I visited Samsung’s Galaxy S22 metaverse event, but it felt rushed and incomplete

I visited Samsung's Galaxy S22 metaverse event, but it felt rushed and incomplete

The exterior of the Samsung 837X, a metaverse space inside Decentraland.

Russell Holly/CNET

Samsung Galaxy S22 The reveal event wasn’t just a standard live stream this year: it also took place in a metaverse – and I was really excited to find out. I’ve attended previous Samsung VR events and found them more enjoyable than most other branded virtual experiences. the infamous 2016 photo of Mark Zuckerberg walking down an aisle while everyone around you is wearing a Gear VR headset is undeniably silly, but the demonstration of what might be possible from home was actually compelling.

By comparison, this 2022 Unpacked event had surprisingly little to do with Samsung and served more as an example of what do not to do when using the metaverse to host a product launch.

If you’ve seen Samsung announce an event in the Metaverse and thought that meant putting on a VR headset and sitting in an audience, you’re not alone. Instead, Samsung built a version of its New York event space at Decentraland, a cryptocurrency-focused virtual playground. It’s technically possible to enter Decentraland with a VR headset, but the experience is barely functional and requires a lot of technical knowledge. Using your web browser alongside your mouse and keyboard, as the creators intended, you enter Decentraland as an animated avatar that you can edit and move to the Samsung 837X space to participate.

Arriving at this space the day before the event revealed a brightly lit building and a fake pizzeria. The doors were all closed and there wasn’t much to see, but there were already people lining up to see what Samsung had to offer. When I checked back in, 30 minutes before the event started, a handful of people waiting outside had grown to nearly 100 that I could see. Decentraland runs 10 servers and you can only see the people on your server, but as I was moving around before the event, each server seemed full as well. About 1,000 people were waiting for Samsung to open the doors and show us the Galaxy S22 Ultra.

Unfortunately for many of these servers, the doors did not open in time. Many people were unable to enter the Samsung 837X before the start of the event. Everyone outside of the Metaverse was enjoying a odd crossover with the popular TV series Bridgerton at the start of this event, when I and dozens of my fellow Metazens were in the process of switching servers to find one that worked. Once a server with open doors had been located, the next challenge was to find the room inside that virtual building where the announcement event was actually playing.

Samsung Metaverse

The three unlockable clothing packs that you could use to outfit your metaverse avatar if you complete the mini-game in Samsung’s event.

Russell Holly/CNET

Inside the Samsung 837X, you’re presented with three rooms and a host of smaller activities to enjoy. Samsung had created special clothes for your Decentraland avatar that you could only get by completing a quest in that space. Most of the space was dedicated to this quest, but in the back you could find a theater with the Unpacked event streaming. The room was a fairly generic virtual theater with a large curved screen showing the event already in progress outside of the metaverse. I was almost 10 minutes late and was now watching a smaller version of the livestream with animated characters dancing inside a web browser on my laptop.

Within minutes of watching this presentation, it became clear that the real reason most people were here was to unlock the Samsung Quest related virtual clothes. The app told me there were 96 people in the space, but the room only held 37. The novelty of the Samsung-made space was much more important than the unveiling of a new phone and Tablet for the majority of those who regularly visit Decentraland.

It’s hard to feel like this approach to an event is anything more than a step backwards. In 2016, Samsung made it possible to watch a Galaxy Unpacked event from its VR headset. You put on the headset, open the app, and choose one of many positions to watch the scene from a 360-degree streaming camera. Being able to turn your head and see the audience made you feel like you were actually sitting in the audience. Few people owned these helmets back then, but it felt like we were in a packed house and could enjoy the show.

Samsung Metaverse

The Samsung Theater, where I was able to attend the unveiling of the Galaxy S22 Ultra.

Russell Holly/CNET

In fairness, this 2022 event was entirely virtual, so there was no live space to warp into like with pre-pandemic product launches. But Samsung could have made it possible to browse a virtual store, take a closer look at the phone from all angles, or maybe even pre-order the next phone using cryptocurrency. There could have been Samsung staff on hand to answer questions or talk to people about what they’re upgrading and how the the cameras on this new phone might have been better.

Samsung had the opportunity to make this space look like a virtual version of its 837 store, but instead built a terrifically rendered virtual forest to show its intention to plant 2 million trees as part of its efforts to sustainable development. For comparison, the real Samsung 837 store not only sells Samsung devices, but opened an on-site cafe and, at least before the pandemic, held a running club that promoted its fitness trackers.

It could have been a lot of fun, but instead felt rushed and incomplete. It was a half-hearted attempt in a long line of cultural zeitgeist moments from Samsung, and felt more like an online version of the Yo! Pizza Hut’s Noid Game in 1990 that he did an outline of a often promised metaversal future.