How do you do, fellow Robloxians
Walmart has launched a pair of “immersive experiences” in online gaming platform Roblox. The retailer is presenting the launch as an ambitious move into the metaverse, but the “experiences” — two online worlds dubbed Walmart Land and Walmart’s Universe of Play — are really just ways to advertise toys to children. Roblox may seem trivial, but it has more than 50 million daily active users, two-thirds of which are under the age of 16. That means it’s probably Walmart experimenting with virtual worlds to try and hook this market.
Walmart Land and Universe of Play are virtual lobbies. Inside are a variety of minigames and experiences, including a Ferris wheel, “interactive piano walkway,” and DJ booth, most of which serve to funnel players towards certain brands. So, for example, a virtual dressing room lets you spend coins collected in Walmart Land to deck out your avatar with Skullcandy headphones or a Fitbit fitness tracker. In Universe of Play you can race Razor scooters round a track or hang out with PAW Patrol characters. It’s all incredibly basic in terms of graphics and gameplay mechanics, but that’s par for the course for Roblox.
We’ve been here before of course, as with most “metaverse” hype. When virtual world Second Life was in its heyday, all sorts of companies launched experiences and shops inside the game, from Dell to Disney, to MTV and Mazda. Advertising budgets have to be spent somewhere, and the “metaverse” rebrand presumably gives a shallow futurist sheen to what is now a decades-old marketing strategy (Second Life launched back in 2003).
Is it worth Walmart’s time? At this point, who knows. Checking the statistics for Walmart Land’s achievements, it seems that a decent amount of users have at least logged in, with 200,000 “Welcome to Walmart Land” badges awarded for entering the game for the first time. But other achievements, like getting a free “loot box” from a circling blimp, have only been won by a few thousand players. And when The Verge logged in to the game this morning, we were one of only a handful of avatars enjoying the rather depressing sights and sounds of Walmart Land.
Meanwhile, Walmart’s chief marketing officer, William White, has been talking up the virtual worlds in interviews as a way to connect with Gen Z. “How are we driving relevance in cultural conversation? How are we developing community and engagement? How are we moving the needle from a brand favorability [standpoint] with younger audiences?” White told CNBC. “That’s what we’re trying to accomplish here.”
A direct strike at 14,000 mph.
The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) scored a hit on the asteroid Dimorphos, but as Mary Beth Griggs explains, the real science work is just beginning.
Now planetary scientists will wait to see how the impact changed the asteroid’s orbit, and to download pictures from DART’s LICIACube satellite which had a front-row seat to the crash.
We’re about an hour away from a space crash.
At 7:14PM ET, a NASA spacecraft is going to smash into an asteroid! Coverage of the collision — called the Double Asteroid Redirection Test — is now live.
There’s a surprise in the sky tonight.
Jupiter will be about 367 million miles away from Earth this evening. While that may seem like a long way, it’s the closest it’s been to our home planet since 1963.
During this time, Jupiter will be visible to the naked eye (but binoculars can help). You can check where and when you can get a glimpse of the gas giant from this website.
Missing classic Mario?
One fan, who goes by the name Metroid Mike 64 on Twitter, just built a full-on 2D Mario game inside Super Mario Maker 2 complete with 40 levels and eight worlds.
Looking at the gameplay shared on Twitter is enough to make me want to break out my SNES, or at least buy Super Mario Maker 2 so I can play this epic retro revamp.
The US might still force TikTok into a data security deal with Oracle.
The New York Times says the White House is still working on TikTok’s Trump-era data security deal, which has been in a weird limbo for nearly two years now. The terms are basically the same: Oracle plays babysitter but the app doesn’t get banned. Maybe it will happen now, though?
Don’t miss this dive into Guillermo del Toro’s stop-motion Pinocchio flick.
Andrew Webster and Charles Pulliam-Moore covered Netflix’s Tudum reveals (yes, it’s going to keep using that brand name) over the weekend as the streamer showed off things that haven’t been canceled yet.
Beyond The Way of the Househusband season two news and timing information about two The Witcher projects, you should make time for this incredible behind-the-scenes video showing the process of making Pinocchio.
Edward Snowden has been granted Russian citizenship.
The NSA whistleblower has been living in Russia for the 9 years — first as a refugee, then on a series of temporary residency permits. He applied for Russian citizenship in November 2020, but has said he won’t renounce his status as a U.S. citizen.
Vietnam’s EV aspirant is giving big Potemkin village vibes
Idle equipment, absent workers, deserted villages, an empty swimming pool. VinFast is Vietnam’s answer to Tesla, with the goal of making 1 million EVs in the next 5-6 years to sell to customers US, Canada and Europe. With these lofty goals, the company invited a bunch of social media influencers, as well as some auto journalists, on a “a four-day, multicity extravaganza” that seemed more weird than convincing, according to Bloomberg.
Today, 39 years ago, the world didn’t end.
And it’s thanks to one man: Stanislav Petrov, a USSR military officer who, on September 26th, 1983, took the decision not to launch a retaliatory nuclear attack against the US. Petrov correctly guessed that satellite readings showing inbound nukes were faulty, and so likely saved the world from nuclear war. As journalist Tom Chivers put it on Twitter, “Happy Stanislav Petrov Day to those who celebrate!” Read more about Petrov’s life here.
Photo by Scott Peterson/Getty Images
Deepfakes were made for Disney.
You might have seen the news this weekend that the voice of James Earl Jones is being cloned using AI so his performance as Darth Vader in Star Wars can live on forever.
Reading the story, it struck me how perfect deepfakes are for Disney — a company that profits from original characters, fans’ nostalgia, and an uncanny ability to twist copyright law to its liking. And now, with deepfakes, Disney’s most iconic performances will live on forever, ensuring the magic never dies.
Hurricane Fiona ratcheted up tensions about crypto bros in Puerto Rico.
“An official emergency has been declared, which means in the tax program, your physical presence time is suspended,” a crypto investor posted on TikTok. “So I am headed out of the island.” Perhaps predictably, locals are furious.