New Zealanders wanting to get a glimpse of what the metaverse could mean for Aotearoa don't need to wait thanks to the launch of a 'Lands Down Under' creative map in popular battle royale game Fortnite.
The map was designed in conjunction with Alliance Studios, which has offices in the US and Australia, but more importantly with New Zealand's own Zen Creative.
The company was formed in 2021 by twin brothers R-leeo and Theodore Maoate, who have been developing in-game experiences for 10 years, including in Fortnite Creative since it launched in 2018.
"This has been a massive opportunity that I've been extremely grateful to be a part of," R-leeo told Newshub.
"It's not everyday you get to represent New Zealand on a worldwide scale and it's just crazy."
Fortnite - created and managed by Epic Games - has tens of millions of active users, with millions online at any given point. That's certain to mean a whole lot of virtual exposure for New Zealand, given the creative map is being publicised within the game.
In Lands Down Under, players explore a visitor centre that includes a gift shop, cafe and function centre.
There's also information about both countries throughout the centre, including an aquarium reminiscent of Kelly Tarlton's and more about our native fauna, such as kiwis and pukekos.
Zen Creative led the development of the New Zealand area because it wanted to ensure the country was represented correctly, with the others involved not from Aotearoa, R-leeo said.
That included making a minigame entitled Kiwi Hideout where players have to search an animal sanctuary for 10 kiwis that have fallen asleep and need to be returned to their nests.
"We've heard a lot of good feedback from that game and people seem to love it," R-leeo told Newshub.
"It is a little bit difficult at the beginning but people like the idea of it and just how cute it is, especially with the kiwis they get to see."
Other minigames include Sydney Surf Spectacular, a race around the Aussie harbour while collecting power boosts and avoiding obstacles.
And that is just the start, with plans to expand Lands Down Under even further with a space dedicated for brands, companies or even artists to showcase their work.
"There's a lot of possibilities," R-leeo said. "We want to open up this metaverse to show that it's not just big brands that can come into Fortnite and be a part of it.
"People and brands in New Zealand can come in and join as well, even in the smallest way."
It's all part of those tentative steps into the metaverse where "the possibilities are endless", R-leeo said, highlighting brands like DC Comics and Marvel collaborating in Fortnite in ways that might never have been imagined before.
It all means he's very excited about the future and hopes Zen Creative has a big part to play in helping it grow here.
"We want more, we want everyone to know this metaverse is bigger than what it seems. There's so much to learn and so [many ways] people can get involved in it.
And, ultimately, if learning a little more about New Zealand makes people more aware of the country and even encourages some to visit once the borders open up again, that would be "amazing", R-leeo said.
"To have people come in and see this amazing place that we know as Aotearoa, New Zealand? It would be just awesome."