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MLB Unveils Virtual Ballpark in League's First Shared Digital Experience


Major League Baseball (MLB) is breaking new ground by introducing its inaugural virtual ballpark, a digital experience developed by metaverse technology company Improbable. The virtual venue will make its debut during the All-Star Celebrity Softball Game this Saturday, offering fans an immersive and accessible way to engage with the sport.


To enter the virtual ballpark, fans can simply visit an MLB-hosted webpage, eliminating the need for additional hardware or apps. Attendance for the initial event is free, with Candy Digital providing commemorative digital tickets.


MLB's Executive Vice President of Media & Business Development, Kenny Gersh, highlighted that the virtual ballpark aims to enhance fan experience and create more engagement opportunities. While the virtual events will be complimentary for the foreseeable future, Gersh acknowledged potential business and revenue prospects, such as sponsorships, ticket sales for events, and merchandise linked to fans' digital identities.


While not explicitly referred to as a metaverse experience, the project offers a shared digital experience accessible to anyone with an internet connection, according to Gersh. Improbable's CTO, Lincoln Wallen, expressed the project's goal of engaging new cohorts of fans who are inclined to actively participate. The virtual ballpark concept builds upon the familiarity of a traditional stadium, providing a known environment in a novel digital form, which Wallen believes will resonate with fans.


One notable feature of the virtual ballpark is audio interactivity, allowing fans to use their computer microphones to engage in conversations with others. Utilising spatial audio technology, the virtual environment aims to replicate real-world conversations, enabling fans in close proximity to hear each other.


Gersh expressed excitement about the potential for new features rooted in the physical ballpark experience. Ideas include merchandise stands offering accessories and apparel for avatars, virtual concession stand orders fulfilled through real-world delivery services, and tickets providing access to specific virtual seats. Additionally, MLB's immersive Gameday 3D experience, incorporating Statcast tracking data, could mirror real-life action on the virtual field.


The collaborative effort between MLB and Improbable took approximately a year to develop. The virtual stadium's design incorporated features reminiscent of real-life ballparks, such as brick facades, cityscapes in the background, and waterfront locations. The virtual nature of the ballpark allows for ongoing evolution and customisation, offering endless possibilities for future developments and enhancements.

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