With the rise of the metaverse, sports leagues are beginning to explore ways to take advantage of this new virtual reality tech.
While many see the metaverse as a place for entertainment and escapism, recent years have seen the rise of sports leagues that exist entirely within it. These leagues have taken advantage of the metaverse’s ability to create realistic and immersive environments to provide their players with a new and unique sports experience.
When sports meet the metaverse
For those unfamiliar with the term, American author Neal Stephenson coined “metaverse” in his 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash, describing it as a shared online space combining physical, augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR).
As the metaverse keeps expanding, sports have found a way to keep up with the trend. The most enticing capability of the metaverse that mesmerizes sports fans is that they could sit in the same room with friends even though they are miles away. Now, sports enthusiasts can interact and socialize with each other through their virtual avatars in the metaverse while watching matches. Spectators can also walk alongside players on the fields and courts to watch the game from different perspectives through multi-view camera technology.
What’s more, it will also change the way people train themselves in the future. Fitness coaches will appear as holograms in one’s room and work out with top sports professionals from across the globe, even when they are on the other side of the world.
Let’s look at how sports leagues are faring in the metaverse.
Metaverse in the NBA
In the 2022 NBA All-Star Game, National Basketball Association (NBA) commissioner Adam Silver introduced “Coach Nat”, a metaverse basketball coach, in Cleveland. It trains and develops the next generation of NBA prospects as a computer-generated coach. In the metaverse, the coach will assist young basketball players in developing their talents.
Despite the seemingly positively ambitious mission, you would still require a VR headset to train with Coach Nat and attend the games virtually—and we know that a headset and game tickets are not cheap and accessible for everyone now. Further, VR technology must improve accuracy in translating common basketball movements into the virtual world. It remains to be seen whether Coach Nat will become a staple in the metaverse or if it will be relegated to the sidelines as another interesting experiment from the NBA.
Google Pixel Arena
On April 16, 2022, the NBA collaborated with Google to invite fans to an immersive 3D metaverse, Google Pixel Arena, in the NBA app. It allows fans to enter a 3D basketball arena through the gyroscopes of their phones to experience the daily lives of NBA players. With a virtual player representing each user, they can customize players’ uniforms and accessories and move them around the arena or even the locker rooms.
Users can also join games on Google Pixel Arena to score as much as possible to win virtual rewards. After games, users can review how players and teams have performed with 3D shot recaps to connect fans from everywhere around the world and share the happiness of the basketball game.
In the past, interaction in the NBA was only limited to live arenas and in front of televisions. However, with the advancement of metaverse technology, the sports league has successfully brought fans from different parts of the world together.
While the NBA has been strongly advocating the metaverse, let’s look into how the National Football League (NFL) entices young fans through the metaverse.
NFL Tycoon in Roblox
To expand NFL’s presence in the metaverse, the league launched NFL Tycoon, an interactive game on the free-to-play online gaming platform Roblox this year. NFL Tycoon lets players fight against one another by taking the role of NFL team owners, with content including building teams and customizing stadiums.
NFL Tycoon in Roblox serves as an extension of the NFL’s real-life engagement to encourage social connectivity in which fans may learn about and engage with NFL football. The platform also generates additional digital purchases and heightened secondary trading activity alongside the offline e-commerce integration within Roblox. For example, real-life NFL players might be able to buy jerseys or merchandise on the platform with “Robux”, a virtual currency used to pay for items in Roblox games.
Sports leagues in the metaverse are a great way to get people engaged and excited about sports. They offer a new level of interactivity and immersion that traditional sports leagues cannot provide. With the right mix of sports, competition and social interaction, the metaverse might have the potential to take sports leagues further by offering a new way for fans to connect with others and have fun.
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