As one of four Grand Slam tournaments, the Australian Open (AO) is one of the biggest tennis events of the year. In 2020, over 812,000 people attended the AO and over a million others tuned in to watch. After a smaller pandemic year in 2021, the AO is coming back bigger and exponentially more immersive than ever before as the first major sporting event hosted in the metaverse.
AO Decentraland, a virtual rendering of Melbourne Park and Rod Laver Arena, will allow attendees to interact with players, fans, and exclusive AO content without having to leave their homes. The event begins January 17, 2022 and is organized by blockchain development studio Run It Wild, which integrated Chainlink VRF (Verifiable Random Function) to pioneer an entirely new way for fans to engage with the game through dynamic NFTs.
The 6,776 Art Ball NFT collection was minted during a public sale earlier this week and promptly sold out. Each multi-colored, artist-rendered, or hand-designed tennis ball NFT is distinctly unique “down to the fuzz,” just like a real tennis ball. But unlike its real-world counterpart, each Art Ball NFT directly connects fans to AO2022’s on-court action and chances to win event tickets and memorabilia into the future.
Run It Wild integrated Chainlink VRF as “a simple solution” to the “complex problem” of randomly linking each Art Ball NFT to a 19cm x 19cm plot of each real-world AO tennis court surface in a provably fair, tamper-proof way. Electronic line-calling technology will be used to track the location of winning shots during each game, and corresponding NFTs will be dynamically upgraded in near real-time. The holder of an NFT linked to the location of a championship point will receive that match’s championship point tennis ball in a handcrafted case.
Chainlink-powered NFTs are already forging deeper connections between athletes and their fans. Last June, 2021 NBA Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball launched his inaugural dynamic NFT collection using Chainlink VRF. This week, former Dallas Cowboys’ wide receiver Dez Bryant announced that his digital branding platform, Personal Corner, is integrating Chainlink Sports Data Feeds to launch NFTs that reflect the evolving stats of NFL stars such as Trevon Diggs, Maxx Crosby, Von Miller, and Marquise “Hollywood” Brown.
Such NFTs are also expanding the scope of events like the AO. Ridley Plummer, Metaverse and NFT Project Lead at AO Decentraland co-host Tennis Australia, told Forbes that the AO has become “a festival of entertainment” for which the “natural progression” is a metaverse recreation offering fans “even better experiences than what they can get onsite.”
As Run It Wild Director Adam De Cata said in an official announcement, “NFTs have the potential to bring tennis fans even closer to the sport and offer them exciting interactive experiences. We’re excited to kick off the Australian Open with this innovative new offering made possible with the help of Run It Wild and Chainlink VRF.”