Recently, an all-new ‘virtual ballpark’ was revealed by MLB, which is reportedly the first of its kind for a professional sports league. It has been created in recognition of the MLB All-Star Celebrity Softball Game, which is being played this weekend and will feature the likes of JoJo Siwa, WWE’s The Mix, Adam Devine, and Jennie Finch. It’s being penned as an immersive experience for fans the world over, and it looks as though a lot of effort has been put into its development.
From the moment fans enter this virtual world, they’ll be able to participate in the live experience like never before. They can interact with other users that are also exploring the construct, and they can create and customise an avatar to showcase their fandom. There will be minigames open for enjoyment and there’s even a scavenger hunt taking place that could net fans tickets to the 2023 World Series later this year.
Virtual Is The New Reality
We recently put forward the concept that virtual reality is becoming the next evolution in virtual sports betting. This is one example of that notion, as while there’s almost no focus on gambling here, it’s an indicator that even the biggest leagues in the world are looking to virtual reality to service their avid fans all around the world. In a statement, Kenny Gersh, the EVP of Media and Business at MLB, said:
‘We’re creating this digital, virtual stadium where MLB fans across the globe have the ability to experience an event together. What’s really cool about this technology is, this is really bringing people together, and it feels like you’re there. It’s really a unique way of simulating that in-ballpark experience to a global audience that really hasn’t been possible before.’
Recently, we’ve seen all kinds of organisers, developers, and leagues step up to offer some kind of virtual reality alternative to actually attending an event. For instance, VR-focused developer Virtex recently revealed lofty plans to create VR-powered CSGO arenas that fans could use to take part in esports betting in a fully virtual environment. There are now high hopes that the adoption of this technology by MLB will encourage other leagues into acting.
Long Road Ahead
There’s a long way to go before virtual reality is a commonly-used, mainstream thing. For instance, the virtual reality headsets that we have access to in the world today tend to be heavy, cumbersome, and – for inexperienced users – they cause motion sickness and headaches. It’s not really feasible to imagine a wide audience sitting and watching a softball game unfold for around an hour and a half – much less the three-hour average that a baseball game can last for.
Still, developers and tech giants like Apple are working on improving the idea of virtual reality, so it’ll likely improve over time and become much more accessible. When that happens, virtual sports betting, virtual environments, digital worlds – it’ll all blow up.