So This Is What It’s Like Inside the Australian Open’s Metaverse

So This Is What It’s Like Inside the Australian Open’s Metaverse
Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

This morning I got to explore the Australian Open’s metaverse world, so I had a look around and played some metaverse tennis. The event is also doing NFTs.

I was kind of excited to hop on and walk about this metaverse world. I’ve never experienced a metaverse project before so I was wondering what it could offer me. Turns out it offered minigames, a day and night cycle and a reasonably large world that you can walk around in.

And then it dawned on me – this is just PlayStation Home, Habbo Hotel or Minecraft with fewer steps, playable entirely within a web browser.

australian open metaverse
Z Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

“We want the AO to be the world’s most accessible and inclusive sports and entertainment event,” says Ridley Plummer, Tennis Australia’s NFT and metaverse project manager.

“With the unique challenges fans have faced getting to Melbourne we’ve fast-tracked our launch into the Metaverse.”

Tennis Australia is no stranger to playing with innovative tech. Previously the international sporting event partnered with Fortnite to create an esports event called the Summer Smash. There’s also a range of Australian Open videogames out there.

australian open metaverse
Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

With this in mind, it’s no surprise that the Australian Open has jumped on the latest tech craze, the metaverse. Like I’ve already said with examples of video games, it’s not exactly something new, it’s just something that the corporate world has decided is the new big thing.

Hats off to the 3D modellers of this world though – it’s pretty well detailed, held back by the technical limitations of Decentraland itself. If you don’t know what Decentraland is, it’s basically an online world made up of stitched-together parcels of land (sold off as real estate NFTs). The Australian Open world is down the road from whatever this is.

australian open metaverse
Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

What can you do in the Australian Open metaverse world? Well, it’ll host replays of matches from the real-world event, along with 24/7 radio coverage. There’s also a tennis minigame you can play against a ball launcher in Rod Laver arena and with a tennis racket-collecting minigame in a dedicated area.

“We wanted to give viewers around the world a voyeuristic look into the AO, from the moments when players step out of their cars, to the moment they step onto the practice court, we’ll have 300+ cameras watching their every move,” added Plummer.

australian open metaverse
Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

“Fans from anywhere in the world, aged over 13 years old, will have the opportunity to explore a virtual Melbourne Park precinct while viewing live behind-the-scenes footage that is only available in Decentraland.”

There’s also a lot to explore, if I’m being honest. It wasn’t not fun to walk around and explore what has been done with this world, but I’m a bit strung up on what it all is actually for. It feels like a game without a game, considering there’s not much to actually do here.

australian open metaverse
Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

I’m almost of the mind that we’re not really ready for the scope that Decentraland wants to offer. I do love the idea – it’s one that I used to love about community Minecraft servers, where you could be assigned a plot of land and build whatever you wanted – you could also explore other plots of land and see what your neighbours have been building.

Buuuut it’s tied to the blockchain and NFTs, almost unnecessarily, really. To allow people this level of creativity all contained within a web browser is incredible, but render distance isn’t terrific.

It’s also a bit clunky – too clunky, compared to games like RuneScape, which used to run perfectly in a browser until they offloaded it completely to a dedicated app when it got too big. Thinking that’s the way to go for this.

australian open metaverse
Image: Zachariah Kelly/Gizmodo Australia

If you’d like to dive deep into the metaverse Australian Open world, here’s the official event page.