September 8, 2021
Lifestyle apparel firm Vans has teamed with Roblox to bring skateboard destination “Vans World” to the online gamer’s vast audience. The creator of iconic footwear for boarders of all stripes is the latest brand to plant its flag in the metaverse, where kids are spending increasingly large chunks of time. Sony Music Entertainment, Gucci, BMG, Warner Bros. Pictures, Hasbro and Nike are among the firms that have partnered with Roblox, a global social platform with its own currency that in Q2 reported more than 42 million daily users who create and share immersive 3D experiences.
The metaverse is a social hub where virtual and augmented reality overlap (those craving a linear object-lesson, see Steven Spielberg’s feature “Ready Player One”). “Tech leaders including Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg see the metaverse as the eventual successor to the modern internet,” according to Fast Company, which reports Roblox “has exploded during the pandemic, as the world’s population of kids and teens have been logging more and more time on screens.”
The so-called “freemium” platform — which does not charge to play, but invites optional in-app purchase of exclusive content and goods — soared in a March 10 direct sale stock offering and currently enjoys a market value of $47 billion, per Stock Analysis.
In addition to sporting custom silhouettes in-app, shredders will have the opportunity to purchase IRL recreations online. The hub also features shops selling skateboard customizations and other items, writes USA Today. The partnership is unique, says Fast Company, “in that ‘Vans World’ isn’t a one-off marketing stint that will disappear in a matter of days or weeks like the ‘Gucci Garden,’ where a virtual bag sold for over $4,000 (more than what the IRL version of the bag sells for) before the weeks-long experience ended.”
A Roblox virtual concert by Lil Nas X that drew more than 36 million people and Ariana Grande’s “Rift Tour” for Epic Games’ online battle royale “Fortnite,” are considered discrete “events.” “Vans World” is intended as a permanent installation that will evolve based on “learning from the community,” Vans senior manager of global brand digital marketing Julia Patkowski told Fast Company.
“Roblox players all create their own, personalized avatars that they dress and accessorize, sometimes with products purchased in the avatar shop,” Patkowski explained. “We know that shoes are something that’s pretty coveted in Roblox because they don’t exist as a metaverse item.”
“We know with Gen Z, they do not want to be told what to wear, what to do,” said Roblox vice president of brand partnerships Christina Wootton. “They really want to be part of the process and have the brand listen to their feedback.” When launching a channel on social media “you don’t just post once and expect your followers to stay there and be engaged. You really have to think of it as a commitment.”
Vans joins a Roblox “ constellation” of 20 million-plus “experiences” created by seven million developers, writes OMR. “Vans World” was created by Vans in conjunction with community developer The Gang Stockholm, according to a Roblox press release that claims a benchmark for online skating, courtesy of a “recently augmented physics layer” that relies on “vector operations and raycasting,” made possible by “incremental engine improvements that are a constant at Roblox.”
Vans World also makes strides in sound, leveraging voice chat and spatial audio design. Users can speak to and hear each other in what TechCrunch describes as “a natural extension of the way that text chat works now, but instead of text bubbles that pop up over an avatar’s head, visible to anybody around them, players will be able to talk naturally to the other people they bump into.” Meanwhile, “proximity-based audio” adds authenticity to kickflips and tailslides.
ABBA’s Virtual Concert, the Metaverse and the Future of Entertainment, Forbes, 9/6/21