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Metaverse may elicit snorts of derision from some quarters nowadays, but in others, work is still quietly going on as before.
November 27, 2023
Look at SK Telecom (SKT). This week it announced some new partnerships – and expanded one existing one – as part of its continuing effort to make its metaverse platform, Ifland, a more compelling place to spend time.
Having signed an MoU with Malaysia’s CelcomDigi in March as part of a plan to extend Ifland further across Southeast Asia, SKT has revealed that CelcomDigi will now also help to promote Ifland and develop content tailored to the Malaysian market.
Similarly, SKT has also struck publishing partnerships with Indonesian games publisher Agate and Cosmic Technologies – a Philippines-based IoT platform provider and consumer electronics maker – to create localised metaverse content.
SKT gets the benefit of populating Ifland with virtual stuff that will appeal to local users, while CelcomDigi, Agate and Cosmic will gain some metaverse exposure without having to pour too much resource into development.
In addition, SKT said it is working on adding Hindi, Indonesian, Malay and Spanish to the list of languages supported by Ifland. It will also develop a curation feature that recommends content based on user behaviour and region, and generally improve overall global service quality.
“By signing agreements with three leading IT companies in Southeast Asia, we will be able to carry out customised marketing in these countries,” said Yang Maeng-seog, VP and head of Metaverse CO at SKT. “We will continue to do our best to provide Ifland users with content and services that understand their culture and society by partnering with more local companies.”
Going forward, SKT said it plans to grant broader administrative rights to international Ifland partners, giving them the ability to tailor the experience and make it more appealing to users in their home markets. In the longer run, it is also on the lookout for Ifland partners in the US, India and Europe.
With all the hype about generative AI this year, there is an overwhelming sense that the world has moved on from metaverse. Indeed, for its part, SKT has been one of the more vocal operators when it comes to its gen AI strategy.
But the preceding two years were undeniably all about metaverse, and despite the public’s waning interest in roaming virtual worlds in favour of excitement/existential dread about the potential for AI, SKT has not given up, and has continued its work on Ifland in parallel with its AI efforts.
In October, Ifland introduced an economic system based on its own purchasable currency, ‘Stone’. It not only allows users to buy virtual items, it can also be paid to sponsor hosts of virtual events. Conceivably it means someone could pay an influencer to show up as their avatar to a virtual meetup.
To encourage users to part with their hard-earned Stone. Ifland also increased the number of purchasable items to 20,000 from 4,000, a move designed to enrich the experience as well as SKT.
At the same time, SKT also added support for NFTs, enabling virtual items to be bought and sold via their Web3 wallet, ‘T wallet’.
In its Q3 financial report, SKT noted that 50% of monthly active users of Ifland are based overseas. It said it plans to continue its work with international partners to promote its uptake, and its monetisation by way of the recently-introduced virtual currency.
As far as SKT is concerned then, rumours of metaverse’s death have been greatly exaggerated.
Nick is a freelancer who has covered the global telecoms industry for more than 15 years. Areas of expertise include operator strategies; M&As; and emerging technologies, among others. As a freelancer, Nick has contributed news and features for many well-known industry publications. Before that, he wrote daily news and regular features as deputy editor of Total Telecom. He has a first-class honours degree in journalism from the University of Westminster.
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