The Metaverse Is Struggling to Hold Onto Users. Sports Could Fix That

Sports may offer the next great opportunity for the metaverse to create a deeper relationship with audiences.

AccessTimeIconMay 27, 2022 at 8:07 p.m. UTC
Updated Sep 19, 2023 at 4:04 p.m. UTC
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A range of industries have struggled to forge deeper, longer-lasting relationships with audiences in the metaverse. However, with its passionate fan bases and iconic teams and events, the sports sector may have the most success in creating this type of engagement. Metaverse initiatives from some of the world’s best-known sports organizations, including its most iconic teams, are already showing enough promise for these groups and the platforms serving the metaverse to expand their efforts in this area.

“Sports is going to become really big in [in the metaverse] in the next six months,” Sam Hamilton, creative director of Decentraland Foundation, told CoinDesk.

Daniela Dib is a business and tech reporter based in Mexico City.

In many ways, sports are a natural fit for the metaverse, combining fantasy and a passionate audience. It’s also an industry that has successfully experimented with crypto.

According to CryptoSlam, non-fungible token (NFT) sales at as part of NBA Top Shot grew by 72% last January. Its creator Dapper Labs, which has partnered with major sports leagues, is currently valued at $7.8 billion.

This piece is part of CoinDesk's Metaverse Week.

Other projects are also banking on sports’ popularity to find a larger gateway for crypto adoption. Bitso, one of Latin America’s largest crypto exchanges at over four million users, is now a main sponsor of Mexico’s national soccer team. In March, NFT platform SportsIcon unveiled plans for a sports-focused metaverse that will allow athletes to interact with supporters.

Earlier this month, Italy’s top soccer division collaborated with ConsenSys and video gaming platform The Nemesis to broadcast its first soccer match on the metaverse. FIFA, soccer's global governing body, locked in Algorand as an official blockchain partner before the World Cup competition that starts in November in Qatar. All of the above doesn’t include the various NFTs minted to honor famous athletes and their most celebrated accomplishments.

Decentraland and sports

Decentraland, which is building a metaverse on the Ethereum blockchain, is also developing a virtual sports infrastructure. It recently announced that the Spanish sports platform StadioPlus will manage NFT sports content in Vegas City, one of Decentraland’s largest districts focused on entertainment.

Hamilton believes the sports industry’s participation in the metaverse is just dawning and hinted that the protocol he helps oversee will be increasing its metaverse involvement significantly in the next six months. Decentraland and other platforms have noted that some metaverse initiatives have done a better job attracting audiences than keeping them.

Although Decentraland has sold 172 NFTs at an average price of $6,100 during the past week, according to the NFT Stats tracker, it is struggling to keep users engaged. There are only around 1,200 active players on the platform, according to publicly available data.

Decentraland Executive Director Agustín Ferreira said sports are part of the“compelling content” the platform is creating in hopes of emerging strongly from the current crypto downturn that has hit alternative coin (altcoin) protocols particularly hard. They are also a way to keep users entertained.

“We do content and run events because people enjoy them,” Ferreira told CoinDesk. “They’re an opportunity for us to build, prepare for the next round and make the most of the next bull market.”

The Decentraland executives are aware the current slow pace of adoption and engagement is normal for such a young industry. “We’re still very early, and we’ll be developing this for the next 20 or 30 years,” Ferreira said.

Sports may be of particular interest for many Latin American users who are already flocking to Decentraland and are among the world’s most ardent fans.

“This demographic is really starting to onboard in Decentraland, with a lot of brands and communities growing slowly,” he said. “Cryptocurrencies are a tool for regions like this.”

More from Metaverse Week:

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Fundamentally, the "metaverse" is a game – but one with real consequences and opportunities.

The future possibilities of the metaverse are presumably limitless, but is there anything you can do in the metaverse right now?


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Daniela Dib

Daniela Dib is a business and tech reporter based in Mexico City. She covers business, entrepreneurship, crypto, and tech in Latin America.

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