Virtual Planet: The Show Must go on!

These virtual metaverses everyone keeps espousing may promise a digital nirvana full of fluffy clouds and people getting along like they’re in a Disney movie, however, simply offering a place to chat isn’t enough, we need entertainment. Some might say these virtual worlds are the entertainment but not everyone wants to be creative, some of us just like to put our feet up and switch off. Well, all that and more is being dreamt up and catered for.

Hello there

First and foremost these digital realms are designed as communication platforms. Able to connect friends and family with a greater sense of togetherness than a video or phone call can provide. Or you can meet entirely new people, stepping into an area that’s completely dedicated to your favourite pastime, TV show or even your occupation. Spending hours nattering about subjects others have no clue or little interest for.

Hanging out with mates is a very natural thing for any human, most of us need to connect with one another in some way and the pandemic has brought this into the spotlight like never before. It’s why VRFocus will be going more in-depth about the social features and issues of metaverses in a future edition. As for now what we all really want is to have some fun in a digital universe with limitless potential.

Burn up the dance floor…

There are numerous social platforms appearing that support both VR and non-VR devices and they’re trying to persuade new users with a variety of means. They’re also gunning for different markets, namely younger audiences with a fresh, colourful feel whilst those focused on adults tend to have a far more serious vibe.

It’s this latter segment where you can see a real push in specific entertainment marketing. Rather than building blocks users are given art, music and culture to explore and enjoy. For instance, Sensorium Galaxy which is due to launch later in 2021 is heavily focused on the dance music route. It’s going to have a dedicated music world called PRISM where DJ’s will perform exclusive sets. Some big names have already signed up like Eric Prydz, Carl Cox, Armin van Buuren and David Guetta. So if you like to dance your socks off it might be well worth a look.

Sensorium Galaxy isn’t the only one leveraging the power of music. Already well versed in this medium is Sansar which has been holding events for a while now. The latest will be Australia’s Splendour in the Grass music festival digitally recreated as Splendor XR for two days in July.

Music easily bridges many divides and brings people together with a foot-tapping beat, so it’s no surprise that it would make a great catalyst for metaverse adoption.

We are such stuff as dreams are made on…

However, music is only one small avenue these platforms can utilise. There’s a vast cultural resource metaverse’s can tap into – and have already been – when it comes to entertaining the masses. Over the last year, a prime example has come from film festivals. Unable to host premieres in-person, events like Venice Film Festival, Cannes, Tribeca and Sundance have all turned to interactive mediums to connect with audiences worldwide. They’ve even found greater success as these events are no longer elite, prestigious showcases few outside their industry can attend, providing true global appeal like never before.

This is even more so for niche technologies like virtual reality (VR). Cannes XR, Tribeca Immersive and NewImages Festival combined this summer to create XR3, an immersive film festival via Museum of Other Realities (MOR), exploring an art space that allowed guests to step into each experience as if it were a live installation.

MOR isn’t really a metaverse as such. VRChat, on the other hand, is and that played host to SXSW Online XR, one of the best representations of this topic to date. SXSW is usually held in Austin, Texas but for 2021 the organisers recreated areas like Congress Avenue and the Red River Cultural District, all freely explorable. There was even a cinema to watch regular 2D content.

When all of this immersive entertainment is so easily accessed why go anywhere else?

Get those creative juices flowing

Undoubtedly though, the biggest draw for any of these virtual realms is user creativity. Places like Rec Room, Roblox (non-VR), VRChat, and the upcoming Facebook Horizon are all built on the premise of user content creation, giving the people who inhabit these worlds the freedom to build whatever they want. Because, quite simply, it keeps everyone invested and coming back for more.

Rec Room has millions of users across multiple VR and non-VR platforms, allowing them to create their own rooms which can be as simple as somewhere to hang out or entire games to run around in. You can even earn money, where tokens are exchanged for in-game items. Collect enough tokens and they can be redeemed for actual hard cash, Rec Room expects to pay out over one million by the end of the year. Playing and getting paid, if that’s not an incentive what is?

Places like Rec Room, Roblox and others are definitely geared towards that younger age bracket mentioned, like giant Lego toyboxes to jump into and explore. Finding a happy medium where all of these scenarios can easily co-exist is the eventual goal as none of these virtual planets quite cater to everyone. How these worlds will collide is another matter entirely.  

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