Take me to the metaverse, take me to the cloud

Major League Baseball 2020’s regular season has been significantly shortened, 60 games from the traditional 162. But even more drastically, all games were played in fanless locations. Many teams packed cut-out images of fans in the seats and played recorded crowd noises, but nothing could replace the real thing.

It may still not be there, but the world of professional sports is getting much closer to a realistic fan experience that doesn’t require an actual presence. This week, the Atlanta Braves announce they’ve built a metaverse reproduction of Truist Park, apparently the most complete simulation of its kind in American sports.

The simulated park is the creation of Atlanta-based virtual platform company SURREAL Events and is built using Epic Games’ Unreal Engine technology. The project has the blessing of Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Braves organization. “It’s exciting to create a new way for our fans to connect with our team and their favorite stadium,” Atlanta Braves President and CEO Derek Schiller said in a statement. “The digital version of Truist Park offers unlimited opportunities to create unique fan engagements in the metaverse, and we are proud to be the first team to deliver this immersive experience.”

Digital Truist Park. Courtesy of surreal events

What have been the most successful commercial uses of the Metaverse?

One of Digital Truist Park’s inspirations was the groundbreaking work rapper and producer Travis Scott produced in the Fortnite metaverse, most notably the astronomical performance in the video game that has been watched by more than 45 million viewers.

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LOS ANGELES, – APRIL 23: A look at Fortnite with Travis Scott Presents: Astronomical on April 23, 2020 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

“We started prototyping the stadium in the summer of 2021 and announced it late last year,” said Josh Rush, co-founder of SURREAL Events. Other major sports organizations are expected to follow. In February, Manchester City, the English Premier League, announced a partnership with Sony to create a metaverse version of their Etihad Stadium.

How will sports metavers make money?

A metaverse-based sports arena offers several obvious revenue streams, starting with sponsorships. Just as big companies are willing to pay millions and tens of millions of dollars for naming rights and real stadium scoreboards, they will likely pay to put their logos in digital parks. Major League Baseball’s total sponsorship in 2021 was $1.13 billion, according to advisory group IEG.

Likewise, the Braves are considering selling tickets to virtual attendees. Currently, the Braves metaverse does not allow virtual contestants to watch a live match. But the simulated game is already advanced enough; Since 2020, an MLB virtual reality app has been available for Oculus Quest to watch live games, although it requires an expensive subscription to MLB.TV. A digital stadium offers many opportunities that are difficult or impossible to offer for physical arenas. For example, a large group of fans can “sit together” in the same section, even if the current park is heavily sold out. Critical moments in a game, such as a grand slam, can be converted into non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and immediately sold and traded like baseball cards.

Merchandise sales are another promising source of income. Video game players and music fans have shown that they are willing to spend huge amounts of money on digital products. For example, a December 2020 Lil Nas X concert at Roblox generated millions of dollars in digital merchandise sales, according to a Roblox executive. A Grayscale report estimates that revenue from virtual game worlds was about $180 billion in 2020 and could reach $400 billion by 2025.

POS revenue opportunities aren’t limited to sports, notes Greg Mize, Braves vice president of marketing and innovation. “We can offer concerts, we can offer meetings,” he told the Observer.

Take me to the metaverse, take me to the cloud: The Atlanta Braves have turned their stadium into a web3 wonderland

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