Starburst has launched its Juicyverse experience within the metaverse mall known as TheMall, and is accessible via any device on the web.
Starburst Juicyverse allows people to visit the virtual mall and participate in virtual entertainment using MetaVRse Engine 2.0, which allows people to connect from any device through a web browser.
Alan Smithson and Julie Smithson of MetaVRse The company has been working on TheMall for eight years, although the latest stretch of work on the mall’s core infrastructure was carried out over the past year. It has been open for a week or so, with very little advertising.
The first major brand partner is Mars-Wrigley, and it has launched Starburst Juicyverse on the second floor of the mall. In an interview with GamesBeat, Alan Smithson said that his company wants to build a 100-story shopping center with approximately one million square feet of space on each floor.
What is it like in the Juicyverse?
The Juicyverse features a Starburst virtual store where a QR code leads guests into the virtual experience. I went on the experience with Alan Smithson. I logged in via my desktop computer and joined the experience in about 30 seconds. No download was necessary. I had to go through a few things, register my avatar name, and then create my avatar, which took about a minute or so.
We then visit the Starburst Juicyverse by entering a spinning vortex. Once we were inside, I used my keyboard and mouse to navigate the experience. There was animation on the wall and Juicyverse logos. Visitors can get a free virtual Starburst T-shirt to wear on their avatars. I chose a red shirt for my avatar and ended up matching Alan Smithson’s outfit.
We went for the Starcade experience first on the left of three experiences available. It was some kind of disco with music playing from buttons on the walls. You can go to a photo booth and take a photo. On mobile, you can share the image via social media.
You can then go on a 3D scavenger hunt to earn a loyalty non-fungible token (NFT). When you get that, it turns into a coupon for an instant discount that you can use to buy candy at real-life stores, including Walmart. NFTs are minted on the Hedera blockchain.
Alan Smithson said that MetaVRse Engine 2.0 renders 3D objects with better quality than in the past, although I did find it moving a bit slow. The goal is to attract millions of guests to the experience across any device, with visitors entering via QR codes in the real world.
Use BambuMeta’s NFT system to access NFTs through an Apple or Google wallet. Guests can get the loyalty NFT through the wallet they already have and trust on the phone. MetaVRse tested this experience at the South by Southwest event in Austin, Texas in March and is now opening it on the second floor of the mall.
“You have the world’s first IRL coupon from an NFT in your mobile wallet,” he said. “We believe this will be the next level for loyalty programs.”
In the next part of the experience, we enter the gallery. There is a game, Lost in Space, in which you try to find an alien, a duck or other objects among a sea of asteroids. Navigation was a bit slow so I backed off.
In addition to the above, there is a Studio feature in Juicyverse that allows creators to create their own 3D model out of Starburst candies in a 20x20x20 space. In this experience, you place Lego-like bricks and use the mouse to change the direction of the line. It’s like a 3D engraved sketch.
Once you’re done with your creation, you can share it as your own user-generated content. Alan Smithson hopes that Starburst Juicyverse will open up a new frontier in the world of marketing and retail. The winner of the art contest can get a prize. And the winner can have the art coined as NFT. Alan Smithson said that he spent four hours making a Star Wars Tie Fighter.
Taking a place in TheMall
The first floor of the mall will consist of a bunch of stores for a variety of companies, while the upper levels will be personalized metaverse experiences owned by the brands. Alan Smithson said that that floor is likely to be accessible without pre-registration, as there is considerable drop off when you ask people to register right as they enter the experience.
“We are going to address that by the time we open the first floor of the mall,” he said. “We’re going to let people roam before they have to sign up because I think it’s only fair that people try it out first.
The company sold the first five floors for around $250,000 each. That gave the company some funds to get off the ground. Eventually, each floor will cost around $1 million per million square feet, though the Starburst activation uses around 200,000 square feet of virtual space. You will also be able to lease smaller storefronts for annual fees.
How will it happen?
When Alan Smithson announced the project a year ago, TheMall project was unveiled at the height of the metaverse craze, with consultants predicting the market would be worth trillions. But since then, the crypto market has crashed a couple of times and there has been an economic downturn. Scams around the metaverse and the blockchain were prominent and misdirected some people to ideas.
The TheMall project itself raised eyebrows and a few laughs from people who wondered if it could trick people into paying $1 million for virtual real estate that could be reproduced infinitely. Critics said he made the mistake of importing the shopping experience from the physical world and replicating it in the digital world, even though what’s fun in real life isn’t always fun in digital life.
NFTs and the metaverse have been taking a beating lately, with Insider recently declaring “The metaverse is dead.” That’s debatable, but Alan Smithson says he’s in it for the long haul.
“We have focused on incorporating the first brands,” said Smithson. “We see this as a way to finance this infinite virtual world. We are not really interested in fast money. We are not a crypto game. We are not trying to push up the price of a coin or anything like that. It will be a loyalty program instead of a crypto currency. We don’t spend seven years building something to rip people off.”
In its current state, it wasn’t that impressive in terms of metaverse experiences, as much better experiences could be seen in the old virtual world of Second Life. The avatars are lifeless, the experience is pretty simple, and movement is a bit slow.
Hardcore gamers like me aren’t going to be spending much time here. But the question is whether the experience will ever be so good that I’d rather spend time here than on Amazon.com.
It was interesting to see how everything could be accessed through a web browser without a lengthy download. The question is whether that technology will advance fast enough to make virtual mall shopping a seamless and seamless experience. That kind of thing could work with casual people.
Alan Smithson is confident about it.
“I remind you that this only runs in one browser and runs on all devices equally,” said Alan Smithson.
He added: “To the critics who say that shopping in a digital mall is not fun, I would say that they are right. Today’s eCommerce platforms aren’t buying. It’s ruthless acquisitions of goods and no one ever says ‘Hey, let’s shop on Amazon together’.”
Smithson said he is trying to build a new kind of social retail that allows billions of gamers from around the world to come together virtually and explore brands.
“We are working closely with brands to avoid this being just another e-commerce website, but rather an experience hub for social fun and exploration,” Smithson said. “I would have to agree that spending money on virtual real estate is probably silly if you’re not a major brand or investor with money to invest in building something of value for guests. That is why we only sell properties on TheMall to reputable investors and bona fide brands.”
Building The Mall
By combining the physical and virtual worlds, brands can now create immersive experiences that engage customers in a more meaningful way. The use of blockchain technology in this activation not only provides a secure and transparent way to manage loyalty programs, but also opens up new sources of revenue through the creation and sale of NFTs, he said.
TheMall is based on MetaVRse Engine 2.0, a low-code 3D creation platform on the web. The ability to deliver a seamless 3D multiplayer virtual world experience on all devices without the need to download apps is a game changer, said Alan Smithson.
This accessibility ensures that brands can connect with consumers on a global scale, without the need for technical knowledge on the part of the consumer.
Eventually, visitors will be able to create their own private rooms and send each other links so they can have video chats. But in the main Juicyverse, you can’t communicate with other avatars. That’s an acknowledgment of trust and security issues for metaverse experiences.
The launch of TheMall will allow multiple brand partners to come together and create an interconnected virtual shopping experience. MetaVRse.com worked with Starburst and Mars, as well as The Mars Agency, BambuMeta, and Hedera.
The mall accepts payments in fiat currency (US dollar) as well as cryptocurrencies and is compatible with Khronos 3D. It connects to back-end systems and has real-time analytics and photorealistic graphics.
Over time, TheMall is likely to host concerts, comedy shows, clubs, billboards, conventions, and influencer performances.
Alan Smithson said the firm is working on a deal to bring 1,400 brands to the mall. They won’t all appear at once as the experiences take a while to build. The company has about half a dozen templates that brands can use. The company has already built an electronics store. There will be virtual car setups and medical device simulators.
“It’s super, super cool,” he said. “You’re going to love it”.
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