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Why the NFL Continues to Tackle the Metaverse

The league’s latest Fortnite experience aims to connect fans with the sport off the field as well as attract new audiences.

How NFL Tackles the Metaverse
The National Football League recently launched the NFL Zone, a multifaceted metaverse experience built in Fortnite Creative.
Photo: Courtesy of the NFL

Even though the value of the metaverse is still being debated by marketers, big brands continue to invest in the virtual space—hoping to score with consumers.

For example, the National Football League recently launched the NFL Zone, a multifaceted metaverse experience built in Fortnite Creative. Presented by Visa, the digital space is designed to engage football fans and also attract Fortnite players, possibly winning over a whole new audience, in particular Gen Z, which has shown a declined interest in traditional sports.

“We believe in meeting fans where they are at,” said Ed Kiang, the vice president of video gaming for the NFL. “The metaverse, its experiences, and its technology are going to be key in engaging the next generation of fans as more of their time is being spent in persistent virtual experiences as a new way to socialize with others and consume content. … We see the metaverse as an extension of the NFL's real-life engagement platforms for emerging social connectivity, providing a new, always-on, virtual hangout destination with activations tied to NFL events and initiatives.”

How NFL Tackles the MetaversePlayers can participate in a virtual tailgating experience that resembles the exterior of an IRL stadium.Photo: Courtesy of the NFLThe NFL Zone, which was produced by Epic Games-owned SuperAwesome, features a virtual tailgate experience that resembles the exterior of an IRL stadium with RVs and tents, plus a Visa-sponsored stadium and mini game, along with portals to maps inspired by individual teams that host “seek and sack,” a modified version of the popular “search and destroy” game mode.

Visa’s mini game, “Blitz the Bag,” features a capture-the-flag-style gameplay where players search for a bag and try to be the first to bring it to one of the stores located in the stadium. The first team-inspired map spotlights the San Francisco 49ers and is designed to look like an old gold mining town; it will be followed by other maps featuring the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants, and more in subsequent months.

How NFL Tackles the MetaverseThe first team-inspired map spotlights the San Francisco 49ers and is designed to look like an old gold mining town.Photo: Courtesy of the NFLInspired by the concept of league rivalries, participating content creators (aka Fortnite YouTubers) will have their wins tracked on a giant scoreboard, with the division that earns the most points crowned champion after a final AFC vs. NFC playoff.

Earlier this year, the NFL also launched a similar experience within Roblox called NFL Tycoon, where players could build and play in their own NFL-branded stadiums. The league also recently announced its second experience on the online gaming platform, dubbed Quarterback Simulator, a target practice passing experience featuring challenges, NFL player personalities, and rewards.

Kiang explained that the NFL has been working with Fortnite, which boasts more than 400 million registered player accounts, since 2018, including offering licensed NFL "skins" for characters and a virtual experience coinciding with the 2021 Super Bowl, but that was short term. He said that this new, persistent experience aims to introduce “the NFL to a new, gaming-native generation.”

How NFL Tackles the MetaverseInspired by the concept of league rivalries, participating content creators (aka Fortnite YouTubers) will have their wins tracked on a giant scoreboard, with the division that earns the most points crowned champion after a final AFC vs. NFC playoff.Photo: Courtesy of the NFL

How NFL Tackles the MetaverseAs the NFL’s official payment services technology partner, Visa sponsors the stadium within the NFL Zone as well as a mini game.Photo: Courtesy of the NFL

How NFL Tackles the MetaverseThe maps inspired by individual teams host “seek and sack,” a modified version of the popular “search and destroy” game mode.Photo: Courtesy of the NFL

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