Starburst has launched its Juicyverse experience in the metaverse mall known as TheMall, and it can be accessed from any device on the web.
The Starburst Juicyverse allows people to visit the virtual mall and participate in virtual entertainment using the MetaVRse Engine 2.0, which allows people to connect from any device through a web browser.
Alan Smithson and Julie Smithson MetaVRse The company has been working on TheMall for eight years, though the last work on the mall’s core infrastructure took place over the past year. It’s been open for a week or so, with very little publicity.
Its first major brand partner is Mars-Wrigley, and it has launched the Starburst Juicyverse on the second floor of the mall. In an interview with GamesBeat, Alan Smithson said his company wants to build a 100-story mall with about a million square feet of space on each floor.
What it’s like in the Juiceyverse
The Juicyverse features a virtual Starburst store where a QR code takes guests into the virtual experience. I went into the experience with Alan Smithson. I logged in via my desktop computer and joined the experience in about 30 seconds. Download was not necessary. I had to sign up for a few things, register my avatar name, and then create my avatar, which took about another minute.
Then we visited the Starburst Juicyverse by going into a spinning vortex. Once we got in I used my keyboard and mouse to walk through the experience. There was an animation playing on the wall and Juicyverse logos. Visitors can collect a free virtual Starburst T-shirt to wear on their avatar. I chose a red shirt for my avatar and ended up matching Alan Smithson’s outfit.
We first went to the Starcade experience on the left side of three available experiences. It was like a disco with music playing from buttons on the walls. You can go to a photobooth and take your picture. On mobile, you can share the image via social media.
You can then participate in a 3D scavenger hunt for a non-fungible token (NFT) for loyalty. When you get that, it becomes an instant discount coupon that you can use to buy candy at real stores, including Walmarts. The NFTs are minted on the Hedera blockchain.
Alan Smithson said the MetaVRse Engine 2.0 renders 3D objects with better quality than in the past, although I noticed it was moving a bit sluggish. The goal is to attract millions of guests to the experience on any device, with the visitors entering through the QR codes in the real world.
It uses BambuMeta’s NFT system to access NFTs through an Apple or Google wallet. Guests can get the loyalty NFT through the wallet they already own and rely on the phone. MetaVRse tried out this experience at the South by Southwest event in Austin, Texas, in March and now it’s opening it on the second floor of the mall.
“You have the world’s first IRL coupon from an NFT in your mobile wallet,” he said. “We think this will be the next level for loyalty programs.”
In the next part of the experience, we entered the gallery. There is a game, Lost in Space, where you try to find a missing alien or duck or other various objects among a sea of asteroids. Navigating was a bit slow so I backed off.
In addition to the above, there is a Studio feature in the Juicyverse that allows creators to build their own 3D model of Starburst candies in a 20x20x20 space. In this experience you place Lego-like bricks and use your mouse to change the direction of the line. It is a kind of etch-a-sketch in 3D.
Once you’re done with your creation, you can share it as your own user-generated content. Alan Smithson hopes the Starburst Juicyverse will open a new frontier in the world of marketing and retail. The winner of the art contest can get a prize. And the winner can make the art hit like an NFT. Alan Smithson said he spent four hours making a Star Wars Tie Fighter.
Taking a place in TheMall
The first floor of the mall will consist of a number of stores for various companies, while the floors above will be custom metaverse experiences owned by brands. Alan Smithson said the floor will likely be accessible without pre-registration because there’s a significant pushback if you ask people to register right away when they enter the experience.
“We’re going to address that for when we open the first floor of the mall,” he said. “We’re going to let people walk around before they have to register, because I think it’s only fair that people should be allowed to try it first.
The company sold the first five floors for about $250,000 each. That gave the company some cash to get off the ground. Ultimately, each floor will cost about $1 million for a million square feet, though Starburst’s activation uses about 200,000 square feet of virtual space. You can also rent smaller storefronts for an annual fee.
How will it continue?
When Alan Smithson announced the project a year ago, TheMall’s project was unveiled at the height of the metaverse craze, with consultants predicting the market to be worth trillions. But since that time, the crypto market has collapsed a few times and an economic downturn has taken place. The scams around the metaverse and blockchain were highlighted and some people turned away from the ideas.
TheMall project itself raised eyebrows and some chuckles from people who wondered if he could fool people by paying $1 million for virtual real estate that could be reproduced infinitely. Those who found fault with it said it made the mistake of importing the shopping experience from the physical world and replicating it in the digital world, even though what’s fun in real life isn’t always fun in digital life.
The NFTs and metaverse have been taking a beating lately, with Insider recently stating, “The metaverse is dead.” That’s debatable, but Alan Smithson says he’s in this for the long haul.
“We focused on getting the first few brands in,” Smithson said. “We see this as a way to fund this infinite virtual world. We are not really interested in the quick money. We are not a crypto game. We’re not trying to drive up a coin price or anything like that. It will be a loyalty program instead of a cryptocurrency. We didn’t spend seven years building something to scam people.”
In its current state, it wasn’t that impressive in terms of metaverse experiences, as you could see much better experiences in the aging virtual world of Second Life. The avatars are lifeless, the experience is quite simple, and the movement is rather slow.
Hardcore gamers like me won’t be spending much time here. But the question is whether the experience will one day be so good that I’d rather spend time here than on Amazon.com.
It was interesting to see how everything was accessible through a web browser with no lengthy download. The question is whether that technology will evolve fast enough to make shopping in the virtual mall a smooth and seamless experience. That sort of thing could work with informal people.
Alan Smithson is confident.
“I’ll remind you that this just runs in a browser and works the same on all devices,” said Alan Smithson.
He added: “To critics who say shopping in a digital mall is not fun, I would say they are right. Current e-commerce platforms are not shopping. let’s go shopping together on Amazon’.
Smithson said he’s trying to build a new type of social retail that will allow billions of gamers around the world to virtually come together and explore brands.
“We are working closely with brands to prevent this from becoming just another e-commerce website, but rather an experience center for social fun and exploration,” Smithson said. “I agree that spending money on virtual real estate is probably foolish if you are not a big brand or investor with money to invest in building something of value for guests. That is why we only sell real estate in TheMall to recognized investors and bona fide brands.”
By combining the physical and virtual worlds, brands can now create immersive experiences that engage customers in a more meaningful way. The use of blockchain technology in this activation not only provides a secure and transparent way to manage loyalty programs, but also opens up new revenue streams through the creation and sale of NFTs, he said.
TheMall is built on MetaVRse Engine 2.0, a low-code 3D creation platform on the web. The ability to deliver a seamless 3D multiplayer virtual world experience across all devices without the need for app downloads is a breakthrough, said Alan Smithson.
This accessibility allows brands to connect with consumers worldwide, without requiring any technical expertise on the part of the consumer.
Eventually, visitors will be able to create their own private rooms and send each other links so they can video chat. But in Juicyverse you cannot interact with other avatars. That is an acknowledgment of the trust and security issues for metaverse experiences.
The launch of TheMall enables multiple brand partners to come together and create an interconnected virtual shopping experience. MetaVRse.com worked with Starburst and Mars, as well as The Mars Agency, BambuMeta and Hedera.
The mall accepts fiat (US dollar) currency payments as well as cryptocurrency and is Khronos 3D compliant. It connects to back-end systems and has real-time analytics and photo-realistic graphics.
Over time, TheMall will likely host concerts, comedy shows, clubs, billboards, conventions, and influencer drops.
Alan Smithson said the company is working on a deal to bring 1,400 brands to the mall. They don’t all come in at once because it takes time to build the experiences. The company has about half a dozen templates for brands to use. The company has already built an electronics store. There will be virtual car configurations and medical device simulators.
“It’s super, super dope,” he said. “You’re going to love it.”
VentureBeat’s mission is to become a digital city plaza where tech decision makers can learn about transformative business technology and execute transactions. Discover our Briefings.