With Barbie taking over the world’s collective consciousness this week, it’s clear that nostalgia sells. So how does nostalgia create brand value in the metaverse? The interactive, spatial web creates an unprecedented two-way conversation between brands and users.
Brands that define a sound metaverse strategy that taps into the needs of their users and fans will be more successful. Today, the brand opportunity is to be a first mover in this growing space and build loyalty with a passionate audience while iterating growth-focused marketing strategies that cater towards current industry participants.
This opportunity has found favor among legacy brands looking to reinvigorate their brand story and reach the growing metaverse audience, one that experts believe will contribute greatly to a metaverse that will generate up to US$5 trillion in value by 2030. As legacy brands leverage nostalgia to leave their mark on the metaverse, it’s resonating with users. Here’s what’s been working well so far.
Successful use cases
Atari is a legacy gaming brand with rich history and memorable franchises such as Asteroids, Centipede, and Missile Command. Are these 8-bit games still relevant in the metaverse? Players of The Sandbox — a virtual 64-bit voxel gaming world where players can play, build, own, and monetise the experiences and digital assets that they create — have said yes. “They love the Atari lore and the callbacks to classic games,” said Sebastien Borget, COO and co-founder of The Sandbox.
“It makes them feel at home, and if they’re of a certain age, reminds them of childhood memories. Presenting Atari in a new context on our platform where the player’s avatar is immersed in the world of the brand provides fun new ways for fans to interact with the brand. By following this formula, any legacy brand is able to build brand identity as if it would via advertising, except it doesn’t feel like advertising to the player because they’re playing an adventure that can offer tangible rewards for completing goals," he added.
Building an experience on The Sandbox isn’t a matter of simply plugging in the original game code and recreating the graphics in voxel form. Everything is built from the ground up with blockchain integration where appropriate. Experiences can be built quickly, allowing teams to iterate and experiment with gameplay concepts consistently. Most experiences are designed for 15-30 minutes of playtime that aim to immediately engage the player, with simple controls that allow movement, jumping, attacking, and interaction.
For Atari, The Sandbox’s goal was to build a dedicated monument to retro gaming across two experiences. The first became a multiplayer social hub displaying Atari's most famous franchises with narrative and collecting quests mixed with a broad social experience. From the hub, players can enter the second experience, a Crystal Castles game that is built in 3D but plays like the original 2D game. In the future, additional experiences will be built so that the multiplayer hub functions as an entry point to multiple different games that players can sample.
Many players from the Atari community have actively shared their scores with the brand, creating a competitive, but fun atmosphere. “It feels like the old school local arcade chalk leaderboard,” said Tyler Drewitz, director of Atari, noting the experiences also helped people to discover Atari for the first time as they explored the 17 game IPs around Atari’s Sunnyvale hub. “The Sandbox enabled us to show what the metaverse can be instead of explaining it, and this has really been a positive experience for our brand and our community," he said.
Emily “pplpleasr” Yang, a renowned Web3 figure who rose to prominence through her NFT artwork, captivated the Web3 community with the announcement that Shibuya, an NFT film platform she co-founded, would be releasing a Bruce Lee NFT dedicated to the late martial arts legend in collaboration with the Bruce Lee Estate.
Capitalising on the then surging “open-edition” trend, the Shibuya team priced Bruce Lee NFT editions at just 0.008 ETH, around US$15 at the time. After a three day purchasing period, 48,691 NFTs were sold via the Manifold platform, raising over US$730,000.
Shibuya raises funds to develop films and shorts in collaboration with community members who helped raise the necessary capital. It’s a novel approach to film creation that circumvents the traditional Hollywood system. With that in mind, it’s reasonable to assume that the funding success of the Bruce Lee NFT drop, although not explicitly stated by Shibuya, will likely be utilised to create an animated film or series of shorts. This could then, in theory, leverage fans’ love for Bruce Lee to continue to grow Shibuya’s audience, sell merchandise, and launch additional experiences. All of this can be done in the name of bringing Bruce Lee’s iconic legacy to Web3.
Known by its legions of fans for a constant focus on innovation and pushing boundaries, it’s no surprise that global athleticwear brand Nike has already established itself as one of the leading brands in the metaverse after initially filing for virtual world trademarks in October 2021. Most notably, the brand developed “Nikeland” on the Roblox platform, which has been visited 32.8 million times since it launched in November 2021 and acquired RTFKT, one of the most successful Web3-native brands launched to date.
Since its entrance into the metaverse, Nike has indicated a clear focus of disruption in relation to sneakers and apparel, utlising near-field communication (NFC) technology to link NFTs to physical products, most notably in fan-favorite classic silhouettes such as the Nike Air Force 1 and Nike Dunks. In doing so, fans of the brand are able to have experiences with the brand that were never before possible, such as potentially gaining access to an exclusive event just for wearing the shoes. This Web3-related innovation is all channeling through RTFKT, and the industry has taken notice of the progress. The Clone X collection, developed in collaboration with world-famous artist Takashi Murakami, is the fifth best-selling NFT collection of all time on OpenSea, the long-standing dominant NFT marketplace of the Web3 industry.
Resonance is key
Whether its Nike creating Web3 products centered around fans’ love for its iconic shoes and new-era technology, or Atari getting in tune with the memories of its old video game classics, leveraging nostalgia to launch metaverse activations is provably resonating with industry participants in a big way.
With clear examples of success already in place to guide strategy, projects that are able to tap into brand nostalgia should feel encouraged to do so. In a volatile Web3 industry where competition is fierce, gaining even a slight competitive advantage from this strategy could mean the difference between resounding success and complete failure.
These three varied brands and approaches show there are multiple ways to achieve brand strategies in the metaverse. I look forward to sharing more paths to success in the future.
The article was written by Sebastien Borget, co-founder and COO of The Sandbox.
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