What Is the Disney Metaverse?
Do you ever watch old sci-fi movies and television shows, laughing about how they envisioned the future?
Here’s a fun fact: Blade Runner was set in Los Angeles in 2019. Yes, Blade Runner already happened.
Folks, if there are any replicants in society, I must be missing them. Anyway, my point is that anytime we try to predict the future, we get most of it wrong.
Still, Disney executives are planning for a new tomorrow wherein the company’s beloved characters become a part of your world.
What is the Disney metaverse? If things go right, it’ll be the way you can visit Disney theme parks from the comfort of your living room. Let me explain.
What’s a Metaverse?
Let’s skim over the nerd stuff as much as possible. Have you seen the movie Ready Player One? The metaverse looks something like this:
Think of the whole thing as an internet world where anything is possible because everything is digital and connected.
In some ways, metaverses already exist. Second Life, an online multiplayer game, counts as a persistent world where real people meet and interact.
That game came out in 2003. So, the idea is far from new. Still, it’s emerged as a cultural buzzword thanks to Facebook’s recent name change to Meta.
The company has done this in anticipation of eventually creating an entire Facebook realm.
Here, people would presumably get together to, I dunno, look at pet photos and talk over one another about politics or something.
We still don’t know yet because Facebook has been vague. All we really know is that the company owns Oculus, the company that mass-produces virtual reality headsets.
Most metaverse interpretations include the expectation that people will put on headsets and spend time in this augmented reality.
When doing so, these folks can hang out with Batman, play a game of 21 against LeBron James, or watch the Rolling Stones in concert… as they looked in 1965.
Anything is seemingly possible with digital constructs, which you know if you’ve played a videogame or watched a movie during the 21st century.
Computers can do anything, and virtual realities are really just different forms of code.
In fact, that game of 21 against LeBron could occur on the moon, giving you a chance to dunk as well as him. That’s why the idea is so appealing.
Humanity exceeds its limits thanks to the power of imagination.
Why Does Disney Want a Metaverse?
The first answer here is money. We should be honest about the fact that owning and operating a perpetual, highly trafficked metaverse is…just…wow.
Financially, I can barely wrap my head around how much money a company could make from a successful venture.
The only expense would be the system’s infrastructure, akin to what Netflix does to maintain service at all times.
Once that metaverse is up and running, Disney would likely earn at least ninety cents of every dollar spent within the online world.
Have you ever played a freemium game like Fortnite or Candy Crush Saga? If so, you know how much some people are willing to spend.
Now, imagine that from the perspective of a Disney user. How much do you spend during a park visit? What about when you’re at ShopDisney?
How much Disney gear do you have, and how much more would you buy if you had a larger budget for it?
Merchandising in the Metaverse
Okay, that’s one-half of the equation. Next, please think about it from Disney’s perspective. Everything the company adds is digital in a metaverse.
The company doesn’t need to manufacture anything. So, if somebody suddenly thinks, “I want a shirt where Mickey Mouse punches Kylo Ren,” Disney could add that in an hour.
All the company would need is a mock-up and a coder to upload it into the system.
A metaverse allows Disney to create the ultimate extension of fan service as an idea.
In fact, I can use a real-world demonstration. For example, MickeyBlog posted a picture of this tiara, which I hadn’t known existed.
I believed that it would make the perfect holiday gift for three different women I know. But, since I don’t live in Orlando, I had to ask a friend to pick it up during a trip.
When he went to the store, he learned that the item wouldn’t be in stock until January due to supply issues.
In the real world, I cannot buy this item unless I’m at Disney. Meanwhile, the parks face supply issues in keeping the item stocked.
In a metaverse, I’d see this item, buy three versions of it, and gift them to the appropriate users. This entire transaction would take maybe a minute.
During the pandemic, Disney has been beholden to external factors. With a metaverse, it digitally creates everything.
What Would a Disney Metaverse Look Like?
Some of you are likely reading this and wondering why you should care. To that question, I have a simple answer.
You can visit a Disney theme park from anywhere on the planet.
I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. Once Disney masters the technology, you can use a virtual headset to mimic the experience of Space Mountain.
Now, we may be 15-20 years away from even a reasonable facsimile of that premise, but it’s the ultimate goal here.
Park officials wince over crowd sizes. It’s one of the paradoxes of running Disney. They want to maximize profit while minimizing crowds.
A metaverse represents the perfect implementation of that possibility. Thousands of people can stand in the same spot and never even know it.
After all, everything you see is happening virtually. It’s just like when you play an online game. Odds are good that thousands of others are playing it, too.
Do you ever notice any of them? Of course not. And the same premise holds with a metaverse.
So, you could be first in line for any ride at the parks. Also, you could ride attractions that closed many years ago. Oh, and you could ride them with Minnie Mouse.
With a metaverse, Disney sells fans their wildest park fantasies. If this comes to fruition, my wife will dump me during park visits. She’s totally going with Stitch instead.
Remarkably, we’re already chronicling the start of this future at the parks. Annual passholders can get photos of themselves with augmented reality backdrops.
Strange as this statement sounds, most of the tech isn’t challenging. Disney has already dropped some of its characters into other video games like Fortnight and Sea of Thieves.
You may be surprised to know that they’ve been working on the metaverse for a while, too. Here’s a LinkedIn article written by a Disney exec last year.
Please pay particular attention to the section entitled A Connected Future: The Theme Park Metaverse.
The author thinks of this place as “where physical and digital worlds converge,” and that’s as good a definition of a Disney metaverse as any.
Not coincidentally, this author no longer works at Disney. Instead, MGM Grand poached him to be their Chief Strategy Officer. After all, MGM Grand wants to build its own metaverse, too.
All these deep-pocketed corporations appreciate the potential of this concept. However, none of them is as well-positioned as Disney.
After all, your favorite company is the unquestioned leader in the storytelling industry.
Disney could bring Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar, and other properties together under the same umbrella with a metaverse.
You could interact with all your favorites at a Disney theme park without getting off your couch.
That’s why the Disney metaverse is inevitable. The only questions are when we get the first version and whether it lives up to the hype.
Think of the whole situation like video games. We had Pong in the 1970s, but we didn’t have detailed videogame worlds until the past few years.
I expect metaverses to work on the same general timeline.