It’s a brand new (virtual) world of opportunities out there and Sydney design agency Imagination want to help companies embrace the new era.

Imagine this: a virtual event attended by millions of avatars, all jumping around on-screen or interacting with one another. Each one of those avatars represents a person who is currently there, albeit through the screen of a device. Now if such a highly attended event were to include a promo or an ad of some sort by an agency or a marketing firm, just how much publicity would they attract?

This is just one of the myriad of options that the Metaverse is opening up to the industry. However, due to the fact that the digital world is still in its infancy and remains highly unregulated, many people are still questioning whether they want to get involved with it or not. Others don’t know how. This is where Sydney’s digital agency Imagination comes in to play the middle man for any company who wants to take that shy first step in the world of digital.

What is the Metaverse?
But before all of that, there’s one important question that needs to be answered: just what is this Metaverse that we keep hearing about? Is it a video game where kids gather and buy and sell their character’s virtual outfits? Is it Fortnite, only bigger? Is it a good way to make money or is it just the recent fad that’s going to blow over in the next couple of weeks?

Well, the truth is that it’s a bit difficult to put an exact definition on what the Metaverse really is but, according to wikipedia, it is described as “a network of three-dimensional virtual worlds based on social connection.”

The term has a wider meaning, like saying “the universe”. We know there’s more than one out there. It’s the same in this case. There can be many Metaverses, which can be applied in many different aspects of our everyday lives.

Sure, it all began from massively-multiplayer online games (MMOs) such as League Of Legends, Final Fantasy XIV or, more recently, Fortnite, in which players built their own in-game communities and started trading with virtual currencies, but to say that that’s where the Metaverse begins and ends would be like saying the Earth is the only planet with life: it’s narrow-minded.

Final Fantasy XIV is an MMO which boasts over 25 million active users.
Final Fantasy XIV is an MMO which boasts over 25 million active users.

So how does the Metaverse get involved in our daily affairs?
Here’s the million dollar question. Now virtual worlds have expanded beyond the gaming industry (which also provides great investment opportunities, such as in-game advertising) and gone to blockchain worlds, such as The Sandbox, Decentraland or Roblox.

The difference between the two is that, while in the game industry you’re dependent on the developer, who decides how they want to run the game or even if they want to allow ads or not, in a blockchain world, anyone can invest, whether they want to own part of the game itself or a piece of its virtual assets, better known as non-fungible tokens (NFTS.)

Non-fungible what’s..?
NFTs, as they’re more commonly known, are pieces of virtual data. They can be anything: from a simple meme to an exact replica of the Mona Lisa or a virtual piece of land inside a blockchain world, as mentioned in our previous example. They can be bought or sold via cryptocurrency – online money such as Ethereum or Bitcoin.

What truly matters however, is not what they are, but the fact that they are unique. There is only one of each in the entire digital world (or Metaverse) and that’s what separates them from all others and gives them real value. They each have their own code, so that even if there’s two that appear to be identically similar, they can be defined.

The Bored Ape, initially released by US publication Rolling Stone, has been one of the most popular NFTs
The Bored Ape, initially released by US publication Rolling Stone, has been one of the most popular NFTs

That’s also where the real investment opportunities lie, with companies like the NBA being quick to jump into this new market. The US basketball association ‘minted’ (a term used for when you make an NFT out of something) a select number of highlight videos from their games and sold them in the online market. According to techtimes, the most expensive NFT by the NBA right now sits at $1.3 million.

What else can a company do in the Metaverse?
The possibilities are endless! And that’s what makes this new world so appealing. Clothes designers, such as Nike and Gucci, have purchased their own pieces of virtual land and put them to use, either by creating theme parks (NIKELAND), where players can enjoy interactive experiences, or virtual boutiques in which people can see what the latest trends in fashion will be.

In fact, both companies have gone as far as to release NFT versions of their new designs (shoes, dresses, handbags, etc.) with the highest bidder earning the rights to own the item in the real world as well.

Snoop Dogg has entered the Metaverse
Snoop Dogg has entered the Metaverse

Well-known music artist Snoop Dogg bought a house in The Sandbox, with people paying over $450,000 for a piece of virtual land next to his. And it’s not just the famous rapper: even TV shows are investing in the Metaverse. The Walking Dead, The Smurfs, Care Bears… they all own digital real estate.

That all sounds lovely but I only play Angry Birds…
Naturally, no one is expected to suddenly learn how to code or to understand a whole bunch of difficult terms like “Metaverse”, “NFTs”, “cryptocurrency” or “mint”. There are still many companies out there who are still too cautious to dip their feet into uncharted territories.

But that’s the role that Sydney-based digital agency Imagination is here to fill. Answering all those difficult questions for anyone who wants to get involved into this exciting new world, but doesn’t understand how, Imagination have in their group a number of highly skilled designers who use their expertise in the field to help create successful campaign in the Metaverse.

Imagination’s development team have been using the Unreal Engine 5 – a powerful tool used for creating virtual worlds – in order to design virtual or augmented reality (VR/AR) simulations of their own. The Unreal Engine offers them greater creativity and freedom when trying to come up with solutions for their clients.

The Unreal Engine 5 that the Imagination team utilise uses incredible photorealism to bring imaginary worlds to life.
The Unreal Engine 5 that the Imagination team utilise uses incredible photorealism to bring imaginary worlds to life.

Is the Metaverse a fad that is going to be forgotten soon?
There are many people claiming that the Metaverse, and everything surrounding it (NFTs, Crypto, etc.), is just the latest trend for young people which will be left out to dry as soon as the next big thing comes around.

The reality of it is that this market still remains quite unstable (and highly unregulated!) But considering the vast amounts of money being put into it by both companies and individuals, not to mention the fact that it feels more like a natural evolution of something that was already there (video games) rather than something that just appeared suddenly out of nowhere, we’d say it’s here to stay.

So create your online avatar, purchase your virtual real estate and mint your NFTs… cause we’re heading to the Metaverse!