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Walmart launches metaverse to sell toys

Walmart has launched a pair of “immersive experiences” on the online gaming platform Roblox. The retailer is presenting the launch as an ambitious move into the metaverse.

However, the “experiences” two online worlds dubbed Walmart Land and Walmart’s Universe of Play are just ways to advertise toys to children.

Roblox may seem trivial, but it has over 50 million daily active users, two-thirds under 16. That means it’s probably Walmart experimenting with virtual worlds to try and hook this market.

Walmart Land and Universe of Play are virtual lobbies. Inside are various minigames and experiences, including a Ferris wheel, “interactive piano walkway,” and DJ booth, most of which funnel players towards certain brands.

So, for example, a virtual dressing room lets you spend coins collected in Walmart Land to deck out your avatar with Skullcandy headphones or a Fitbit fitness tracker. In Universe of Play, you can race Razor scooters around a track or hang out with PAW Patrol characters. It’s all fundamental in terms of graphics and gameplay mechanics, but that’s par for the course for Roblox.

Of course, we’ve been here before, as with most “metaverse” hype. When the virtual world Second Life was in its heyday, all sorts of companies launched experiences and shops inside the game, from Dell to Disney, to MTV and Mazda. Advertising budgets have to be spent somewhere, and the “metaverse” rebrand presumably gives a shallow futurist sheen to what is now a decades-old marketing strategy.

Checking the statistics for Walmart Land’s achievements, it seems that a decent amount of users have at least logged in, with 200,000 “Welcome to Walmart Land” badges awarded for entering the game for the first time.

But other achievements, like getting a free “loot box” from a circling blimp, have only been won by a few thousand players. And when some people logged in to the game this morning, they were one of only a handful of avatars enjoying the rather depressing sights and sounds of Walmart Land.

Meanwhile, Walmart’s chief marketing officer, William White, has been talking up the virtual worlds in interviews as a way to connect with Gen Z. “How are we driving applicability in cultural conversation? How are we evolving community and engagement? How are we driving the needle from a brand favorability with younger audiences?” White suggested CNBC. “That’s what we’re trying to accomplish here.”

Walmart Inc. is an American international retail corporation that runs a chain of hypermarkets,  grocery stores, and discount department supplies in the United States, headquartered in Arkansas.

The company was founded by Sam Walton in nearby Rogers, Arkansas, in 1962 and integrated under Delaware General Corporation Resolution on October 31, 1969. It also regulates and supervises Sam’s Club retail warehouses.

As of April 30, 2022, Walmart has 10,585 stores and clubs in 24 nations, operating under 46 names. The company operates under the name Walmart in the U.S. and Canada, Walmart in Central America, and Flipkart Wholesale in India.

In addition, it has wholly owned operations in Chile, Canada, and South Africa. Walmart is the world’s most extensive company by revenue, with about US$570 billion in annual revenue, according to the Fortune Global 500 index in May 2022. It is also the most extensive private employer globally, with 2.2 million employees. It is a publicly exchanged family-owned business, as the Walton family maintains the company.

Sam Walton’s beneficiaries own over 50 percent of Walmart through their holding company Walton Enterprises and their holdings. Walmart was the biggest United States grocery retailer in 2019, and 65 percent of Walmart’s US$510.329 billion sales came from U.S. operations.