Metaverse Initiatives Proliferate in France Amid Govt Push

Metaverse Initiatives Proliferate in France Amid Govt Push

by February 28, 2023

In France, initiatives to develop immersive, shared virtual environments are proliferating on the back of increased interest from both the government and the business community in the prospect of the metaverse to reinvent customer engagement, enrich experiences and showcase the French culture.

In the Cote d’Azur metropolitan area and its capital city Nice, mayor and president Christian Estrosi, made a pioneering move this year when he unveiled that a virtual replica of Villa Massena, a historical building in Nice, had been released on metaverse platform Spatial.

The move made Nice Cote d’Azur the first metropolis in France to establish a presence on the metaverse, the city said in a statement, and showcased its “keen attention on developments relating to Web 3.0” including virtual, shared spaces as well as non-fungible tokens (NFTs).

The initiative was showcased live during an official ceremony on February 14, during which an avatar of Estrosi presented the city’s goals behind the new virtual space, boasting about the metropolis’ rich cultural heritage and desire to remain up-to-date with the latest technological developments.

Christian Estrosi

Christian Estrosi

The Nice Cote d’Azur metropolis is one of the many players in France that have recently hopped on the metaverse bandwagon. Just this month, multinational insurance firm AXA said that its French subsidiary had launched a new game on The Sandbox metaverse platform.

The AXADIA initiative, which is available until March 01, aims for visitors to learn about AXA, its values and its achievements through a virtual game.

It allows players gain access to exclusive experiences and spaces, including one recruitment space with games focusing on courage and resilience, an innovation space focusing on collaborative work, and a museum covering the history of AXA.

The game culminates with a “Secret” level that provides players with the opportunity to win the AXA Shield NFT, a “legendary shield” that’s in reference to the goal of insurers: providing customers with financial protection against losses.

Additionally, AXA said its new metaverse initiative differentiates from other games for its unique “play-to-give” experience, which entices players to participate with the promise of donating 20,000 SAND (US$14,000) to Emmaus Connect, an organization fighting against digital and social exclusion, when the total number of players finishing the game reaches 10,000.

AXA, which got first involved in the metaverse in early 2022 through the acquisition of a plot of land in The Sandbox, is part of a growing list of French companies that are eyeing opportunities in the shared virtual space. These companies include:

  • Carrefour, a multinational retail and wholesaling corporation which acquired land in The Sandbox in 2022 and which has been exploring virtual recruitment opportunities in the metaverse;
  • Casino, a mass-market retail group which started buying plots on The Sandbox in 2021 and launched last year a new game on the metaverse platform;
  • Ubisoft, a leading video game publisher which brought the Rabbids multimedia franchise to The Sandbox in 2022; and
  • The Havas Group, a communications group which opened a “virtual village” in The Sandbox in April 2022.

French luxury brands as well are actively pursuing metaverse and NFT opportunities. A 2022 analysis by Bain and Company for the Comite Colbert, a local luxury industry group, revealed that about half of the country’s luxury sector houses and companies were either experimenting with the metaverse or NFTs, or planned to soon.

Adopted by only 5% of pioneers to date, NFTs could be deployed massively in the years to come: 51% of the companies surveyed said NFTs were either already in the testing phase or planning to launch before 2025. This is the highest level of projection among all the technologies studied and combined.

Respondents named customer engagement as the primary focus of technology adoption, eyeing opportunities relating to NFTs and the metaverse to personalize and enrich distance selling experiences, omni-channel and immersion.

Ceasing the opportunity

These initiatives are emerging on the back of rising interest in these concepts from the government. A report commissioned by French authorities and released in October 2022 highlights the imperative to cease the opportunities brought about the metaverse, stressing the need to formulate a clear national strategy.

Among the recommendations brought forward, the report says the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris presents a great opportunity to bring together industry stakeholders to work on and launch concrete metaverse projects. These initiatives should focus on showcasing France’s territories, culture and heritage, it says.

Lawmakers should also start working on adjusting the regulatory framework to accommodate the development of the metaverse, as well as support should be given to metaverse projects that are addressing societal needs, it says.

“The authors of the report are formal: the metaverse announces itself as a bearer of major opportunities, from industry to health, through training and the economy,” a media statement from the Ministry of the Economy, Finance and Industrial and Digital Sovereignty of France, reads.

“For France and for Europe, the development of the metaverse must allow the emergence of new world leaders in the digital realm and strengthen French cultural influence. According to the report, encouraging this innovation on the territory would thus promote the export of Francophone culture, in the Francophonie and beyond.”

Across the border, in Switzerland, Helvetia Insurance launched just last week a new offering in the metaverse, allowing customers with virtual reality (VR) headsets to attend consultations in a virtual meeting room through their avatar.

Information events and consultations in the metaverse are the first metaverse pilot applications for the company, Jan Kundert, head customer and market management, and member of the executive board of Helvetia Switzerland, said in a release. New products are envisaged at a later stage in the event of increased demand for new insurance solutions in the virtual world, he said.


Featured image credit: edited from Freepik here and here