Gaming Takes the Place of Live Events Post-Pandemic
Since the pandemic hit, the experiential and live-event space has had to pivot to adjust to the current landscape. With social-distancing protocols, government-mandated stay-at-home orders, and business closures, advertisers and event producers have had to become creative on how to stay relevant and top-of-mind with consumers during such unstable times. Since nearly all live events have come to a halt until further notice, advertisers have been experimenting with extended reality to better connect with their audience. Extended reality is an umbrella term that covers virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, and other immersive technologies that are used to enhance or simulate real-world experience through tech.
Fortnite, a free-to-play battle game, has been at the forefront of innovation to maintain viewership and gameplay by utilizing “extended reality.” Fortnite first introduced extended reality on the gaming platform by hosting one of its most successful events to date, Astronomical, which debuted artist Travis Scott’s new track with a virtual performance in April. This event attracted record audience with over 12 million players participating and attending the virtual event over a two-day span. The success of this event led to more virtual performances by DJ Marshmello and have even extended their talent globally with Japanese singer-songwriter, Kenshi Yonezu, being the first global artist to perform inside the game.
Given the success of these events, Fortnite has introduced “Spotlight” an ongoing concert series featuring some of the world’s most notable artists in order to create a space so fans and gamers can continue to experience a live show experience despite the world’s current state. Fortnite is not the only game utilizing virtual events, as games such as Minecraft, League of Legends, and Animal Crossing have been adopting the tech by launching musical activations to mark artist album releases and promote free concerts.
Most recently, HBO utilized virtual reality gaming technology as a way to promote its new show, Lovecraft Country, through a series of virtual events called “Lovecraft Country: Sanctum” ranging from escape rooms, art installations, puzzles, an immersive theatre, and a live concert to virtually engage with consumers. The event was created to serve as an alternate universe to expand the possibilities of the current landscape given current limitations due to the coronavirus outbreak. It provides a way for fans to come together virtually and safely in a place while experiencing unique performances that further explore and enhance themes and ideas from the show. While the activations will only be available to select influencers, the event will be broadcasted live on YouTube and will include interactive elements allowing viewers to participate at home.
Extended reality is not exclusive to gaming and gaming technology as other verticals have also been taking advantage of this advanced technology to better connect with their audiences. Spotify recently released a microsite allowing users to interact with artists like never before as the site features a digital avatar of R&B Superstar, the Weeknd. The avatar will interact with fans on a personal level by commenting on user stats such as their favorite song and time spent listening to it. The campaign was designed to promote the artist’s new album, “After Hours” and to increase audience engagement with an intimate experience at a time when the novel coronavirus has made most displays of live music unattainable. This project provides fans with a personalized experience with the “artist” for every user at a time when music creators and fans alike are missing the connection of live events more than ever.
While no one knows how long the pandemic will last, extended reality through gaming is likely here to stay. One of the largest gaming conventions which would typically be held in person, PAX, took place online for a free, streamable nine-day, 24-hour event consisting of live streams, chatroom panels, and downloadable game demos to fans could still experience the event despite being stuck in a quarantine. While future plans are unknown for the yearly event, once restrictions are lifted, future-attendees can expect a hybrid convention implementing both virtual and live events. While extended reality may not fully replace live events once the pandemic has passed, it has definitely made an impact that can shift future dollars spent in the live-events space.
Questions, Comments, and the Future
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