Major League Baseball’s regular season 2020 has been significantly shortened, 60 matches from the traditional 162. But even more drastic: All matches were played in places where there were no fans present. Many teams put clipped fan footage into the seats and played recorded audience noise, but really nothing could replace the real thing.
Maybe there still is not, but the professional sports world is getting much closer to a realistic fan experience that does not require an actual presence. This week, the Atlanta Braves announce that they have built a metaphorical rendition of Truist Park, apparently the most complete simulation of its kind in American sports.
The simulated park is the creation of the 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 ball field,” Atlanta Braves President and CEO Derek Schiller said in a statement. “The digital version of Truist Park will provide unlimited opportunities to create unique fan engagements in the meta-verse, and we are proud to be the first team to deliver this immersive experience.”
What have been the most successful commercial uses of Metaverse?
One of Digital Truist Park’s inspirations was the groundbreaking work that rapper and producer Travis Scott has produced in the Fortnite meta-verse, specifically the astronomical performance in the video game, which has been viewed by over 45 million viewers.
“We started making prototypes of the stadium in the summer of 2021 and announced it at the end of last year,” said Josh Rush, co-founder of SURREAL Events. Other major sports organizations are expected to follow suit. In February, English Premier League team Manchester City announced a partnership with Sony to create a metaverse version of their Etihad Stadium.
How will sports metavers make money?
A metavers-based sports arena offers several obvious sources of revenue, starting with sponsorship. Just as big companies are willing to pay millions and tens of thousands of dollars for naming rights and real stadium scoreboards, they are likely to pay to place their logos in digital parks. Major League Baseball’s total sponsorship in 2021 was $ 1.13 billion, according to consulting firm IEG.
Likewise, the Braves are considering selling tickets to virtual attendees. Currently, the Braves meta-verse does not allow virtual contestants to watch a live game. But the simulated game is already sophisticated enough; Since 2020, there has been an MLB virtual reality app available for Oculus Quest to watch live games, even though 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 department, even though it is heavily sold out in the current park. Crucial moments in a game, like a grand slam, can be turned into non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and instantly sold and traded as baseball cards.
Sales of goods are another promising source of revenue. Video game players and music fans have proven willing to spend huge amounts of money on digital products. A Lil Nas X concert in December 2020 at Roblox, for example, generated millions of dollars in sales of digital goods, according to a Roblox boss. A grayscale report estimates that revenue from virtual gaming worlds was around $ 180 billion by 2020 and could reach $ 400 billion by 2025.
POS revenue opportunities are not 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.