Metaverse Fandom Spaces Are Still Populating, But Is The Trend Built To Last?

Tech Features Metaverse
Metaverse Fandom Spaces Are Still Populating, But Is The Trend Built To Last?

Whether through developing fan forums or using social media to participate in broader activism efforts, fan culture has often been at the forefront of new technology. It should come as little surprise then, to see that Web3 and metaverse-based initiatives are being pushed in fan circles.

One example of this is in sports, with Manchester City soccer club’s partnership with cryptocurrency firm OKX introducing the soccer (or football for non-Americans) world to Web3, the Metaverse and a whole new suite of ways for fans to interact with their favorite team.

With most sports, in-person engagement is vital. Soccer fan culture is based on collective experiences, whether that’s at the stadium itself or in a sunny pub garden, drenched in a mixture of sweat and airborne beer. However, with the increasingly global nature of sports, a local team’s fans can be all over the globe—and they can’t all participate in the action in the same way.

Of course, there’s already a decentralized element to soccer fandoms. City Football Group CEO Ferran Soriano reported that the majority of the club’s fans are based outside the UK, with the digital age making it easier for people to engage with a team they’re geographically thousands of miles away from.

For these long-distance supporters, digital, Web2 platforms are how they can keep up with the action. Clubs are very active on social media, with the Man City YouTube channel receiving upwards of 50 million views a month and popular players racking up Instagram followings that influencers would kill for.

However, some groups want to take this virtual engagement to the next level. OKX CMO Haider Rafique commented that Manchester City has been “particularly open minded” when implementing and experimenting with new technology, something particularly evident from the launch of the Collective Metaverse earlier this year.

Slated as “a unique virtual metaverse environment that allows fans to gain access to special content, experiences and rewards”, the platform’s highlights include personalized experiences designed around each player and the ability to win real-world prizes including signed merchandise and hospitality box tickets. A particularly publicized aspect was fan-favorite Jack Grealish’s set with renowned DJ Oliver Heldens, which is downloadable for any member of the platform.

Soriano assured that the club’s adoption of Web3-based events will enhance existing events, adding that, currently, “there has been no better time in history for in-person events”. However, making use of Web3 technology allows for greater global engagement, bringing in those who are unable to attend matches or enjoy the team’s successes with fellow fans.

As OKX and Man City have proved, sports teams can offer a completely new experience to fans through Web3. With music, though, it’s harder to provide something that isn’t already available. Many of the benefits that Web3 advocates tout are just as true for Web2 platforms—livestreamed concerts and virtual Q&As let fans feel closer to the artists they love while also having the perk of them actually seeing the artist, rather than staring at a gaudy cartoon version of them.

Regardless, there have been a number of attempts to translate music into the metaverse—with varied degrees of success.

Decentraland’s 2022 Metaverse Music Festival saw major artists including Björk, Ozzy Osbourne and Soulja Boy take to the virtual stage to serenade approximately 50,000 Second Life-esque figures. Anyone with an internet connection could join in the fun, from anywhere in the world. “In a place like Decentraland, no one is held back by distance, pandemic lockdowns, physical disabilities, or financial means,” the post-event report states, with this emphasis on accessibility a major selling point for advocates.

Again, although there is clear enthusiasm for these projects, the creators themselves are quick to reassure that metaverse-based events are not a replacement to those in real life. They’re intended to enhance the fan experience rather than upend it, although it’s difficult to see a world where exaggerated virtual versions of artists are seen as anything more than a gimmick, or a cold imitation of the irreplaceable atmosphere of live concerts.

While the metaverse may not be the first thing that comes to mind in fandom spheres, it’s certainly starting to make its presence known. The combination of accessibility, the thought of being closer to their idols and a fear of missing out will continue to draw fans in for a time, but whether the gimmick will soon wear off is another question.

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