utilities this one is a field of dreams. On Thursday, the Atlanta Braves unveiled the first MLB stadium built in the Metaverse, an online replica of Truist Park that attracted several hundred visitors during an initial test.
“We strongly believe that these kinds of virtual environments are the future of how fans will consume sports content digitally,” Braves Vice President of Marketing and Innovation Greg Mize said at a news conference.
Atlanta was originally inspired by Travis Scott, who performed inside a ‘concert’ fortnite for nearly 30 million gamers in 2019, Mize said. The team built what they call Digital Truist Park (which, if you take a bite, still beats a metaBraverse portmanteau) into the same Unreal engine that powers the popular video game, with help from event platform Virtual Surreal Events.
On Thursday, fans could join the experience from their computers, creating a customizable avatar before exploring the site, searching for hidden objects and interacting with other newcomers and members of the Atlanta organization.
“Younger generations are native to these platforms,” Mize said. †fortnite for this generation, Instagram or Facebook is from the previous generation. This is where they interact. Here they consume. Here they socialize. So we really wanted to be at the forefront of creating those experiences, obviously to engage our current fans today, but also to lay the groundwork for the fan of tomorrow.
It probably won’t be just the New World of the Braves for long. MLB is partnering with the club on the adventure as part of a newly formed working committee exploring other metaverse opportunities.
“We’re going as fast as we can,” MLB chief of operations and strategy Chris Marinak said in a video call. “I think a lot of people will look and pay attention to see what the areas of success are, what the opportunities for improvement are, and I think you’ll see some rapid progress after that at some other clubs.” Marinak cited the Chicago Cubs as a particularly interested team.
The Braves and Cubs, in particular, built huge fan bases decades ago through extensive television broadcasts on TBS and WGN. Now they seem determined to find the same success on HTTP and HTML.
“We definitely feel that at some point this will be commonplace in terms of how people watch live sports,” Mize said. “We see a place where you are going to watch a Braves game live on the Digital Truist Park video board and you and your avatar will be sitting on the grass in the outfield with four other avatars of your family and friends around you.”
In addition to attracting new fans, the Braves are also interested in what kind of new dollars can be discovered in the digital realm.
For example, prospective fans may one day purchase virtual merchandise from the team store for their metaverse avatar. The Braves are also exploring sponsor activation opportunities in their new home, such as testing a new car on gritty grass.
“The possibilities are endless,” says NextTech Solutions CEO Evan Gappelberg. “It’s going to make those teams much bigger (global) brands.”
Braves partner companies can already view their logos in the hyperspace park, as new marketing opportunities open up in the digital world. Coca-Cola Co., one of the team’s sponsors, recently teamed up with Epic Games to launch a game-inspired drink fortnite before it hits the real shelves.
“Over time, we’ll see if this location really becomes a source of income for us, just like the physical location,” Mize said.
In the name of veracity and savvy, the digital stadium encompasses the 60-acre mixed-use development (The Battery) adjacent to IRL Truist Park.
The fan destination, where companies like Papa John’s and TK Elevator have relocated their headquarters in recent years, includes restaurants, residences and shops. Gappelberg believes that virtual exposure to these spaces not only provides opportunities to sell digital assets like NFTs, but the added visibility could potentially translate into more real-life foot traffic.
“More people will go to restaurants to support their team,” he said. “The team will now be part of the fabric of their lives. It’s not just game night anymore, it’s every day. †