Kakao Entertainment, the entertainment division of South Korean internet company Kakao Corp., is doubling down on its metaverse push with the launch of a new four-member virtual K-Pop girl group called MAVE.
Kakao launched MAVE in January through its Metaverse Entertainment joint venture with South Korean mobile game developer Netmarble. Metaverse Entertainment was founded in August 2021.
The group’s members are Siu, Zena, Tyra, and Marty, who are presented as human-like avatars with natural-looking movements and facial expressions.
Reuters says the members can speak four languages: Korean, English, French and Bahasa, although they are not able to respond to prompts and only rely on scripts prepared by humans.
Apart from MAVE, Metaverse Entertainment also developed another virtual character called RINA, described as a 22-year-old with a “free-spirited lifestyle who loves fashion and music and is passionate about what she likes.”
RINA already has 32,600 followers on Instagram, which was launched on March 29, 2022, and has amassed 2.3 million likes and 138,000 followers on TikTok.
MAVE and RINA look so realistic that some internet users, at first glance, may not be able to distinguish them from humans.
“When I first saw Mave, it was a little confusing to tell whether they were humans or virtual characters… Because I use metaverse platforms with my friends often, I feel like I could become their fan,” Han Su-min, a 19-year-old in Seoul, was quoted by Reuters as saying.
MAVE’s debut single Pandora was released just two months ago and the music video for the track has already racked up more than 20 million views on YouTube and they also have over 172,000 subscribers on the platform.
The track has also already generated over 20 million streams on Spotify alone.
Metaverse Entertainment says MAVE are “K-meta idols who will create a new wave in the era of KPOP and the metaverse”.
“MAVE: consists of four girls living in the future world called IDYPIA, a utopia everyone dreamed of. They travel to 2023 to recover lost emotions,” according to MAVE’s official website.
“They have uncovered secrets hidden in IDYPIA, a perfect utopia everyone has dreamed of, and are about to embark on a journey to recover the lost emotions of mankind without hesitation or fear.”
Over a month ago, Kakao Entertainment announced the upcoming global release of a webtoon based on MAVE on the company’s global platforms.
The webtoon will depict MAVE’s universe and explore alternative realities, said the company.
The webtoon will launch within the first half of the year on Tapas in North America, Kakao Piccoma in Japan, and Kakao Webtoon in Thailand, Taiwan, and Indonesia.
Metaverse Entertainment describes itself as a company that develops digital human production, virtual idol management, and visual special effects.
MAVE is the JV’s first project, released in January of this year, suggesting that it took Kakao and Netmarble over a year to develop the virtual K-Pop group.
Kakao has invested 12 billion South Korean won (approx. USD $9.2 million) in Metaverse Entertainment, Reuters reported.
Chu Ji-yeon, who heads Metaverse Entertainment, told the news outlet that MAVE is an “ongoing” project to explore new business opportunities and explore ways around technological challenges.
Metaverse Entertainment is just one of Kakao’s investments in the metaverse space.
Back in June, Kakao unveiled its metaverse service, Kakao Universe, to connect global users who share the same interests.
“We are targeting 99% of users globally, so KakaoTalk, which has been based on acquaintances so far, will in the future connect people with the same interests. We decided to call the world of people connected through similar interests ‘Kakao Universe,’” Kakao CEO Namkoong Whon was quoted by The Korea Times as saying at the time.
Last week, Kakao Entertainment revealed its plans to expand in the US and globally, teaming up with Sony Music‘s Columbia Records via Kakao Entertainment’s America division.
In South Korea, Kakao recently launched a tender offer to acquire up to 35% of SM Entertainment for approximately USD $960 million, after previously agreeing to buy 9.05% of SM in February. (SM rival HYBE has dropped out of its takeover bid, revealing on Friday, March 24, that it is selling its entire stake in SM worth $435 million.)
In January, Kakao Entertainment secured 1.2 trillion South Korea Won (approx $966m) investment from what it said are “leading sovereign wealth funds”.
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