Maybe it’s just because we’ve finally gotten tired of talking about all of the ills we’re dealing with in the real world, but the ‘metaverse’ has been dominating the headlines in the past 12 months. Companies from all over the world in a myriad of different industries are exploring the opportunities in virtual reality tech, whether it’s manufacturers using VR to enhance their production process or entertainment entities looking to create the next great user experience.
One of the more obscure and surprising examples to appear this year comes in the form of ZEPETO, a South Korean outfit whose product brings fashion into the virtual social space. Developed by SNOW Corp. the platform offers a virtual world where users can dress their avatars with all of the latest fits from a collection of high-end fashion labels, including European giants Gucci and Dior. Parent company Naver Z Corp Chief Strategy Officer Rudy Lee has suggested that ZEPETO is “probably the world’s largest virtual fashion marketplace.” and with 2 million active users, the platform is intent on becoming one of the major players in the increasingly crowded field of VR providers.
It might be indicative of how promising the future is for the tech that, despite the fact that it would seem like a fairly niche product aimed at a market that hasn’t yet shown much potential (70% of ZEPETO’s users are female, aged 13-24), ZEPETO has already received a number of high-profile endorsements, including a sizable investment from serial metaverse backers SoftBank Bets. SoftBank have displayed a clear faith in the future of metaverse products, having already put their money behind Sandbox, the metaverse company you might know as the one that plays host to the $650,000 NFT yacht. Their other high-profile backers to this point are HYBE, the managers of Korean pop sensation BTS, who have a cool $41 million USD invested in the rising company. The $150 million USD investment from SoftBank propelled ZEPETO to a $1 billion USD valuation, a massive boon for the unlikely industry contender.
Whether ZEPETO continues to grow and becomes a major name in the virtual reality game obviously at this stage remains to be seen. Still, its early success in drawing both investors and customers combined with the unique nature of its positioning in the market, might indicate that the potential for the emerging industry is even greater than we might had anticipated a few years ago.