Disney exits the Metaverse – is this the beginning of the end?
Published: March 31, 2023
Everyone thought it was phenomenal – a new, highly immersive experience that was going to take people beyond the current two-dimensional experience of browsing, viewing, working, socializing and interacting with others.
And suddenly – almost like how it all began, people started losing their fascination for something that they once thought would revolutionize life as we know it.
The latest big brand to take a step back from it is Disney. And I’m talking about the metaverse. Disney has gone as far as to lay off the high-tech team and has re-aligned its focus on its parks, the streaming and its movies.
Disney is not alone is stepping back. Several brands are re-thinking their foray into this technology that seemed to take the whole world by storm. Meta itself has said that it would step away from ‘pie in the sky’ projects. And so has Microsoft. And it is not just metaverse – NFTs and crypto are also reeling under the weight of sullied reputations.
The main idea behind metaverse was to create multiple online worlds that are interconnected where people could shift from work to socializing to playing games in a virtual reality world. This was also about creating a connection back to reality and products and services and events in the real world. But that didn’t quite happen as planned.
Disney has started to lay off employees – about 7000 of them (including its metaverse team) – as it regroups its resources while heading into what analysts say is a recession-facing world.
Marketing and the metaverse
While it caught everyone’s fancies when it dawned on us like something straight out of a science fiction novel, the main problem with the metaverse is that there is no real definition as to what it is. Is it a virtual space where avatars can have virtual meetings in boardrooms? Or is it like the internet – where the blockchain connects all the pieces of data and has NFTs that are unique?
So when metaverse burst upon our consciousness, everyone wanted to be on it – it would be great to “experience” our products, one said. It would boost customer engagement, said another. But apart from some stray successes which can be attributed to the sheer novelty of the then new kid on the block, if not anything else, nothing really took off. Nobody really knew metaverse well, to harness the potential possibilities it offered.
And just as everyone wondered what to do with the metaverse, there was brighter, spunkier, far more intelligent new kid on the block – artificial intelligence. Generative AI and ChatGPT simply blew everyone’s mind and now everyone’s trying to see what they can do with this new fascinating development in technology. But one must remember that this is still in its nascent phase. Coca-Cola was smart and built its foray into AI with a competition thrown open to its fans. Levi Strauss tried to jump on the DEI bandwagon through AI and bombed.
Marketers would do well to go the direction of AI rather than the metaverse. Like the proverbial mice that jump off a sinking ship, (the analogy of the rodent ends there) Disney has dropped metaverse ventures. And one would think that the metaverse lends itself best to an enterprise like Disney with its magical castles and alternate universes, as it were.
If Meta has put metaverse on a back seat, and if Disney has abandoned all experiments in metaverse altogether, it appears that the moving finger has indeed written. And having writ, it has moved on.
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