A significant part of the technology sector is already preparing for the next era of the Internet and social media, that is, life in the metaverse. The vision built on digital products, services and shared experiences has attracted many investors, and the sports industry cannot be left out. With regard to the metaverse, we are now in an incredibly exciting, initial phase, in connection with which we have also “scratched” the surface a little and tried to give a comprehensive picture of the topic based on the thoughts of renowned experts.

Those who believe in it say that the “metaverse” will be the “successor state” of the Internet, with all kinds of sectors where people will “exist” in their digital reality. Of course, sport cannot be left out of this.

Investors are already spending billions to be part of startups and take a position in a metaverse with currently unforeseen opportunities. They are fiercely invested in technologies that offer the sensation of virtual reality, or physical movement in virtual space.

In April, Epic Games, the publisher of the highly successful Fortnite video game, launched a announced a billion-dollar funding roundfrom various supporters, including Sony, which in the words of founder and CEO Tim Sweeney “helps accelerate our work around building connected community experiences”and “would support our vision of EPIC and the metaverse”.

In July, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg stated that his organization would reposition itself as a “metaverse company” in the next few years.

Meanwhile, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said in May that the company was building a “metaverse company.”

As much as we already have a common vision for the future of the metaverse, the specifics are a matter of debate within the tech community. The term itself was borrowed from science fiction literature: it was first used by novelist Neal Stephenson in the 1992 dystopian Snow Crash. And the basic concept may be familiar from the story of Ready Player One and the Matrix, but the reality is not yet staged.

In a widely read and highly influential 2020 essay,”The Metaverse: What It Is, Where to Find It, Who Will Build It, and Fortnite”Venture capital investor Matthew Ball has set seven criteria for the purest version of the metaverse.

Criteria for the metaverse:

  • be “permanent”, can never be restored or paused;
  • be “simultaneous and live”, work in real time, for everyone at the same time;
  • it should not limit the number of simultaneous users and provide all users with a sense of “presence”;
  • have a “fully functioning economy”;
  • be “an experience that encompasses the physical and digital worlds”;
  • have 'unprecedented interoperability of data, digital elements/assets and content';
  • “be populated with 'content' and 'experience' created and operated by an incredibly wide range of independent contributors.”

So that would be the VISION that the metaverse should represent. As for practice, according to several experts, unfortunately, we could be decades away from the merger of technology and economic conditions and the emergence of a technologically well-functioning new universe that meets the above criteria.


At the same time, brands are interested not only in tangible benefits. Investing in the metaverse, exploring the possibilities, already has a positive effect on the price of companies, as it offers the promise of future-oriented company development.

That's why Facebook is doing so much. The company's interest in VR and AR is not new: in 2014, it acquired Oculus for $2 billion. According to a March report by The Information, nearly 10,000 Facebook employees — about a fifth of the total staff — are currently working on augmented and virtual reality devices.

“The last generation will be about sharing, the next generation will be about participating in community life.”Sima Sistani, co-founder of video chat service Houseparty, said in an interview with the Washington Post in September. People have moved from traditional media to social media in the last decade. And the even newer generation is moving from social media to gaming. There they continue the conversations. There's the “likes” and the world beyond the newsfeed. This actually brings us to the metaverse.


“What we look at, the way we communicate with each other, the way we buy things, every medium will contain AR, VR, or mixed reality in some form.This was stated by Peter Moore, Senior Vice President of Sports and Entertainment at Unity, who has successfully balanced virtual and traditional sports entertainment throughout his years at EA Sports, Microsoft and Liverpool.

After successfully developing mobile games, Unity now focuses on creating and hosting real-time 3D content. According to its own data, in 2020 there were 5 billion downloads per month of applications made using its products, while it was used for more than half of the games running on mobile, PC and console. Moore said that we already live in a metaverse-like world, but this process will accelerate significantly, and “Every real thing will have a digital twin..

Throughout his career to date, he has been closely following and even shaping the evolution of digital communities for decades. After moving from Reebok to the tech industry, as president of Sega of America, he brought online gaming to the living room with Dreamcast. He then switched to Microsoft, just as the Xbox console and Xbox Live switched to broadband.

This was followed by the presidency of EA Sports, where in-game purchases were introduced instead of physical sales [e.g. Ultimate Team], which in fact ensured the survival and long-term significant development of the company.

In Liverpool, he worked for the football team to engage global fans in traditional sport:. “98% of our fans will never cheer for the team on the ground, yet we are part of their daily lives. That's why we built a whole infrastructure together with IBM to create a huge amount of content and connect with our fans in a unique way.”

Moore now believes that truly effective solutions are getting closer to blurring even more the boundaries caused by distance in virtual reality and personalization.

“When I left Liverpool at the end of last year, I thought yes, now I will move to Santa Barbara”Moore says. “I'm in my late 60s, it's time for a break. Then someone showed me an element of what we're doing now at Unity, and I said, 'Man, this is a game-changer! ' Literally, this is a gamechanger!”

Former Liverpool CEO Peter Moore heads Unity's sports and live entertainment division and sees huge opportunity in the metaverse

Moore leads the team that builds Metacast, a three-dimensional digital platform for real-time entertainment. The service essentially creates fully interactive images using a technique called volumetric capture, which is no different from that used in the development of 360-degree video replays, but in this case it is not only built from reality, but there are plenty of elements that can still be incorporated.

Metacast can process about five million voxels — three-dimensional pixels — per second. Viewing angles can be adjusted to any position without sacrificing detail, while computer-generated images avoid the “uncanny valley” effect of traditional computer-modeled graphics and the collision detection problem.

Metacast creates fully interactive images using a technique called volumetric capture

Unity announced in October that it had entered into a long-term partnership with UFC to explore the technology. This, Moore says, also illustrates the platform's capabilities, not just for entertainment, but for deeper professional analysis, from technical assessment to injury assessment. It is possible to control backgrounds, leave geo-specific ads or create new environments. In addition to the UFC, Metacast is active in basketball and rugby, and Moore also spoke about its monetisability. For example, the viewer can identify a pair of shoes that can be purchased within the platform, giving e-commerce a new boost. But workouts can also be easily modeled, the spatial perception can be improved and the exercises performed can be analyzed in detail.

“I've seen a nice, slow development of broadcast technology” Moore says. “Everything in two dimensions. And for the new metaverse, we think that everything will have a digital twin, everything will be three-dimensional. Because your vehicle will be driven by a robot pilot; and you will be watching the match/game on the OLED screen of your car. You're going to be watching your match/game in your home, and it's all going to be in your living room.”


In addition to Unity, several game developers are already in an advanced stage to enter the metaverse. “There are great opportunities in live events”Christina Wootton, vice president of brand partner relations at interactive game developer Roblox, said in a statement. “We already know that shared 3D experiences in the metaverse can be much more memorable than watching something through TV or interacting on traditional social media platforms. Community members often share these memories and selfies when they go to events like virtual concerts or when they watch parties and other events with their friends on Roblox.”

Roblox was founded in 2006, but has only flourished in recent times, peaking at 48 million daily active users in August 2021. Monthly revenues increased by 100 percent, reaching $167-170 million annually. It enjoys immense popularity among younger players, describes itself as a “co-experience platform” and offers users simple tools to design their own games within the framework of their colorful worlds.

Wootton said the technology that powers Roblox is evolving “almost daily,” and in his few years with the company, he has seen a huge leap in the sophistication of its digital communities.

“The breadth of technology we carry out is unprecedented: from the mobile client to the 3D cloud engine to the free developer toolkit and back-end infrastructure”Wootton continues. “We are innovating in these areas to deliver even more powerful, immersive experiences and enable new ways to connect people, such as real-time 3D video chat through our recently launched Spatial Voice technology.”

With multiple spaces that exist side by side, Roblox is one of the richest forerunners of the metaverse, and leading brands have heard its words. The company has worked with partners for in-game content development such as the National Football League [NFL], FC Barcelona, Liverpool, WWE and Nike.

“We're also seeing brands increasingly embrace our existing creative community to help build experiences and objects”Wootton adds. ”For example, Vans partnered with development studio Roblox, The Gang Stockholm, to build the Vans World, while Gucci worked with the creators of Rook Vanguard on the virtual elements of Gucci Garden.

Roblox Vans World


Roblox developers are encouraged to collaborate with brands, and many of these also contribute to the proliferation of the so-called “direct-to-avatar” or D2A market. This is where consumers buy products for real money that can only be used by their avatars in a virtual environment. For the sports industry, this has so far meant the creation of special soccer shoes, jerseys and sneakers that can be used exclusively digitally in games such as EA Sports' FIFA soccer games or Take-Two Interactive's NBA 2K series.

In the fashion industry, these ideas have continued to evolve — as Wunderman Thompson notes in his 2021 report “Into the Metaverse.” Ralph Lauren and American Eagle have released a design that only Zepeto and Bitmoji avatars can wear. Pokemon Go users can dress up their characters in virtual outfits from The North Face and Gucci. Gucci has also partnered with Wanna on AR only footwear. All of this is driven by the need to make a better impression in digital spaces. “An automaker that wants to be present in the metaverse is not going to run ads.”Tim Sweeney of Epic Games already explains to the Washington Post. “They will show their car to the world in real time and you will be able to drive with them. They're going to be working with content creators with a lot of different backgrounds to make sure their car is playable here and there and gets the attention it deserves.”


The next evolution of digital ownership would be for users to transfer their products from one virtual environment to another. This is what experts mean by “unprecedented interoperability”. For now, the digital product has come closest to the unique quality of its physical counterpart in the form of non-fungible tokens [NFTs]. NFT, as one of the most talked about technological achievements of 2021, uses the blockchain to independently verify the exclusive ownership of a single digital file, and this allows for transparent and fraud-free trading of fine art works, sports moments, cards, rarities, etc. Until now, sports rights holders, teams and athletes have mainly explored the possibilities inherent in it as an extension of the collectibles market, e.g. collectible sports cards, individual sports cards. NFTs have the potential to provide other types of digital transactions — in the metaverse, they could support not only D2A purchases, but also transfer markets for esports or fantasy games in the future.

Specific experiments have already been carried out in this. Developed by Virtually Human Studios in Australia, Zed Run “as a demonstrably correct digital horse racing game based on blockchain technology”It defines itself. Users can buy, breed, compete and sell racehorse avatars, trade Ethereum cryptocurrency, and earn real profits and losses.

Pictured participants attend a virtual demo of Zed Run, a digital horse racing game powered by the Unreal Engine

NFTs have some limitations, not least due to broader regulatory concerns about cryptocurrencies and opaque cash flows in their markets, or alarming reports of environmental costs. Nevertheless, although sports teams have reached an agreement with the likes of Socios to explore the possibilities offered by fan tokens, players in the metaverse are trying to work out how to secure their own internal economy.

“We have our own currency, Robux, which allows users to purchase digital items and limited-edition products to dress up their avatars and explore new areas or games during the experience.”Wootton notes.

In the case of NFTs and other products of digital origin, there is still a lot to wait and see. One of the fundamental characteristics of the metaverse is an economy in which goods and currencies can flow freely and safely. With an unfalsifiable proof of ownership, NFTs build trust in the system, providing a sense of comfort for users to spend real money to acquire digital goods.

“A form of this is already happening within Roblox. We offer rarely available goods as part of the platform experiences. Users can then sell or trade these items on the platform, creating a vibrant marketplace for valuable virtual goods.” Wootton continued.

There are many unanswered questions about the metaverse, and much remains to be understood regarding what is really to be expected. However, it is becoming increasingly clear where large companies and leading sports clubs and sports brands will look.

Discussions about the metaverse are rapidly spreading across organizations, beyond marketing, innovation, and licensing departments, as they gain a greater understanding of the potential the platform has to offer. Wootton concluded his argument by saying that just as 10-15 years ago, when brands created internal marketing teams to advertise on social media platforms or create channels, in the same way all brands will need a metaverse strategy in the future. Those who already have it are the leading riders and have already gained a competitive advantage.