The 2020 Major League Baseball regular season was significantly shortened, 60 games out of 162 traditional games. But the most dangerous thing is that all the matches were played in places where there were no fans. Many teams have put up cut-outs of fans in the seats and played recorded crowd noise, but really nothing can replace the real thing.
It probably doesn’t exist yet, but the world of pro esports comes a lot closer to a realistic fan experience that doesn’t require a physical presence. The Atlanta Braves announced this week that they’ve built an iterative version of Trust Park, which appears to be the most complete simulation of its kind in American sports.
The Simulated Park is the creation of Atlanta-based virtual platform company SURREAL Events, and 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 favorite team and stadium,” Atlanta Braves president and CEO Derek Schiller said in a statement. “The digital version of Trust Park will provide unlimited opportunities to create unique fan interactions in the metaverse and we are proud to be the first team to offer this immersive experience.”
What are the most successful commercial uses of the Metaverse?
One of the inspirations for Digital Truist Park was the groundbreaking work produced by rapper and producer Travis Scott on the Fortnite metaverse, specifically the astronomical performance within the video game that was watched by over 45 million viewers.
“We started prototyping the stadium in the summer of 2021 and announced it late last year,” said Josh Rush, co-founder of SURREAL Events. Other major sports organizations are expected to follow suit. In February, English club Manchester City announced a partnership with Sony to create a Metaverse version of the Etihad Stadium.
How will sports metaphors make money?
The metaverse-based sports arena offers several distinct revenue streams, starting with sponsorships. Just as big companies want to pay millions and tens of millions of dollars for naming rights and registration plates stadiums in the real world, it is likely to pay for the development of their logos in digital parks. Major League Baseball sponsorships in 2021 totaled $1.13 billion, according to the IEG advisory group.
Similarly, the Braves are considering selling tickets for the virtual attendees. Currently, the Braves metaverse does not allow virtual participants to watch a live game. But the simulated game is already complex enough; Since 2020, the Oculus Quest’s MLB VR app has been available to watch live games, although it requires an expensive MLB.TV subscription. A digital stadium offers many opportunities that are difficult or impossible to offer for physical arenas. For example, a large group of fans may “sit together” in the same section, even though they are sold heavily in the current park. Decisive in-game moments, such as the Grand Slam, can be converted into non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and sold and traded instantly like baseball cards.
Sales of merchandise is another promising source of income. Video game players and music lovers have shown their willingness to spend huge amounts of money on digital products. For example, the December 2020 Lil Nas X concert on Roblox generated millions of dollars in sales of digital merchandise, according to a Roblox executive. Grayscale’s report estimates that revenue from virtual game worlds was around $180 billion in 2020 and could reach $400 billion in 2025.
Point-of-sale revenue opportunities aren’t limited to sports, notes Greg Mays, Braves’ vice president of marketing and innovation. “We can give concerts, we can give meetings,” he told the Observer.