TheMall Wants to Lure Customers to Shop in the Metaverse with a Mega Meta Mall
TheMall is set to be the biggest department store in the metaverse when it launches this summer. The platform wants to bring customers to shop virtually via a browser that will grant access to mainstream users with conventional gadgets.
For the past decades, the shopping mall has been the centerpiece of the global shopping and entertainment experience. However, an e-commerce revolution along with the pandemic wiped off much of the foot traffic in most of our malls. Customers now prefer to shop online and have the goods delivered to their doorsteps. With the advent of the metaverse, we will even see people, through their avatars, checking into virtual shopping malls and spending on virtual goods, and even real physical goods in virtual worlds.
One company that is looking to ride a new metaverse shopping mall experience is MetaVRse. The company says it has been developing an expansive virtual reality shopping arcade for the past 7 years that it calls TheMall and which is set to launch in a few months. The virtual shopping mall is scheduled to open in Q4 of this year. The new “metamall” could usher in a renaissance of the shopping mall architecture in the virtual world, one that dominated the shopping experience in the latter half of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century as developers craft out new malls in the virtual parcels.
TheMall allows merchants to sell both virtual and physical goods and this shopping mall can easily be accessed via a browser. Users will be able to check into it with conventional gadgets like PCs and smartphones. The company also said it is working on VR headset support although it didn’t provide much detail on this. Users won’t need an app or to make a download to access the mall. It will not require any special hardware platform to use. TheMall is powered by blockchain technology.
Alan Smithson and Julie Smithson have been working on the project since 2015. The company was incorporated in 2016. The duo assembled a team with Paul Konieczny as the CEO, Walid Abdelaty as the CTO, and Stefanie Smith as president of marketing. In 2020, the company developed an engine for running the metaverse mall on the web and has been working on it for the past three years. A second engine was developed this year to give the virtual mall better graphics for the launch.
Virtual Malls Never Run Out of Space
Physical shopping malls have space limitations but a virtual shopping mall has an edge when it comes to space. The amount of digital space to shop in is limitless. TheMall space of 100 million virtual square meters accommodates 100 floors. This virtual shopping mall offers a virtual shopping experience that is 8 times the size of the world’s biggest mall in Dubai according to MetaVRse co-founder Alan Smithton. Smithton says his company goal is to build the top destination for retail and entertainment in the metaverse.
The company will announce the anchor tenants in TheMall soon. In a video, there are images of some of the big brands such as Nintendo, Xbox, Nike, and Harley-Davidson and it isn’t clear if these brands have indeed signed up in the mall or are simply being used for demonstration purposes.
Smithson says the company wants to bring everyday users into TheMall as hardcore gamers are likely to find the technology in TheMall underwhelming; it doesn’t come close to the sophistication of modern games. Even users with older smartphones will be able to access this virtual mall.
The new version of the mall has a number of innovations in spite of the fact that it is not an Unreal Engine 5 game. For instance, the team worked out multithreading on the mobile. The graphic style of the virtual mall realistically mimics that of real shopping malls. The team had to create a number of cool innovations to get millions of polygons to show up on the mobile browser without putting strain on the computing resources of your smartphone.
The images on TheMall look very crisp and realistic, according to Venture Beat, and not like the fantastical blocky pixel worlds in Minecraft and Roblox.
There is a demo of a motorcycle in a store in the virtual mall which showed some interactive parts moving. However, the company still made a tradeoff by designing for the web rather than leveraging the power of powerful advanced game engines or the special rig from consoles and gaming PCs. This is why it won’t appeal to hardcore gamers. The experience in TheMall is not as realistic and interactive as a game made in Unreal Engine 5.
Although TheMall’s web-based graphics have some limitations, the team thinks they are revolutionary in the way they have been used to build such an expansive world. MetaVRse has created the mall with its custom WebGL layer for hardware-accelerated 3D graphics in the browser. By tapping into a graphics trick, the team is able to render an object with 21,000 polygons in just a single megabyte.
As a result, it is a lot easier to zoom in on the data while still making location changes, moving around an object, or zipping around a mall. The experience will run smoothly on iPhone 6 and later devices. A good portion of the art in TheMall has been created internally using Adobe Substance.
Make NFT Purchases for Retail Space
MetaVRse wants to sell approximately 70% of the virtual store space in TheMall as NFTs. The other 30% of the area will remain as speculative property for investors. Owners can resell these metaverse properties for a profit should they wish to.
Developers in TheMall can transform their parcels into brand centers where events can be held. Smithson says these lots can host events such as NFT minting and interactive games. They can also be used for comedy shows, concerts or a personal AI concierge (based on a conversational AI) that can answer visitor questions and advise them for better personalization in the shopping experience. For instance, a shopper that is interested in cars can be guided to the floor containing cars. The recommendations will be made according to loyalty programs that shoppers opt into. The company says the loyalty programs will need active consent from users, thereby complying with the relevant data protection regulations in disparate jurisdictions such as Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation.
MetaVRse created an avatar system from the ground up and is also planning to set a global standard through its own avatar system that brands can use to create clothing items and accessories such as hair, wristbands, shirts, necklaces, bracelets, belts, earrings, jackets, shoes and pants with which to adorn the avatars. The avatars can also be minted as NFTs. Every shopper visiting MetaVRse’s TheMall will be able to invite up to ten friends from the word go.
The team says TheMall will also feature security protocols for more secure transactions and that it won’t be entirely anonymous. Payments in the virtual mall are made using Stripe. Providers on the platform can also use the BitPay payment service which links to 95 crypto wallets as well as 15 cryptocurrencies.
The low-code developer tools in TheMall makes it easier to create and modify a store. The tool features a drag and drop interface. Developers are even able to divvy up the floors into 10,000 square feet stores. It is even possible to have videos running inside the stores.
MetaVRse says it wants a brand-safe environment where brands will have total say on the designs. It will charge a 3% commission fee on purchases in the mall. This is incredibly low compared to the 30% that Apple Stores charges. TheMall will also charge developers a 3% commission on the lease fee. Every floor in the virtual mall will have a starting price 100 ETH, equivalent to about $300,000.
You can sign up for Early Access at TheMall by visiting TheMall.io. The official launch is scheduled for summer this year.