Sure, there were/are a number of successful platforms in the space already out there, but they generally seemed to be targeted at crypto-savvy collectors which made it something of an exclusive club. The onboarding process was complicated to the newbie and the excessive jargon deters all but the most committed.
So how did we approach this challenge? The management team is comprised predominantly of videogame people — from both the publishing and the development areas — and so approached the task as they would a new game. Here are the key elements:
Avoid jargon and acronyms as much as possible.
For example, when talking about this sector to the uninitiated we were always asked the same 2 questions:
1. What does NFT stand for? Then, when answered:
2. What’s a Non-Fungible Token?
By the time we’d finished answering the second question, the eyes had glazed over and we’d lost their interest. So, in a nutshell, we made a decision to always refer to Digital Collectibles — easier to define and understand. The crypto/blockchain sector is notorious for jargon and so we are anxious to avoid confusion, but also not alienate our core (NFT) community.
Avoid, as much as possible, references to the blockchain.
The reason for this is simple; to most people blockchain=Bitcoin and Bitcoin=scam. There is no point going on a crusade to try and disavow anyone of these opinions; it will happen in time and it’s not our duty to educate about the nuances of the blockchain. Remember when videogames were deemed brain-rotting or the internet was simply a device to proliferate porn? New tech is often viewed with suspicion and distrust at first and blockchain is undergoing that very phase right now. So, when we do refer to blockchain in Terra Virtua, it is about security, validity, authentication and rarity with regard to digital collectibles. In other words, we promote a number of the (many) positive aspects of blockchain but in direct context to the services we are offering.
Make the onboarding process as straightforward as possible
Both in terms of registration and then of navigating the site and the various apps we offer to create a much more rounded experience. User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) are the two most important aspects of any digital application. There has to be an intuitive ‘welcome’ and a logical progression through the sign-up and exploration phases.
Sidebar — when videogames were first released, they were accompanied by a User Manual which outlined the objectives, controls and navigation of the game. No-one read these! As the business evolved, manuals were replaced by introductory tutorials (which few people played, as they wanted to get right into the game proper) which in turn were eventually replaced by an integrated Level 1 tutorial.
Every app needs the same consideration and thought to design. FAQs are necessary to supplement the process but users need to feel comfortable exploring what you have… and with that comfort comes trust.
Taking the above into account, our goal was to make the Terra Virtua marketplace as familiar as possible and so we felt that if we could replicate the ‘Amazon Experience’ as closely as we could then that would help with the onboarding. This sort of thing is constantly a work-in-progress as you receive and act on customer feedback.
Content — Getting the right content (and also knowing what to do with it)
This is key to establishing any new marketplace. We knew from the outset our catalog had to deliver one of two (or ideally, both) elements: Familiarity and Desirability.
Familiarity comes from that oldest of marketing strategies: licensing! Leveraging a well-known IP fulfils that innate compulsion to acquire something connected to a favourite brand.
Desirability is something a little more abstract and emotional; something that aesthetically appeals to the user, whether a beautiful sample of digital artwork or an amazing 3D animated model of a tiger.
Combine the two elements and you have a decent chance of producing a highly-demanded product.
Utility — OK, so you’ve licensed a bunch of content and produced some nice-looking assets… what else can you offer?
Granted a number of top NFTs are game-related, lending them an intrinsic value by using them in-game, but many (most) NFTs are simply static images; the digital equivalent of a trading card. This was one of the biggest challenges Terra Virtua had to confront — how to lend more value to the items we were offering?
So, we decided to approach this from 2 angles:
- We would, as much as possible, create the assets in 3D and not only that, we would animate them, thereby ‘bringing the collectibles to life’.
Of course, some images can only lend themselves to inert, 2D form but by-and-large, most items can be animated. By creating this richer content, we felt that we not only increased the overall desirability of such collectibles but also we were now offering something that could not be replicated in the ‘real world’ — interactive, 3D animated models of your favourite characters/vehicles/items which can respond not only to the user, but also to each other in the correct combination.
As an example, you might have the 3D Lost in Space Robot exhibiting a set animation, and also one of Will Robinson playing with his communicator… but if you had both of these and placed them in close proximity to each other then a ‘special’ animation would result, showing interaction between the two characters. This not only creates a terrific enhancement for the user but also encourages the building of a collection of characters.
2. What good is offering the above facilities without the applications to get the best out of them? So, along with the Marketplace, Terra Virtua became an entire platform — an ecosystem within which you could store, display, interact with and show off your NFT collection.
And so we created:
The Terra Virtua Fancave — a 3D personal (and customisable) environment in which you could show off your collectibles. Offering some regular home comforts such as a sofa and TV, this ‘room’ allows you to populate the walls and shelves with all manner of NFTs and bring them to life when your friends come visiting! (Note that a VR version of this has also been developed but unavailable until demand dictates release)
The Terra Virtua AR App — a fun mobile app which allows you to photo or video yourself interacting with your collectible in a real-world environment — and then post on social media to show your friends. We are enhancing functionality of this over the coming months and introducing many new additional features.
The TerraDome — a HUGE version of the Fancave where you will store and play with your larger items, such as the F14 fighter jet from Top Gun or the giant Pacific Rim mechs.
At launch, functionality is fairly limited, but new features are roadmapped and will be continuously introduced over the coming months. And, of course, we actively encourage suggestions for functionality and improvements from our community.
Art Gallery— of course, we have an option to browse individual art collections within a 3D ‘Art Gallery’ for an enhanced viewing experience. In addition to sourcing talented established digital artists, we are also signing up a number of ‘big names’ and collaborating with them to develop and offer a number of groundbreaking features for art collectors. This is something we are incredibly excited about as it combines innovation with the best in creativity to produce something the likes of which isn’t offered anywhere else right now.
Tokens — One of the other major challenges is to introduce the concept of ‘tokens’ to the mainstream, while avoiding the inevitable Bitcoin-backlash when you explain this is a cryptocurrency. We are taking the approach of positioning our tokens the same as regular in-game currency (‘gems’, ‘gold’, ‘coins’, etc). However, by showing that you can do so much more with our tokens we believe users will more willingly adopt and embrace the proposition.
The key factors are:
- Like regular in-game currency, you can use tokens for purchasing items, both in-app (customisations of the fan-cave, for instance) as well as buying the collectibles themselves.
- Purchase and retention (staking) of a certain number of our tokens gives exclusive membership to the Terra Virtua Prestige Club. This allows the user to engage, influence and vote on a number of features and strategies related to the ecosystem and assets. By fostering such a depth of involvement, we expect the community to evolve and become highly influential in terms of what licenses Terra Virtua acquires, what assets we develop and expansion of our entire ecosystem.
- To earn rewards in tokens for achieving certain goals (completion of collections, competitions, leaderboards, trading etc)
- The potential to invest those tokens in elements of the Terra Virtua business, allowing the ability to earn from revenues generated by that element.
- Enforcement of the fact that, unlike traditional in-game currency, tokens can be exchanged back to fiat any time. As there is a finite supply of tokens then value should reflect demand.
- Enforce the value proposition of the token — not just as ‘currency’ but also the numerous benefits associated with ownership such as private preview events of new collectibles or Art Collections (including chats with the artist), exclusive NFTs offered to token holders owners only, special discounts, etc. Essentially to demonstrate that the value of owning the tokens transcends the actual ‘price’.
All of the above is ambitious, but already we have executed on a large number of these elements and our roadmap carefully plots the introduction of everything else over the coming months. We are under no delusion that it will take time and there may be a few stumbling blocks along the way as we are forging new territory. But equally, the team at Terra Virtua is embracing this challenge and confident we have the right strategy to execute and succeed. The recent pandemic situation has indirectly caused the general public to be more comfortable with digital communications and environments which will, we expect, accelerate acceptance and adoption of an ecosystem based on Digital Collectibles.
But the above is only the start. With the inevitable widespread adoption of both 5G and VR over the next couple of years, the possibilities to interact in a true immersive, rich, 3D environment will take all digital experiences to the next level… and we are working on Terra Virtua to be at the forefront of that technological revolution.