The lights got brighter. The huge cameras swung into position. The Roots started playing and the audience started cheering. Jimmy Fallon emerged on stage and the show was on.
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to be an audience member at “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” in New York. In his opening monologue, Fallon mentioned that they were “introducing ‘The Tonight Show’ into the metaverse” without much detail. Although I understand the purpose of the statement to exaggerate the launch of everything they had prepared behind the scenes, the audience was obviously confused. Unfortunately, it’s a common condition of those who hear about the Metaverse, so I dove deep into exactly what “The Tonight Show” has planned for the Metaverse.
A Samsung partnership
The company behind the show, NBCUniversal, has partnered with Samsung to develop an interactive experience within the popular proto-Metaverse “Fortnite” platform. Dubbed “Tonight at the Rock,” the experience features a replica of NBC Studios at 30 Rockefeller Center in New York City; Studio 6B where the show is filmed; the Writers’ Room; a Samsung store; Central Park and Times Square. “Fortnite” players can participate in a variety of mini-games set around the world, such as giant pong and helping Fallon get to Studio 6B.
As is often the case with Metaverse projects, the experiment was carried out as a partnership between groups that, on the surface at least, usually have little to do with each other. – in this case, Samsung and “The Tonight Show”. The world has been enhanced with power-ups themed around new Samsung products and represents the latest move in Samsung’s larger Metaverse strategy which previously brought pop singer Charli XCX to Roblox for a gig to promote the Galaxy Phone. Z Flip3.
“At Samsung, we are always looking for opportunities to provide users with unique experiences with their Galaxy devices,” said Janet Lee, senior vice president of mobile experience at Samsung Electronics America. “‘Tonight at the Rock’ gives fans a unique social adventure right in the heart of 30 Rock, all enhanced with Samsung in-game power-ups made possible by the Galaxy ecosystem. We’re thrilled to bring fans of late night the first-ever “Tonight Show” interactive gaming experience, in a way that honors our longstanding creative partnership.
Gamification at the center of the user experience
One of the big takeaways from Fallon’s foray into Metaverse is the focus on gamification. Almost every project these days puts gaming and games at the heart of their user experience, and for good reason. Well-crafted gaming experiences are among the few media formats that capture the attention of younger generations, a demographic particularly difficult to target through traditional channels. This sustained attention builds brand awareness in a way that, if designed well, is also fun for the end user. It’s a win-win.
Matchmaking and Promotion in “Fortnite”: An Emerging Metaverse Trend
NBCUniversal’s Project Metaverse also highlights another important trend: companies are creating digital twins of their products, locations and brands in “Fortnite” with great success.
Nike brought their iconic line of Air Force 1 shoes to the game. Travis Scott made himself an avatar and performed a concert. Balenciaga has built a virtual store. One of the most unexpected collaborations was between “Fortnite” and Time magazine on the “March Through Time” project, which featured an interactive and educational experience commemorating the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Many companies are experimenting virtual storefronts, but storefronts alone only scratch the surface of what Metaverse commerce might look like.
All of these digital replicas enable brands to create immersive, personalized and user-focused experiences in a cost-effective and low-maintenance way. From this perspective, platforms like “Fortnite” are extensions of e-commerce, giving retailers more of the same benefits as the Internet.
Crossovers: Another Emerging Metaverse Trend
A unique “Fortnite” aspect that will carry over to future Metaverse platforms is the inclusion of many different brands, intellectual properties, and cultural moments. Rather than being siled into closed ecosystems, “Fortnite” allows users to explore worlds and interact with different characters or brands simultaneously. You might see one avatar wearing a Darth Vader skin right next to another with a custom Nike-branded outfit, playing a game of pong together on the rooftop of NBCUniversal’s New York studio. This cross-pollination of brands and the frenzy of uncommon partnerships is what differentiates platforms like “Fortnite” from traditional video games, and will be a key part of the future of the metaverse.
Perhaps you see this as a dystopian overexposure to corporate advertising. I see this as a relief: finally young audiences can experience disparate parts of modern culture and history on a single channel in which users actually spend more than half a second. Players can mingle with characters who live side by side in our minds and hearts, but ignore each other due to legal boundaries. Additionally, these audiences can enjoy unparalleled identity persistence on today’s Internet, as well as more authentic social connections (compared to exchanging text messages to faceless users on chat rooms). For organizations, this trend means marketing departments need to keep their finger on the Internet culture, making interesting connections with unexpected partners to generate unique user experiences that illuminate the world we live in in a different way.