ITV is recreating its Saturday night gameshow The Void in the hugely popular video game Fortnite. This means Fortnite players who visit "The Void" in the metaverse can take on their own in-game version of the challenges seen in the programme.
The Void, hosted by Ashley Banjo and Fleur East, involves contestants undertaking mental and physical challenges for a cash prize while trying to avoid falling into a pool of water – The Void.
ITV is the first UK broadcaster to use Fortnite Creative, a mode in the game that allows players to design, create and share experiences with other players. It is building up a network of creators on different platforms to activate metaverse audiences around its programmes and is working with 3D Lab on this debut.
Players can enter The Void experience through Fortnite Creative by entering the code 7373-1875-6620 in the Discover tab.
Dan Colton, ITV group strategy and transformation director, said: "The Void is a really innovative new Saturday night show that fits perfectly with this style of gameplay. The metaverse is a huge opportunity for ITV both from a consumer and advertiser perspective and this is the first step of how we can best make use of our IP in these spaces."
Following this initial pilot, ITV plans to roll out the concept to other programmes and bring brands on-board.
"Extending The Void into the metaverse is a brilliant strategy that taps into the huge shift to online gaming, while capturing audiences who might not otherwise engage with terrestrial TV," Isabel Perry, director of technology at Byte (part of Dept), said.
She continued: "By turning audiences into participants, and with an immeasurable wow factor, engagement will run deep. But being so ahead of the curve means ITV doesn't have a benchmark for measuring success and few industry standards to fall back on.
"The project probably also required significant investment because the Unreal artists needed for this type of content creation are unique and often expensive. But as we move into a post-mobile internet era, ITV could recoup some of those costs by breaking the boundaries even further with sales of virtual goods within the metaverse."
Annabel Holmes, client partnerships manager at Unit9, said the move into gaming may spark a shift in people's perceptions of ITV as a brand. "To keep pace with the likes of Netflix and its Stranger Things x Roblox collaboration, ITV is taking a bold but imperative step in embracing the Fortnite platform and its millions of users.
"Not only is the broadcaster elevating The Void as a show, but they're also shifting the perception of the ITV Group brand by demonstrating that they won't be left behind on traditional TV screens but are instead aligned with their younger audience's increasingly hybrid consumer behaviours. Looking ahead, the fact ITV have taken this early step into the metaverse definitely gives them first-mover advantage.
"The real opportunity for entertainment platforms is to create a network of creative content around their IP, enhancing the central programme with digital memorabilia, character development, interactive mini-games and extended plot lines. The creative opportunities are vast. Imagine the value of an I'm a Celebrity NFT crown, or being able to instantly kit out your avatar in the latest outfits direct from Love Island."
Entering the metaverse comes with both opportunities and difficulties, said Tom Hostler, head of brand experience, Publicis Poke. Television brands have the chance to put the storytelling experience into the hands of the viewer.
He added: “The opportunity for broadcasters is to create a deeper sense of ‘spatial presence’ where the player believes what they are experiencing is real and they are actually in the world they see before their eyes. It’s this sense of presence in the media which gamers are drawn to over and over again.”
However, the challenge for broadcasters will be that, unlike TV where the writer/director decides and designs the viewers’ exact experience in advance, in the gaming world everyone has a slightly different experience each time they play.