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What We Can Learn from Neal Stephenson’s Transmedia NFT Metaverse

Neal Stephenson – author of Snow Crash, creator of the term “metaverse,” and fixture of the cyberpunk movement – is auctioning a sword at Sotheby’s accompanied by an NFT that is:

“A 1-to-1 digital twin of the physical Snow Crash Tachi sword that is a seamless blend of the virtual and the physical one. Not only identically capturing every detail of its physical twin, but also showcases the beauty of the sword’s physical materials and craftsmanship in a virtual environment. It is our hope that the NFT Snow Crash sword will be part of future transmedia developments that Neal is exploring at the moment,” said Sir Richard Taylor, founder of WETA workshop.

The auctioned items include a never-seen-before original typed and annotated manuscript, an original Snow Crash book cover artwork, and a beautiful, and masterfully designed and crafted, Snow Crash Tachi Sword. A real artifact from the fictional world of Snow Crash.

The whole collection is then housed in a crate from a fictitious gaming company that in theory has owned this sword that has now come up for auction. It is an insane, inworld fusion of ancient craft with the digital age.” – Forbes

WTF? Creating Transmedia IP

What I like best about Neal’s approach is that it’s a nod to a lot of the tech climate (cyberpunk, web3, NFTs, and metaverse) without limiting where he can take this project next. He’s got a lot of latitude in building out a metaverse for these digital and physical assets. And they’re all linked to a super popular piece of IP – the book Snow Crash.

I think more brands and creators should think about this “transmedia” concept, as they call it. Particularly as it relates to metaverse activations. The main reason to leave optionality open is that we know the spatial web is eventually coming. But we don’t have a clue how the mainstream behaviors will form around this tech.

What we do know, however, is that IP always sells. Given the right cultural connection, fans will flock to any new platform, device, experience, etc. It’s why console companies like PlayStation and Xbox always launch a new console in tandem with a flagship game. Hogwarts Legacy is practically responsible for the wild success of the PS5.

There are a ton of things you can do today to get going in your metaverse endeavors and leverage any sort of IP you may have (as discussed in The Metaverse Handbook). The key is remaining nimble, extending the brand, and giving digital assets optionality by providing brand commentary as to how you think these metaverse assets you’re creating today can be leveraged in the near future.

As I mentioned in my Everydays note two days ago, Meta deprioritizing the metaverse is not a call to quit this mission. They’re clearly all over the place with their metaverse plans. Zuck is more interested in generative AI. This Meta VP is trying to inspire the metaverse teams still. Former Oculus CTO, John Carmack, is vocal about Meta’s flip-flopping.

Ultimately, this makes me much more appreciative of creators taking their time to get it right from the jump (looking at you Apple).