English Premier League champions Manchester City are all set to enter the metaverse. The football club has partnered with Sony to build a virtual replica of Etihad, its home stadium. The Virtual Stadium is meant to be the team’s central hub in the metaverse – a virtual world accessible via headsets and hand-held controllers using various technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality (VR), and blockchain.
On February 18, the top soccer team signed a three-year deal with Sony that would involve virtual reality experts to use image analysis and skeleton-tracking technology from subsidiary Hawk-Eye. These tools will be used to create a realistic replica of the Etihad Stadium, one of England’s most important stadiums.
The team’s management has claimed that fans will easily be able to enjoy the benefits of a virtual stadium from the comfort of their homes, especially during turbulent times like the ongoing pandemic.
“The appeal that we might imagine of having a metaverse is that you can recreate a game, you can watch the game live, you’re part of the action in a different way from different angles, and you can fill the stadium as much as you want because it’s unlimited, it’s completely virtual,” Nuria Tarré, City Football Group’s chief marketing and fan engagement manager, told iNews on Friday.
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“But you also control what you want to watch at that time. There isn’t just one broadcast view, you can watch it from any angle in the stadium. That’s the sky – the limit,” Tarré said.
The Metaverse setting will be immersive so fans can feel like they’re in the real stadium without taxing travel and travel to the stadium. It will also remove geographical barriers, as fans from all over the world will be able to enjoy stadiums in their respective countries. As Tarre pointed out, “at best one per cent of our fans will ever travel to Manchester to watch a game”.
Sony has had a strong association with the sports and virtual worlds through its video game division, so it only makes sense that they would combine the two. Sony has long used its subsidiary, Hawk-eye, to enhance the sports experience for viewers and officials.
For officials, Hawk-eye uses real-time replay technology to make calls and in-game judgments at any time during the game. Technology visualization apps will be used to recreate the dimensions of the virtual stadium in the metaverse.
Manchester City’s plunge into the world of the Metaverse may pique the interest of other English Premier League sides. According to echo, a Liverpool media outlet, the Merseyside side are exploring the metaverse to boost their revenue.
Manchester City and Sony are also exploring other facets of gaming in the metaverse, such as how fans can meet, engage, do things they love, and spend on fan items in a virtual world.
However, Tarre also pointed out that it might not completely replace the live experience just yet. “We always want people to meet!”
“And I think that’s the beauty of live games and fans in the stadiums. We saw when the fans weren’t in the stadiums
While sporting events in the Metaverse will currently look like digital versions of the game, much like the FIFA video game franchise, it’s possible fans will be able to watch real matches in the virtual stadium. As Andy Etches, co-founder of Rezzil, said, “It’s not too far.”
Rezzil has developed Player 22, a metaverse game that Premier League clubs use to train players. “We could pretty much deliver it now, although at this point it would more likely be a computer-generated version,” Etches said.