Judging from recent trademark filings, Walmart appears to be plotting its entry into the metaverse.
The big-box retailer filed several trademarks for Walmart Connect, a venture that might see the company launch its own NFTs and cryptocurrency, a move that could fuel — or diminish — the voracious appetite for digital collectibles.
Walmart also filed to protect the use of its name and logo in virtual and augmented reality, bolstering the company's application for the names "Verse to Curb," "Verse to Home," and "Verse to Store," terms that suggest some sort of Walmart-powered VR shopping experience.
Earlier this month, a five-year-old video imagining Walmart in VR went viral on Twitter. Commissioned by Walmart and created by a digital agency, the clip served as a reminder of the metaverse's humble roots, which precede crypto traders, NFT collectors, and Mark Zuckerberg's Meta.
Walmart's seeming entry into the hype-driven landscape of NFTs and cryptocurrency is both expected and unexpected.
From Melania Trump to Taco Bell, everyone is scrambling for a slice of the virtual pie. If Shawn Mendes can sell his vest as an NFT, it follows that an entity as powerful as Walmart would weigh in on the action.
However, Walmart's move also raises the question of what, exactly, customers buy into when they purchase NFTs.
It's no secret that exclusivity — and the bragging rights that accompany them — is part of what makes NFTs so appealing. Anyone can take a screenshot of Beeple's The First 5000 Days, but only one person owns the $69 million real deal.
It's difficult to imagine Walmart, a company that built its reputation on affordability, peddling multi-million-dollar collectibles that will accrue value over time.
The tension between the blockchain's accessibility (technically, anyone can make and sell an NFT) and inherent exclusivity (not only is buying cryptocurrency not a cheap or simple task for many but their value is dependent on limited availability) raises a couple of questions.
How will Walmart market its NFTs as desirable?
And, perhaps more importantly, if Walmart's entry into the metaverse — where the hype is largely fueled by the rich and famous — doesn't pop the NFT bubble, will anything?