Product announcements which invoke "the metaverse" always leave me feeling like I'm trying to comprehend the nature of a square triangle. For example, Coca-Cola said last week that its new limited edition metaverse soda is "inspired by the playfulness of pixels." What does playfulness taste like? What does a pixel taste like? And what makes pixels playful?
I suppose I'm falling into Coca-Cola's trap by saying that the answers to these questions can only be found in a sip of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar Byte, which it claims is "rooted in the experiences that gaming makes possible"—also not a flavor—and will be available in slim can two-packs starting May 2. The limited-edition cans will only be purchasable online, which Coca-Cola says makes them "a portal between the digital and physical worlds." That's also how I describe buying things online.
Coke's most meaningful statement about its new metaverse liquid is that it tastes "bright." So, citrusy, maybe? The company also says that the soda's "upfront taste is reminiscent of powering up a game," but I refuse to accept that anyone genuinely believes that.
Then again, my favorite description of Diet Coke—which used to be a many-times-a-day habit for me—is that it's "like drinking an algorithm," so maybe I'm just not giving Coca-Cola enough credit for understanding its own products. Maybe a sip of Coca-Cola Zero Sugar Byte really does "bring pixels alive in a taste experience."
Because it's metaverse soda, the Coke Byte launch includes a Fortnite Creative island (code: 856502873178) which features four minigames "that can only be solved by working in tandem with fellow players," as well as a separate augmented reality game that "tells the story of Byte, an 8-bit pixel left behind when Coca-Cola Byte entered the metaverse."
What does it mean to "enter the metaverse," anyway? Coke says that the first time it "entered the metaverse" was last year when it sold an NFT collection for 217 Ethereum (around $644,490 USD at the current price) to benefit the Special Olympics. I guess it's cool that they sold some pictures for charity, but it's not that novel when you put it that way. And if making a soda tie-in game counts as "entering the metaverse," then 7-Up has been living there since 1993.
Recently, I had a fun discussion with the creator of Second Life about his feelings on "metaverse" becoming Silicon Valley's new favorite buzzword—he's not too impressed. I have not checked in to see how he feels about metaverse Coke, though. Maybe it'll be good?
Coke Byte is the second limited edition Coca-Cola Creations drink. The first is called Coca-Cola Starlight, which apparently tastes like "outer space," and I admit I am curious to know what the void tastes like. Maybe our friends at Space.com know.