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  • Sporting Crypto - 20th Feb 2023: The Metaverse Might not Suck

Sporting Crypto - 20th Feb 2023: The Metaverse Might not Suck

The NBA Stun the World with Amazing 'Metaverse' Streaming Experience

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Intro Notes, Plugs & Amendments 🔌🔧

Every now and then there are moments that we look back on as being as iconic or transformative.

Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone 16 years ago and we marvelled at this weird futuristic touchscreen device.

Some laughed at a device where the most interesting things you could do were play Fruit Ninja or drink a virtual beer.

I don’t quite think the announcement we saw from the NBA this week was as important as the iPhone announcement, but I do think this will really clarify the opportunity for brands in a digital world.

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This Week’s Deep Dive: The Metaverse Might not Suck

This weekend at the NBA All-Star weekend, we saw the NBA commissioner Adam Silver unveil an in-game streaming experience which had the internet in awe.

Many have decided to brand the ‘Metaverse’ a sham, a dystopian digital experience or something that just plain won’t work.


When Mark Zuckerberg changed Facebook’s name to ‘Meta’ to indicate the direction of travel he thinks the world is heading in — we should probably have sat up and said “there might be something there”

Instead, the above image went viral for the exact wrong reasons and we got a plethora of responses along the lines of:”Is this really where Zuck is taking Facebook?””How much have Meta spent to create that?” ”The Metaverse Zucks”And look — I’m not here to convince you what Meta are doing will succeed. Far from it. But I’m definitely here to tell you that people are going to spend more time in digital worlds 3-5 years from now.

Defining Metaverse

Before we get into things, let’s just redefine the ‘M’ word quickly and things that conflate with it. The reality is the discourse around the ‘Metaverse’ is being driven by convoluting ideas on what the thing actually is, and what the thing isn’t. Many who say the Metaverse sucks, don’t know what they’re actually referring to or what they’re conflating.

  1. The Metaverse: A global, interconnected, online, immersive experience that has a distributed system as its backbone (A blockchain?!)

  2. Metaverses: Siloed or fairly connected virtual world that includes digital assets which can be ported in and out of said world (Decentraland, Sandbox)

  3. Virtual Worlds & Digital Spaces: Fortnite, Roblox, Meta’s eventual plans — these are virtual worlds owned and governed by a single entity

  4. This broad digital thing: For me, there’s something else to define. When I hear the word Metaverse — I often think we’re already in it. But people don’t think of the Metaverse as that. We have computers, game consoles and phones that are extensions of ourselves online that we depend on massively.

Each of these have their own issues.

(1) The Metaverse is so far hypothetical. We may have the building blocks, but arguably a dystopian Ready Player One-type world underpinned by a blockchain feels so far off, and potentially something we never see.

(2) Metaverses have so far done some amazing things. Decentraland have distributed the governance of their virtual world to their community, which is incredible. Some of the partnerships Sandbox have done, for example, are fairly impressive. The reality of it is these worlds are not high-fidelity enough to encourage mass participation. In this specific bucket, Sports teams are being sold a lot of crap Metaverse deals with partners who do not have even a semblance of a sustainable business model.

(3) Virtual Worlds & Digital Spaces have been unbelievably successful so far. Fortnite, Roblox, Minecraft or any game you could put in this category have attracted tens of millions of users. The issue is that their business models are at risk with the arrival of NFTs. People will still buy Fortnite skins, but if an NFT alternative bites even 10% of that pie — it’s a huge chunk of capital. We’ve seen the NFL, for example, partner with Fortnite to sell over $50m worth of skins, and various footballers partner with Call of Duty franchise; Warzone.

The reason I’ve tried to bucket these things to some extent is because detractors often don’t know what they’re detracting. They often think NFTs, Crypto and ‘The Metaverse’ are the same thing. Which means the discussions around it are scattered and often pointless.

It starts looking and feeling like a toy

Often, people don’t really make sound conclusions about new technology until it impacts their lives directly.

I gave the example of the iPhone in the intro notes.

When it first launched, it had many detractors.

They were obviously wrong in hindsight as the iPhone went on to become one of the biggest technological consumer success stories in history.

And look, again, I’m not here to tell you that ‘The Metaverse (1)’, ‘Metaverses (2) or Virtual Worlds (3) are guaranteed to succeed.

It’s just that it’s hard not to look at the direction of travel consumers are trending in and think people are going to spend less money and time in the digital world. And that’s what many detractors think. Which is strange and most likely will be proved wrong.

  1. “NFTs are a fad” — 10m people buy NFTs on Reddit within 18 months

  2. “Crypto is a fad” — some of the biggest banks and FS companies in the world are trying to settle big chunks of cash on Crypto rails

  3. “Blockchains will never be useful” — they already have been proven to be by (1) & (2)

Yes, a lot of Web3 ‘stuff’ has gone spectacularly wrong, but in 99% of the examples given by detractors, they are human-based errors or humans with malicious intent scamming people. Just like those who are involved in text message scams.

The NBA Wows the World with their AR experience

Before reading on, watch this demo by Adam Silver.

Users can scan their bodies via their phone and create an augmented reality experience where they are actually in games and game highlights.

It’s f****** incredible.

Two things can be true - the Metaverse is the dumbest thing in marketing right now, and it’s also the biggest opportunity brands face.

The NBA have created an app that does something amazing for consumers but is at the same time the absolute tip of the iceberg.

The opportunities here could be endless. Imagine the layers of activation and advertisement possibilities that are brought to the fore by something so seamless and so immersive.

Too many Sports brands have altered their roadmaps (not for the better) with marketing shenanigans from agencies and consultancies about how they should ‘enter the Metaverse’.

A virtual Jersey. Very cool. How many people own one? What can people do with them?

A virtual space to hang out in Decentraland. Great. How many of your fans actually know how to hang out in Decentraland?

A plot of land in Sandbox. Fantastic — lots of great press about how amazing an innovator you are in the sports industry. But what does that actually do for fans and consumers?

The NBA have shown that you need to cut through the noise and make something that fans actually want. Not something that will score you some PR points with your CMO.

The Metaverse is the greatest marketing gimmick whilst at the same time being the biggest opportunity for brands since the advent of Social Media.

More Sports & Crypto stories & things to put on your radar

  • The SEC have charged legendary NBA player Paul Pierce over a Crypto promo on social media. He’s agreed to pay $1.4m.

  • We can now see Sorare’s split in volumes by Sport. 88% of the volumes are still in their flagship sport - Soccer.

  • A new NFT anime project has been created around iconic soccer anime character ‘Captain Tsubasa’. 

  • The ATP are auctioning a one-of-a-kind NFT from their LOVE collection to raise funds for those impacted by the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. 

  • WAGMI United and Adidas are extending and expanding their partnership with a reported second drop. 

  • Chinese Football side Beijing Guoan have launched an NFT collection. 

  • Soccer Manager Series creators are launching a decentralised management sim game called Soccerverse.

  • Play-And-Earn football prediction app Pooky announces NFT genesis collection. 

  • NBA Top Shot have launched a mobile native app. 

  • Kyrie Irving has filed a trademark for “NO CONCERN” which includes coverage of NFTs. 

  • NEAR Foundation and NYY SOS have collaborated to create a Web3 Sports industry workshop.

Great reads, great tweeting and more general ‘stuff’ that could impact you

  • In probably the biggest news in entertainment this week — the creators of the gaming franchise Final Fantasy are launching an NFT game on Polygon. 

  • New York and the US are at it again — trying to brand stablecoins as Securities. 

  • I nominated a few people for Joe’s yearly list of who to follow in Sports Business & Media

Thank you!

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