When the Atlanta Braves wanted to build the first major league baseball stadium in the metaverse, they didn’t have to look too far to find the talent to make that happen.
The 2021 World Series champions partnered with Roswell-based Surreal Events to bring Digital Truist Park to life last month.
The first iteration of the Park allows users to walk through the stadium and the surrounding area of The Battery, and even explore the clubhouse area. Greg Mize, Vice President of Marketing & Innovation for the Braves, told Hypepotamus that the roots of the digital park started during COVID as the team looked for ways to connect with fans.
“In times of tragedy, sports is always a unifying element,” Mize said. “It always provides an escape or provides the ability for people to kind of all rally together.”
After seeing how Fortnite put together its Travis Scott concert early in the pandemic, the Braves started looking for ways to connect with fans remotely. But as the world opens up in 2022, the Braves still see the digital stadium as a key part of their engagement strategy moving forward.
Mize and his team are treating Digital Truist Park not simply as a “photorealistic digital twin,” but rather as an entirely new venue that can be completely activated and programmed.
Tapping Surreal was a strategic move for the Braves. The startup, which officially got off the ground in 2020, touts itself as “an entree into virtual worlds through the lens of events” and a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) company for those creating virtual venues.
Cdo-founders Josh Rush, Nick Grant, and Adam Voss have been building out digital experiences long before the metaverse entered our general entertainment lexicon. The team has been working on complex problems like GPU rendering at scale in order to make photorealistic immersive experiences possible in any browser. Surreal’s virtual venues are built on top of Epic Games’ Unreal Engine.
The Braves and Surreal connected last year to bring Digital Truist Park to life.
“The Braves are committed to crawl, walk, run approach,” added Rush. “We want to build something that the fans want to use, including a place for games, exclusive prizes, and the ability to meet and greet with players.”
Rush added that he sees the opportunity to expand to concerts and other virtual sponsored events in the near future.
Atlanta’s Metaverse Leaders
Surreal isn’t the only company in the city building what’s next in the metaverse and overall digital experiences.
Offbeat Media Group, backed by Mark Cuban and Atlanta Ventures, is working on the building blocks needed to make a fully digital world. The team is currently helping brands connect with the next generation of shoppers, creators, and builders on the web. The startup crossed the 40-person mark earlier this year and has built out an impressive catalog of online content for the digital native generation.
Farah Allen and The Labz has taken off as a no-code web platform designed for anyone looking to make on-demand online experiences. And Exploring Digital up in Roswell plans on opening up The Megaverse™, a physical theater space that allows people to step into a metaverse environment.
Local VCs have also taken notice. Valor Ventures recently invested in Dallas-based educational-focused metaverse startup STEMuli.
As Rush points out, it is Atlanta’s strong tech and media industries make it easier to recruit metaverse-focused talent. And budding talent, coming out of game design programs at Georgia Tech, SCAD, and Kennesaw State, are building the next generation of tech talent in the city.
That could help keep Atlanta as a key source of innovation when it comes to the next iteration of web technologies.
“The web as we know it for the last 10 years has been driven nominated by social media. We spent a lot of time scrolling through the internet. But we feel like the next 10 years we’re going to be “strolling” through the internet and actually walking 3D spaces that are either fully simulated or augmented and enhanced by mixed reality,” added Rush.