metaverse, its experiences, and its technology are going to be key to engaging the next generation of fans as more of their time is spent on persistent virtual experiences as a new way to socialize with others and consume content. …We view the Metaverse as an extension of real-life NFL engagement platforms for emerging social connectivity, providing a new, always-on, virtual dating destination with activations tied to NFL events and initiatives.
The NFL Zone, which was produced by Epic Games-owned SuperAwesome, features a virtual tailgate experience that looks like the exterior of an IRL stadium complete with RVs and tents, as well as a stadium and a Visa-sponsored minigames, as well as portals to team-inspired maps that host “Search and Rampage,” a modified version of the popular “Search and Destroy” game mode.
Visa’s mini-game, “Blitz the Bag”, features capture-the-flag gameplay where players search for a bag and try to be the first to bring it to one of the stores located in the stadium. The first team-inspired map features the San Francisco 49ers and is designed to look like an old gold mining town; it will be followed by other cards featuring the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants and many more in the coming months.
Inspired by the concept of League Rivalries, participating content creators (aka Fortnite YouTubers) will see their victories recorded on a giant scoreboard, with the division that earns the most points being crowned champions after an AFC vs. NFC final.
Earlier this year, the NFL also launched a similar experience within Roblox called NFL Tycoon, where players could build and play in their own NFL-branded stadiums. The league also recently announced its second experience on the online gaming platform, dubbed Quarterback Simulator, a target practice passing experience featuring challenges, NFL player personalities, and rewards.
Kiang explained that the NFL has been working with Fortnite, which has more than 400 million registered player accounts, since 2018, including offering licensed NFL “skins” for characters and a virtual experience to coincide with the 2021 Super Bowl, but it was short term. He said this lingering new experience aims to introduce “the NFL to a new generation native to the game.”
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