The prospect of selling in the metaverse – that 3D network of virtual worlds focussed on social interaction, like Tron but with shops – has seen a record £150m invested in UK virtual reality companies in 2021 as ‘gaming commerce’ takes off in 2022.
According to a study by Arden Partners, private investment in VR companies grew 72% compared to 2020, with £72m raised in the last quarter of 2021 alone.
And much of the investment is targeted at trying to steal a march on the likes of Facebook, Apple and Google, who have all made plain their desire to dominate the nascent virtual world.
As Alex DeGroote, reseach director at Arden says: “We have seen a wave of companies in this space turning to the public equity markets and expect this to continue. Significant technological developments in virtual reality and the metaverse are laying the foundations for the advent of new disruptors challenging the likes of Facebook, Apple and Google that are putting a lot of energy and investment into taking advantage of the potential returns from the virtual reality space.”
While the gaming industry is seen as the most obvious beneficiary, there are many retailers also interested in exploring and exploiting the metaverse. A recent report by Morgan Stanley reported on Forbes predicts that the metaverse could be a $50bn opportunity for the luxury fashion industry alone over the next decade.
Already Balenciage has created virtual outfits that are on sale in Epic Games Fortnite game, while Gucci launched its Gucci Garden on Roblox. Ralph Lauren has also sold gender neutral clothes in the same game.
In fact, these tie ups have created a whole new sub-genre of online retail: gaming commerce. This, finds Wunderman Thompson Commerce in a survey of 2000 UK consumers, is going to be where a third of people look for the brands and goods they want to buy.
Earlier this week BoohooMan launched its first digital clothing for the metaverse, selling exclusive t-shirts, tracksuits, hoodies and outer wear that are that are backed by Blockchain-run non-fungible tokens (NFTs).