While Facebook… erm, Meta, and Microsoft are flexing their metaverse muscles by creating VR showcases, Nike has just launched its first metaverse project in Roblox. NIKELAND is, essentially, a huge branded playground for players to experience together. It’s with this concept that Roblox really cements the idea that their playing spaces are distancing themselves from being ‘games’ and are actually ‘experiences’, which follows on from CEO David Baszucki’s recent keynote speech where he claimed Roblox has always been a metaverse.
When first entering NIKELAND the iconic ‘swoosh’ logo adorns practically everything in sight. There are clouds in the sky personified with bright eyes and that swoosh as a smile; slides and ramps are shaped as the swoosh; it is everywhere. But of course, it is, let’s be honest, this is advertising on a new scale. A cynical mind may believe it’s too much, but if you look beyond the adverts, NIKELAND is a well designed and enjoyable place to hang out. And a great starting place for the public to experience the metaverse, albeit with baby steps.
This experience is bursting with colour. Green hills and blue sky dominate the scenery, with several squared-off areas in the centre for players to call their own. Pink trees dot the surroundings, oversized baseball bats provide makeshift ramps and a bright orange athletics track circles the core buildings, which look as if they’ve been yanked from Seattle’s Silicon Valley. Even at this early stage, avatars are zooming around hunting for cool areas to hang out or shopping for new shoes.
New users get a short guided tour. Every player has their own ‘yard’ which can be fully customised based around several sports. There are tennis nets, basketball hoops, soccer goals and even a gymnastics pommel horse. The next stop is the lobby, which houses two shops; the first sells items to be used in the ‘yard’ and the other is decked out with fully licensed Nike clothing and shoes (each pair of shoes has a superpower and all are brilliant!).
Early players are gifted a Nike baseball cap and bag, which can be worn in any other experience/game, which not only emphasises the Roblox metaverse but is also a sign to future creators and collaborators that Roblox shouldn’t be ignored. Earning potential here is huge, particularly as players in other games spot your latest Nike gear and want it for themselves.
To buy anything, players spend Nike medals, which are earned by playing mini-games with other players or discovering them within the NIKELAND world. There’s no clear way to translate Robux to medals, so at least for now, everything is free to players.
Personalisation is key here, as other players can visit your ‘yard’ at any time and give your created area a ‘like’. In the ‘yard’ placing items is as simple as selecting an object within the build menu and clicking a button. The options are myriad – large plastic geometric shapes, patterns to emulate grass or clay tennis courts, benches for other players to sit and spectate.
The ‘yard’ can be as lavish or basic as the player wants, but it’s worth keeping in mind that games will be played here and other users will appreciate some effort. A glowing blue circle outside the yard brings up a menu of three games – The Floor is Lava, Tag and Dodgeball – each incredibly simple and Nike promise more games are on the way. Once activated, all players in NIKELAND are given a notification to say a game is starting in your ‘yard’. Of course, if your ‘yard’ looks like a parkour course, it will create a more enjoyable gaming experience.
Being a sporting brand, Nike doesn’t just want users to sit at their PC, though. If players choose to load the experience on their smartphone, the accelerometer inside will track movement and bestow the avatar with “sports superpowers” in the form of super speed, or long jumps. It’s a bridge between our world and the metaverse, but it’s a seed full of potential. Nike could build in a pedometer that translates your steps into medals or offer promo codes when you buy shoes in a brick and mortar store, which digitally adds those shoes to your Roblox wardrobe.
NIKELAND is a small step into the metaverse. If Nike is working to a checklist, you’d be able to mark off several items – Shared digital space, persistent clothing and accessories, community activities, player-focused parcel of customisable land and a connection to the ‘real world’ with smartphone connectivity. It may not be the metaverse that other companies are imagining, but why run before you can walk?