When the topic of virtual platforms comes up, “Second Life” comes to mind. It is a virtual online world made up of 3D computer graphics. Provided by Linden Lab, a US-based company, users become the avatar of their choice in this virtual world, where they can enjoy leading another life different from their one in the real world. Officially launched in 2003, “Second Life” had over 1 million accounts in 2006 and reached 16 million at its peak. Within this setting, users buy and sell property, engage in financial transactions, start up businesses, sell products of all types, and more. There are even users who play the game as a way to get rich in a virtual setting. Companies have meanwhile entered this virtual environment, where they purchase property and open stores to host events and run other promotions. This virtual place has even had its own media. In addition, some residents roam the world and engage in tourism and other leisure activities for the pure fun of it. Riding the momentum, the game was also aggressively marketed in Japan in 2007, but that year was the beginning of the global financial crisis that tanked the economy worldwide. Likewise, economic activity in this experimental space began to stagnate, and in 2009, businesses associated with Japan pulled out. What was the cause of “Second Life's” defeat? Some say there were too few people congregating in one space, or that because the different sections expanded too fast, they became underpopulated environments with no people and no encounters. Even in a virtual space, people still retain the desire to gather and have fun together in the same setting.

The space that popular rapper Travis Scott chose was “Fortnite.” With entertainment events of all sorts forced to cancel due to the coronavirus pandemic, many people are disheartened because nobody can put on real-world events. Naturally, that goes not only for the fans who would be in the audience, but also the artists, so this has been a major shock. Just like Scott, who is hugely successful at the moment, having appeared as a guest at the Grammy Awards and the Super Bowl, artists have lost their performing spaces. So Scott looked for a stage in the online game “Fortnite,” which has 350 million users. This is an online first-person shooter where over a million people play at the same time. In this game, players band together and cooperate to carry out a mission, but they can also enjoy some craftwork by creating and assembling objects and facilities. Although the game determines the foundation, players transplant their own perspectives into the world. Travis Scott appeared in “Fortnite” as a powerful figure of self-expression.

via Twitter/@FortniteJP, Image : gettyimages

TRAVIS SCOTT

Born on April 30, 1992, Travis Scott is a rapper from Houston, Texas. In 2012, after signing a contract with major music label Epic Records in 2012, he signed a deal with Kanye West's G.O.O.D. Music followed by another with T.I.'s Grand Hustle in 2013. In 2016, he released his second album, “Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight,” which became his first number-one album on the American music charts. In 2018, Scott released his third album, “Astroworld,” which was met with critical acclaim. The single “Sicko Mode” became his first number-one song on the American charts. At the 61st Grammy awards, he received further tributes when he was nominated for Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Album.

Fortnite

In this action-building game sold and delivered by Epic Games, 100 players fight on a small island about two kilometers square in a Battle Royale where the last player or team standing is the winner. Unlike other titles in the genre, “Fortnite” stands out for its colorful, humorous characters and the opportunity to enjoy gameplay while boisterously chatting it up with other players. In addition, players can use costumes called “skins.” This popular feature expands options for a character's appearance beyond the standard military fatigues to a wide variety of choices, including animal costumes, Afro hairstyles, and superhero getups. With 350 million users, “Fortnite” also hosts numerous collaborative events with the music industry and other companies.

Travis Scott's “Astronomical” was a virtual concert that was less than 10 minutes long. To attend, 12.3 million people logged in to “Fortnite.” To put that into perspective, the population of Tokyo is 13.95 million people. That means an incredible horde flooded into one place for about 10 minutes. If this were a normal, real-life event, it would have been a disaster of overcrowding. However, “Fortnite” had plenty of capacity to accommodate. It was also the best venue for Scott to put on his performance. At the beginning of the concert, a gigantic Travis Scott appears, who stalks around in “Fortnite” as he sings. Each time he starts another song, the field transforms, raining fire down on the participants' avatars, then sucking them into an underwater world, and lastly releasing them into outer space. The fluid feel of the game, plus the creative video production that makes the music even more uplifting, with effects like light send shockwaves that move in sync with the beat, truly demonstrated a masterful use of the amazing potential for virtual environments. The users who entered this universe beyond their imagination went crazy over it.

The production before the beginning of the concert also took advantage of what makes the virtual world interesting. First, there was an announcement from the production crew stating that the venue would open 30 minutes prior to the show and that attendees should enter soon to secure a spot. Of course we want to get a good place at a real concert, but audience members were being encouraged to do the same thing in a virtual world. However, this was the survival realm of “Fortnite.” Players had to make it to the stage without being shot and killed by unknown enemies. Nervous excitement filled the air before the start of the concert. This experience that shuffled aspects of the real and virtual worlds may have been a first for the audience members. There are also many ways they could attend the concert. Some did so as “Fortnite” players, while many experienced the event through live-streamed gameplay broadcast by rival players. As the platform was an online game, there were many ways to join in the fun. Incidentally, the YouTube video had over 46 million views by the end of May 2020.

Right from the start, this virtual concert gave form to the vision Travis Scott had with his third album “Astroworld.” This album is based on ideas arising from his formative childhood years. As he has stated publicly, the title is derived from Six Flags AstroWorld, an amusement park that used to be in Houston, Texas. The park opened in 1968. It was known for thoroughly enjoyable rides with many guests screaming in delight. It was long beloved by local residents, but AstroWorld was shut down in 2005. It was a place with strong emotional attachment for Scott. When he released the album, he said he was returning AstroWorld to the local community from which it was stolen. In this virtual concert, Scott dynamically reproduced the experience of that old amusement park and shared it with a large number of people.

The incredible effort received praise from all circles as a historical turning point for being a concert in a virtual space while blending in the supporting technology and environment. But the most amazing thing was that in only 10 minutes, it generated a year's worth of proceeds from promoting a world tour. The virtual space, visited by people with nowhere to go, was a groundbreaking occasion that for the artist was like a blue ocean. It broke the stereotype that live events have to be real.

Behind this success lies the fact that a world like “Fortnite,” where the participants share something in common, can provide a vision that perfectly fits their preferences, unlike a place like “Second Life” where people have a jumble of different purposes. Speaking of “Fortnite,” it's known for being a radical first-person shooter. The survival aspect is very tangible. Players can even wield heavy firearms to blast away at and destroy buildings and people. Then, when the rapper appears, he speaks in a terribly ominous voice. The dazzling sight was gorgeous as shining gold. It certainly comes off as a fundamental connection between values and vision. That relationship becomes yet deeper when emotion is injected into the mix. Audience members say it felt like Travis Scott was actually there, even though they were in a virtual space. There may also be users who aren't really into Travis Scott but happened to come upon the concert and found it fascinating. It's another way to create new fans. Paradoxically, attending a concert online could feel more realistic than listening to the music from far away at a real-world event. But this could be the future of entertainment.

Let's take up another example from Cannes Lions that embarked on a search for touchpoints with a new target in a new platform suited to achieving the objective. “To the Last Tree Standing” is a campaign by Greenpeace Poland. The Bialowieza Forest on the border between Poland and Belarus is Europe's last primeval forest and is inscribed as a UNESCO world heritage site. Illegal logging, however, carried on uninterrupted. Even the Polish government that should have been cracking down had, for some reason, been passive about forest conservation, dismissing protests against the logging. Greenpeace, the environmental protection group, stood up to conserve the forest. Their target was players of the globally popular video game “Minecraft.” There are 8 million gamers in Poland, and reportedly, 800,000 of them are “Minecraft” players. So why would users of “Minecraft” take a lead role in stopping forest logging?

“Minecraft” is a virtual setting comprised of three-dimensional blocks. Players are generally free to place and destroy those blocks as they wish. You can expand your world with houses, roads, bridges, and more. Trees that serve as construction materials grow from the ground. Underneath the earth, you can find coal for crafting torches or fueling furnaces, along with deposits of various ores including iron, gold, emeralds, and diamonds. Using these resources, you can create a better life for your character. It is much like the real world, but by interacting with these resources to put together a unique lifestyle, players develop an awareness about the natural environment, something for which the game has earned praise. The game has even come into use in educational settings for various purposes, and more people are using it for more than just entertainment. Even parents tend to tolerate their children becoming obsessed with a game so long as it's “Minecraft,” because it's educational. It is also a gaming platform with many young users. Greenpeace created a Minecraft world containing the aforementioned Bialowieza Forest. They used 50 billion blocks to produce an expansive forest by planting 7 million trees in a virtual world. It immediately caught the interest of game fans and the project was covered extensively by online news media. Players put up buildings and structures along the edge of the forest as they surveyed its beauty. They loved the land, and the forest on it. But then something happened. One day, Greenpeace suddenly cut down all but one of the trees. The beautiful forest had been logged, and now, a vast tract of tree stumps, it was hardly recognizable. Many users were shocked. Why had this happened...? At the base of the lone remaining tree, they discovered the truth: This is what would happen to the Bialowieza Forest in the near future. If nothing changes, there may be just one tree left standing not only in “Minecraft,” but in the real world, too.

If, for example, you assumed an approachable target for this sort of problem, how many of them actually take an interest in forest logging on a regular basis? Even if the forest were to disappear and become a residential land development, the people of the world would simply think it's become convenient. The things we create have power to catch our attention more than the things that go away. We all tend to avert our gaze from inconvenient truths. If you cannot find a receptive audience, then the only thing you can do is find another and try to draw them in. As mentioned above, “Minecraft” users already have a certain degree of environmental awareness. One more point to remember is that many of the users are young. In Poland, a signature on a petition is legally valid if the signatory is 13 years or older, making this young group a valuable one. This young segment has not yet been caught up in the many different political leanings and they can express their views frankly. Greenpeace understood that the shackles of politics can make it impossible for people to budge, so it gave up on them. Instead, to get the loudest possible response from regular people, the organization directly approached youths, conveyed the natural environment's crisis to them, then gathered their unvarnished opinions in the form of signatures. This campaign reached 100 million people and collected 170,000 signatures for a petition to conserve the forest. The environment minister who had accepted the logging was at last dismissed and logging was banned. “Minecraft” moved the world to action as a touchpoint for people who have an elevated environmental awareness, are not swayed by political leanings, can provide valid petition signatures, and can express their views candidly.

To The Last Tree Standing

To convey your point efficiently, it's especially important to choose the right place. But that place does not have to be a physical space. The essential thing is that the setting is suitable for connecting and communicating with the target. Both public settings and values are changing at an increasingly rapid pace, and this change is happening to such a radical degree that it is immediately noticeable. In this era of shifting lifestyles and values among targets, we must formulate communication strategies with an understanding of forthcoming changes. At times, it is exceedingly important to capture the hearts of the target, so we may be able to gain greater insights by standing in their shoes when we create experiences. Most companies, though, have been unable to take the first step toward deviating from their established thinking. From here on out, only by adopting an attitude and the courage to fully facing what is happening in our world and address it without hesitation will we be able to produce the next standard. However, innovation is also a countdown to ruin. If one successful experience attracts a large crowd, then at some point they will suddenly tire of it and it will become obsolete. In the end, innovators cannot survive unless they keep on taking up new challenges.