For anyone that happen to read (watch) Ernest Cline's Ready Player One, it is hard to imagine a future where that isn't our eventual reality – blurring the lines between our virtual and literal realities. At Eventbrite, we (as a company) focus predominately on "Live Event Experiences"; however now that courtside seats are offered in Virtual Reality and hundreds of millions are "attending" "sporting" events from their homes – we're inclined to rethink what "live" really means.
And then, this happened ...
So, the question remains for the R&D team at Eventbrite – how do we, or should we, think about the future of "live" in an eventual "virtual" world? Is Fortnite leading the charge? Did we already miss the moment with E-sports? Is now the moment to act or react? Or, is this just a Second Life'like fad to be forgotten with the next distraction?
The [Fortnite] event was stunning. And it showcases the potential of the Metaverse (including payment for performances, music rights, etc.), wherein a user can have potentially unlimited experiences inside a single medium. - Matthew Ball, REDEF
From the perspective of our core business, taking a percentage of ticket sale on virtual events doesn't interest us (conversationally) as much as watching the online communal behavior that we're seeing unfold. We see in something like gaming, what we might traditionally have seen in the adult entertainment or dating industry, with respect to pushing the early-adoption of technological use that generally has a way of shaping overall consumer behavior.
From the R&D vantage point, we are most interested in the complementary aspect, the one that will (eventually) potentially force us as a company to rethink how we define "live event experiences". It's our belief that we will see this in something like E-sports first, or in gaming more holistically. The way in which people are starting to "come together" in a virtual shared space (Metaverse) around an event happening in real-time at a physical time/space has the early indications of being something transformational.
The question isn't "if", but "when". Part of the job description is not only exploring new and emerging technologies and how they might shape consumer behavior, but looking for patterns that can help define a hypothetical roadmap. Our thesis is that the following order-of-operations is one of several to most likely have to occur for there to be an evolutionary jump from trend to a massively-adopted culture shift in behavior:
- To be truly transformative, the experience will need to be transformative – moving off the 2D screen and into a more 3D space (eg: OculusGo). We'll have to move beyond Minecraft to be mind blowing.
- AR/VR hardware (or the future equivalent) will get cheaper, sub $50 – while increasing speed, quality, battery-life and decreasing size (ie: portability). And, when we say "hardware", we're referring to something beyond a piece of cardboard that smashes your smart phone up against your face.
- As devices get cheaper, consumer adoption will increase. The iPhone got more expensive with time, but not until the Smart Phone itself got cheaper first.
- As adoption increases, developed experiences will increase, and with it even more consumer-adoption (like we saw with the iPhone via the App Store).
- At mass-consumer-adoption, you're either leading or being left behind. Another good opportunity for us to do more preparing than planning.
From Eventbrite's perspective, something like this has the ability to turn a local 100-person networking event into a global 10,000 or 100,000 person digital experience. What we think is (additionally) interesting about the Fortnite context, is that perhaps the conversation isn't just about virtual events or the infrastructure to support them; but, is if it should be about how we better integrate ourselves into virtual ecosystems? Do we integrate with Twitch the way we do with Facebook? Or, do we take the same approach we have with getting into Singapore as we do with getting into Fortnite? As a point of contrast, there were twice as many people "at" the Marshmallow "concert" than the total population of Singapore!
While we wait to see if (when) consumer adoption will occur; the question becomes – what would we need to do to prepare for the potential inevitability? The consumer might be ready, but will we be? Will our event creators be? What are today's considerations for tomorrow's opportunity? A few thoughts:
- To do anything in AR/VR or even "streaming" (for another post, another day), we need a better understanding of third-party integrations as well as event creator logistics (which will also get faster, cheaper and smaller with time) for obtaining and displaying media content to complement our event inventory. We've mastered setting a stage in a music venue, do we have any idea what setting a stage in Fortnite requires?
- We also need a better understanding of the presentation and restrictions of media content that complement a live experience as well as the archival and licensing implications for consumption before, during, and after. How will music rights, licensing and streaming internationally differ in a virtual environment?
- We use "Streaming" as a gateway-drug into further exploring AR/VR -- by first focusing on the long-tail of tech networking events on the platform -- knowing that the creator and consumer are generally early-adopters on both sides.
- We test live streaming at meetup'esq events (which generally will have no licensing implications and can be streamed with something a rudimentary as an iPhone X and a YouTube account -- expectations for quality are low right now; we're the buffering era of Netflix with respect to event streaming). Several of us already watch shaky iPhone video of tech talks at local meetups we couldn't make.
- Once we know how to collect new media assets from creators, how to sell live-and-post to consumers -- then we can start to explore how we build communities around that content (both live-and-post). This is where E-sports comes in, IMO.
My thought: these kids are coming together right now -- it feels like there is a there-there. No real horse in this race -- not a big pusher of AR/VR or even streaming, but, I can't imagine a world where we're not all consuming more experience either live or after-the-fact in a non physical setting (or hell, even doing it at the physical setting but with a complimentary digital experience). Right now, all of this feels as though it can be done as the primary ticketer or not.
I wouldn't want us to reinvent the wheel (we shouldn't be building our own streaming infrastructure) -- I believe the most important element is figuring out how we integrate with third-parties (Facebook, Whatsapp or Twitter). The question will become, is there going to be a future in which that content will be able to be access-controlled from our end; in a way that we can further monetize. You can do this with YouTube today, it's unlikely that you'd ever have this with Twitter but I suspect Facebook Live would.