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What PacSun and Wendy's can teach brands about Roblox and Meta's Horizon Worlds

Dueling platforms become testing grounds for marketers looking to establish a
Web3 presence

The battle for the early metaverse is heating up between Meta's Horizon Worlds and
Roblox. Wendy’s became the first official brand to open a virtual venue in Horizon
Worlds last week, providing an early look into what marketing looks like on the Meta-
owned platform.

At the same time, apparel maker PacSun has doubled down on Roblox, launching a mall-
themed “tycoon” game called Pacworld. The dueling activations, PacSun on Roblox and
Wendy’s on Horizon Worlds, show the multiple pathways opening to Web3, but the
landscape also is getting more complex.

Marketers are exploring the different settings as they develop metaverse strategies that
could transform their businesses in ways Web 2.0 never could. PacSun is experimenting
with commerce and virtual products in Roblox, while Wendy’s on Meta is experimenting
with ways to tie virtual reality to Facebook and Instagram. Wendy’s erected a virtual reality
venue called the “Wendyverse” in Horizon Worlds as part of a promotion during NCAA
March Madness.

One of the key differences between Horizon Worlds and Roblox is that Meta's ecosystem
is in virtual reality, with Quest goggles and handheld controllers that put people inside the
game, said James Dick, executive creative director at R/GA, which has been setting up
shop in the metaverse like so many ad agencies. It developed an agency outpost in Roblox
and is building one in Decentraland, the Web3 startup. It also helped clothing brand
Vollebak open a store in Decentraland, and it has worked with Verizon in the gaming world
of “Fortnite.”

“Meta is really pushing the envelope, playing in the technological frontier of what the
metaverse can be,” Dick said. “There’s a real humanness that all the other platforms, so
far, are lacking, because with [Quest devices] you get head tracking, you get finger
tracking, it’s using intuitive human behaviors in virtual reality.” 

In October, Meta changed its name from Facebook to focus on the metaverse as the
future of computing. The company has a vision that could take the better part of this
decade to reach, but for now it offers access to virtual reality platforms like Horizon
Worlds. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently announced plans to integrate NFTs into
Instagram. Meta has also held formal discussions with brands and ad agencies in recent
months to get them up to speed on the metaverse, encouraging marketers to work with
creators who can help build experiences in virtual reality, like the one that Wendy’s just

Dick said that brands need to understand all the different dynamics and tools within each
platform. The developers of Web3 ultimately want to build an open environment, one in
which consumers can travel between metaverses using cryptocurrencies that easily
convert between worlds. Ideally, NFT wallets would work in all the apps, so that they are

Web of Web3

For now, though, the platforms are siloed—an avatar in Horizon Worlds does not work in
Roblox, and virtual goods bought within Roblox do not carry over to The Sandbox, a crypt-
and blockchain-based game. On Roblox, apparel brands like PacSun can sell virtual
goods, which are not yet available within Horizon Worlds. Players access Horizon Worlds
through virtual reality goggles, while Roblox is mostly played through the mobile app. The
Sandbox and Decentraland, two newer virtual worlds, are based on NFTs, but Roblox and
Horizon Worlds are not.

The lack of interoperability does not mean that brands shouldn’t be pushing the envelope
in these worlds. PacSun, for instance, has been operating inside Roblox since last year,
when it started selling virtual goods, including digital hoodies and fantasy items like gold
wings. Brie Olson, PacSun’s president, said the retailer is exploring The Sandbox, too. And
PacSun has dropped multiple series of NFTs called Pac Mall Rats, which bring the brand
even closer to the Web3 phenomenon. “Digital and virtual worlds are really limitless,”
Olson said.

PacSun even welcomes counterfeiters in Roblox; when the company releases a digital
hoodie, for example, it expects players will make replicas with their own spins on the
designs, Olson said, referring to the phenomenon as “emulation.” “The whole purpose for
us is to create community,” Olson said, “and we think that duplication is a strong
recognition of brand affinity.”

While counterfeiting is a Web 2.0 problem that's found on e-commerce sites like Amazon
or eBay, within Web3 emulation fosters creativity, Olson said. “The future really is about
crowdsourcing,” she said, “crowdsourcing your best ideas and allowing the flow to kind of
go back and forth, back and forth between the audience themselves and the brand.”
The Roblox apparel could help drive product decisions in the real world, depending on
how the virtual community receives the merch, Olson said. The players who duplicate the
digital clothing could point the retailer toward trends, like tie-dying and marble washing,
which could inspire the brand to try similar styles.

Last week, PacSun opened a new game within Roblox called Pacworld, which is a “tycoon”
style game, a popular genre where players run their own shops and generate in-game
currency. PacSun developed it with Melon, a metaverse gaming studio. “They really
created this incredibly engaging, parallel reality that is just at its infancy of what PacSun is
going to do in this space,” Josh Neuman, president of Melon, said.

PacSun is currently exploring the metaverse with its mall and virtual goods, but Olson said
that phase two of its plans will take the brand deeper into “revenue and business

Enter the Wendyverse

As for Wendy’s, the Horizon Worlds “Wendyverse” is one of the first official branded
venues within Meta’s virtual reality world. The fast-food restaurant doesn’t sell digital food
or merchandise there, but the promotion ties into the real world. “Visitors can also
discover promotions available in the Wendy's app,” Loredo said in an email to Ad Age.
“Together with our partners at Meta and Horizons World, we are working toward a vision
of integrating food delivery into the next phase of Wendyverse.”

Wendyverse also is a hangout for virtual reality avatars to shoot basketballs, play burger-
themed games and other activities tied to NCAA March Madness, like a virtual net-cutting
celebration simulation.

Meta’s Facebook and Instagram are part of a family of apps that reach 3.6 billion people a
month, and Wendy’s has its own app. Wendy’s profile picture on Facebook and Instagram
now feature the mascot wearing Quest VR goggles, and the restaurant is running ads on
Facebook and Instagram that point people to the “Wendyverse.”

Roblox has 50 million daily active users, according to its latest quarterly earnings report.
The players are typically teenagers, a high-demand group for marketers, R/GA’s Dick said.
There have been reports that Meta has shipped about 10 million Quest 2 devices, which
would be the universe of people who have access to the virtual reality platform. Meta does
not divulge exact user numbers in its public reporting. Dick said that the number of people
who play in Horizon Worlds is likely in the hundreds of thousands, but Meta’s Facebook
and Instagram are part of a family of apps that reach 3.6 billion people a month.

One of Meta’s goals for its metaverse is that it will be accessible through the app world.
“We plan to launch a version of Horizon on mobile too, that will bring early metaverse
experiences to more surfaces beyond VR,” Zuckerberg said in an earnings call with
analysts in February. “So while the deepest and most immersive experiences are going to
be in virtual reality, you’re also going to be able to access the worlds from your Facebook
or Instagram apps as well, and probably more over time.”

The connection to Facebook and Instagram could wind up being Meta’s biggest
advantage, and ultimately vault the ecosystem into the same territory as Roblox and other
gaming worlds, Dick said. “Horizon may currently have a small userbase, but the Meta
ecosystem is massive,” Dick said. “So, it’s about how to bring users from Instagram, or
from Facebook, how do we start bringing them in to the Horizon ecosystem.”

Dick also expects that brands will be able to conduct commerce in Meta’s virtual reality
world just as they have been able to enable shopping within its apps. “Meta is very smart
about bringing brands in and making sure there is a seamless user experiences to move
from a virtual world experience to a purchase.”