This Week in the Metaverse: Gap NFTs, Second Life is back

Things are moving fast in the metaverse. Depending on who you speak to, this futuristic virtual world is either the next big thing in marketing or an overhyped fad. No matter which camp you reside in, the fact is that marketers and brands are experimenting at a rapid clip. There will be successes and failures. To help you keep up, The Drum will curate the biggest things happening in the metaverse every Friday in this new series: “This week in the metaverse.” And so, without further adieu, here’s what you need to know from this past week:

Gap launches its own NFT collection. Retail giant Gap announced this week that it will begin selling a limited collection of non-fungible tokens (NFTs). The artwork for the tokens features Frank Ape, a character designed by artist Brandon Sines. The clothing brand is offering a chance for consumers to earn a custom Gap/Frank Ape hoodie through the collection of its NFTs. Gap is just one of several name-brand clothing companies that have recently entered the NFT market as a means of reaching a younger, tech-savvy audience and creating opportunities for consumers to collect ultra-rare products.

After the return of its original founder, Second Life is now poised to evolve into the metaverse. Philip Rosedale, the founder of Second Life, is returning to the video game company with ambitions to breathe new life into its designs for the metaverse. Second Life — an online video game wherein players roam can around a virtual realm and interact with one another as digital avatars — was launched by Rosedale in 2003, making it one of the earliest pioneers of the virtual geography in which the fledgling metaverse will ultimately be based. Rosedale left the company in 2010. In recent years, Second Life’s user-base has been vastly overshadowed by those of Roblox and Fortnite, both of which have become key players in the development of the metaverse. Rosedale’s return signals a growing desire within the video game company to catch up with its competitors, and eventually to become a leading force in the race to build the metaverse.

Meta poaches from Microsoft. Microsoft’s augmented reality (AR) team has lost approximately 100 employees over the past year, according to the Wall Street Journal. Many of those employees, according to the report, have since been hired by Meta Platforms, Inc. (previously Facebook), a leading metaverse architect and one of Microsoft’s biggest competitors. The report notes that a number of Apple employees have also recently defected to join Meta. Meta currently has a strong position in the virtual reality headset market and reportedly has plans to evolve its AR hardware and software, sparking its recent hiring spree.

Animal Planet promotes its annual “Puppy Bowl” with NFT sale. NFT drops aren’t only for fashion brands. This year, Animal Planet will be releasing its own NFT collection as a means of boosting engagement with viewers ahead of its annual “Puppy Bowl.” If you’ve never heard of the “Puppy Bowl,” it’s more or less what you’re picturing in your mind’s eye: a football game, with all of the tongue-in-cheek ceremonial flair of the Super Bowl, that’s “played” entirely by puppies. The event doubles as an opportunity for Animal Planet to promote adoption opportunities for the rescued puppies. The NFT campaign will kick off with the drop of thousands of free tokens; these will then provide viewers with a chance to buy rarer tokens, which will be released in stages prior to the event’s air date on February 13 (the same day as the Super Bowl).

Troy Baker promotes NFTs, suffers instant backlash. The voice actor Troy Baker — best known for his role as Joel Miller in The Last of Us, a video game set in a post-apocalypse United States — recently tweeted about his new collaboration with VoiceverseNFT, a company that specializes in “voice NFTs.” His fans were having none of it. Baker was excoriated for the move on Twitter, largely by fans pointing out that NFTs have an enormous environmental impact.

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