Back in April 2020, rapper and performer Travis Scott hosted a virtual concert in Fortnite, drawing over 12 million players. In those early days of pandemic cancelations and when the next in-person event didn’t seem possible for a long time, everyone – including performers –looked for novel ways to connect with audiences and earn revenue.

Scott’s event was called “historic” and “unprecedented” and offered an early glimpse at the changing realm of digital and virtual events.

Fast forward eighteen months of countless webinars, Zoom calls, and other digital events, tech companies, including Facebook, are now betting big on the digital worlds that accelerated during the pandemic converging with the physical realm – a concept also known as the metaverse.

What is the metaverse, and why will next-gen virtual events embrace the concept? Let’s take a deeper dive.

The Metaverse Defined

Wikipedia defines the metaverse as “a future iteration of the internet, made up of persistent, shared, 3D virtual spaces linked into a perceived virtual universe.”

While the term is relatively new for many, there is a deeper history. According to the New York Times:

“Coined by the writer Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel, ‘Snow Crash,’ then reimagined as the Oasis in the Ernest Cline novel ‘Ready Player One,’ it [the metaverse] refers to a fully-realized digital world that exists beyond the analog one in which we live.”

The movie adaption of “Ready Player One” provided a more tangible glimpse at the concept:

“The film’s orphaned teenage hero flees his bleak real-world existence by immersing in a dazzling virtual reality fantasy. The boy straps on his headset, reminiscent of a pair of VR goggles, and escapes into a trippy virtual universe, dubbed ‘OASIS.’ ‘People come to the OASIS for all the things they can do, but they stay for all the things they can be,’ the main character says in the trailer.”

Today, Fortnite, Roblox, and Animal Crossing: New Horizons are real-life examples of the metaverse in action. Players have avatars, build their own worlds, and interact with others in real-time in immersive digital environments.

Now, tech companies predict that the metaverse will be the next big thing and are making substantial investments.

  • Mark Zuckerberg described his metaverse vision as “an embodied internet, where instead of just viewing content — you are in it. And you feel present with other people as if you were in other places, having different experiences that you couldn’t necessarily do on a 2D app or webpage….”
  • Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella laid out his company’s strategic goal of a metaverse, “made up of digital twins, simulated environments, and mixed reality… emerging as a first-class platform.”
  • Jensen Huang, the chief executive of Nvidia, which makes computer chips, outlined his thoughts for the metaverse: “It’s a virtual world that is shared by a lot of people. It has real design. It has a real economy. You have a real avatar. That avatar belongs to you and is you…In these metaverses, you’ll spend time with your friends…It won’t be flat. It’ll be 3D. We’ll be able to almost feel like we’re there with each other.”

For more on the metaverse and how it will disrupt the internet, watch this explainer video from Roger James Hamilton, entrepreneur, futurist, and author.

So, What Does the Metaverse Mean for Virtual Events?

Scott’s Fortnite concert is just one example of how event planners and organizers should begin now to lay the groundwork and introduce event audiences to the metaverse.

As Cathy Hackl wrote for Forbes, “the pandemic has shifted culture online. Family reunions on Zoom, weddings relocated to Animal Crossing, graduations on Minecraft, and virtually trying on clothes have all become common practices.”

Given the rapid acceleration of digital technology acceptance during the pandemic to work, learn and socialize, expect even more events to shift approaches like Scott’s. One recent case in point: the Swedish group ABBA announced they are launching a digital experience featuring their “ABBA-tars” that will perform at a physical location in London.

As Matthew Ball, a venture capitalist, explained to CNN Business, “[a change like] this is always a multi-decade, iterative process … and yet, despite that fact, there is an unmistakable sense over the past few years that the foundational pieces are coming together in a way that feels very new and very different.”

Event technology companies like Allseated are preparing for events within the metaverse. Allseated co-founder and CEO Yaron Lipshitz explained the origins of exVo, a virtual world that adds back the “emotional experience, serendipitous networking (my avatar talks to your avatar), and a sense of fun… in short, a working metaverse.”

Hackl’s additional explanation drove home the potential impact of the metaverse. “Marketing and communications professionals need to pay attention to the metaverse because it’s the next frontier for online interaction. Just like social media revolutionized the online marketing landscape, so too will the metaverse.”

Interested in exploring an event metaverse? Take a tour of the exVo experience.

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