By Steve Stein, CEO at XMANNA
The rules of sports games haven’t changed much over the years, but the ways in which we consume and engage with them have. First came television. Live broadcasting followed. Instant replay and streaming came soon after. Live sports are on the precipice of another big change, and this time, it’s happening in the Metaverse.
From sneakers to real estate, every industry is beginning to explore the economic and cultural implications of the Metaverse. Judging by the number of Super Bowl ads and stadium name changes, we can see that the same can be said of the sports industry. Despite ample financing and sponsorships, live sports still struggle with a plethora of issues. A deep dive into the Metaverse may just be in sports’ best interests.
Sitting on the Metaverse sidelines
The pandemic is finally slowing down, and fans are eager to return to stadiums. Leagues, too, are reverting back to pre-covid schedules. While it appears that the sports industry is bouncing back, it’s hard to tell how long this momentum will last, especially among younger generations.
While 52 percent of Gen Z consider themselves sports fans, 79 percent admit that they don’t watch live games. While their parents could easily sit through a 3-hour commercialized football game, the younger generation is not as keen to do the same. This growing trend could spell disaster for the live events industry if it doesn’t meet younger fans on their home field. Whether you blame video games or real-time game highlights posted on social media, this disconnect will only worsen as attention spans decrease and interest wanes.
The sports industry is no stranger to integrating new technologies. FIFA and the NBA have been creating Metaverses for decades with their AAA gaming titles. But there is a difference between licensing deals for blockbuster video game franchises and creating a lasting, interactive Metaverse experience that brings together fans and enthusiasts. The sports industry treading into the Metaverse will be no small feat, but there is still time to do so. Taking these preemptive measures is the most effective way to bridge the generational gap in viewership and attendance.
Encouraging fandom attention and participation
Every sports fan will tell you that there are few opportunities for direct interaction between teams and viewers, especially during live games. There may be external betting and fantasy leagues, but both casual and hardcore fans are unable to meaningfully engage with their favorite teams and players. Live sports can utilize the interactive nature of the Metaverse to elevate fan engagement.
Fan loyalty is one of the most robust pillars in the sports industry across leagues and franchises. So much so that fans have openly protested when their favorite teams have partnered with Web3 projects like fan tokens to exploit their devotion. This is a major red flag, and the industry must tread lightly to ensure that Metaverse development is more than a lazy cash-grab. Maintaining loyalty to fans while growing new audiences within the Metaverse will require more effort than simple integrations or merchandising opportunities.
Younger fans love high-impact “moments” in sports, the big wins and the unexpected scores. Drawn-out and overly commercialized games simply cannot keep their attention. The Metaverse will remedy this by enabling fans to truly engage with exciting moments and highlights in ways previously unavailable.
While a truly immersive, full-fledged Metaverse is still being developed, laying the foundation for an easy and seamless transition is a necessity. More crucially, that game day excitement will carry over in-between the games and during the off-season.
Sports industry leaders may view the Metaverse as an easy monetization jackpot for intense fans with mountains of disposable income. However, shifting focus to facilitate Metaverse integrations to recapture the attention of younger fans is the most sustainable route. Prioritizing carefully considered projects not only maintains future viewership but creates an innovative and interactive pillar for live sports broadcasting. Transitioning from tawdry NFT collectibles to more substantial projects that emphasize continuous fan interaction can turn the sports industry into a Metaverse power player.
About the author:
Steve has over 30 years of experience in leading companies in Finance, Tech, Real-estate and now Blockchain. With a unique expertise in commodities and currencies, and a passion for helping sales organizations to overachieve, Steve has been able to push for collaborations with organizations such as Inter Miami, foreseeing the potential for sports in the Metaverse.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.