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American Sports Establishing Metaverse Territory

The launch of NFL Zone is the latest example of a popular American sport engaging fans in the metaverse.

Credit: NFL

The recent launch of the NFL Zone metaverse in Fortnite was simply the latest example of a popular American sport engaging fans via an exciting new medium.

The National Football League’s initiative, a collaboration with payment giant Visa and Fortnite, is conceived as a social hub that allows players to build and play mini-games, explore team maps, and interact with fellow fans. The first teams involved in the venture are the San Francisco 49ers, the Pittsburgh Steelers, and the New York Giants.

"Through developing a robust catalog of content with top gaming personalities, and pairing it with a persistent presence in the metaverse, we'll be able to grow generational fandom off the field and enhance the connection audiences have with NFL football,” predicts Ed Kiang, VP of Video Gaming at the NFL.

Fortnite players can access NFL Zone by entering 3402-0256-6913 in the Island Code menu. The maiden team-inspired map, meanwhile, honors the 49ers and can be accessed via 6133-5764-5986.

NBA Builds on Top Shot Success

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is already very familiar with the world of web3, thanks to its smash-hit NBA Top Shot NFT trading card platform. So it's no surprise that metaverse exploration is well underway.

Next month sees the release of NBA All-World, which compels players to explore their local area, challenge others to a one-v-one dunk-off, and build a star roster of their own. The AR game uses the same geolocation concept as Pokémon Go, which was of course developed by the same software firm: Niantic.

The San Francisco-based developer claims the game will drop hoops fans into a real-world metaverse, with computer animations layered on top of the real world when viewed through AR glasses or smartphones. Essentially, the tech turns objects and items in the real world into virtual counterparts that players can interact with in the game.

Compelling players to compete at real-world courts means that NBA All-World is unlikely to attract the same number of users as Top Shot, which surpassed $1 billion in sales earlier this year. But it’s a bold step forward, and it reflects a desire to see just how much mileage there is in metaverse marketing.

Of course, the NBA previously partnered with Meta to develop an all-virtual experience, NBA Lane, for Horizon Worlds. On that occasion, it was a one-off to celebrate the league’s 75-year anniversary.

Major League Baseball is getting in on the act, too: this year, the MLB advertised for a Licensing Manager to lead the licensing of its digital games, NFT, and metaverse endeavors; and the Atlanta Braves have subsequently held their first public event in Digital Truist Park, a virtual replica of its eponymous 41,000-capacity ballpark. The event featured a set by comic Andrew Stanley and a fan Q&A with Atlanta Braves Radio’s Kevin McAlpin.

Even the UFC has suggested it will stage fights in the metaverse. What this actually means in practice, however, has yet to be determined. Whatever way you slice it though, the ever-evolving connection between sports and VR/AR offers fans an immersive, interactive means of showing their support.