Macy’s Parade Game Was Fun, But the Overall NFT Program Leaves Users With Too Many Questions
In celebration of the Macy’s 97th Annual Thanksgiving Day Parade, the American department store launched a parallel Web3 experience for those celebrating from home. The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Game launched Thanksgiving morning, November 23, 2023 on the brand’s new Web3 platform – mstylelab (Macy’s Style Lab) – a part of the broader Macy’s NFT & Metaverse program. Macy’s intends to use mstylelab to bring together the brand’s physical and digital experiences with new technologies and a digitally native community.
By Sophie Waldman
Published: January 31, 2024
6 min read
The Parade Game provided users with an interactive gamified experience of the famous parade from the comfort of their own devices. Macy’s also presented users with the opportunity to earn exclusive collectibles and rewards in honor of the big day.
A Historic Year For Web3 Communities
The debut of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Game to coincide with the 97th year of the Macy’s parade was not a coincidence. This year’s parade was also a significant milestone for the larger Web3 community because, for the first time, one of the balloons in the physical parade featured the NFT-native brand Cool Cats.
The Cool Cats parade presence happened as a result of Macy’s metaverse experience in 2022, when the retailer invited users to explore virtual galleries from five NFT projects including those from Boss Beauties, Cool Cats, gmoney, SupDucks and VeeFriends. Visitors voted for their favorite NFT, which would become a physical balloon during the 2023 parade. The winner, Cool Cats, debuted their balloon, a huge blue cat holding up a peace sign.
A video that captures the full Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Game journey as experienced by Blockchain Journal’s editor-in-chief David Berlind is embedded below, followed by a step-by-step description of my experience.
Entering The Game
In order to participate in the experience or receive any access to the mstylelab platform, users are required to create or have an existing Macy’s online account, which reduces the need to create additional Macy’s accounts to participate (something Blockchain Journal has observed with other NFT programs). Once logged in to a Macy’s account, users can quickly link it to the mstylelab experience with the same credentials.
Whereas some brands require customers to login to their Web3 experiences with user or crypto wallet IDs that are separate from their existing Web2 e-commerce accounts, participants in the Macy’s mstylelab user experience only need one Macy’s account for all experiences (that’s tied to their email address). Entering the mstylelab UX depends on a second factor of authentication (a PIN code).
Once users log in and press “Let’s Play Now,” the experience portals you into a digital reincarnation of Herald Square, New York City, and an animated Macy’s Parade scene. Users are welcomed with a pop-up that outlines the game instructions and provides the option to select one of five different character avatars to use during the online experience.
Upon entering the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Game, the user is offered some brief instructions and the opportunity to pick an avatar.
Collecting Star Coins
The main objective of the game is to navigate the virtual world and collect Macy’s “star coins” that are scattered throughout the space. There has been a rising trend in brands leveraging Web3 programs to educate customers on their business’s history and heritage, essentially recruiting them into a volunteer corps of brand ambassadors. Following suit, Macy’s incorporated 10 Fun Facts into the game from its 97 years of hosting the Thanksgiving Day Parade.
While playing, I was personally surprised to discover some of the facts that are part of Macy’s legacy. For example, as shown in the screenshot below, “The first Parade in 1924 had elephants, camels, donkeys — but no balloons.”
As players journey through the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade game, they encounter “fun facts” about the history of the brand and the parade. Intending to turn customers into brand ambassadors, many Web3 customer engagement programs are using a variety of approaches (games, quizzes, augmented reality, etc.) to educate their communities on company history and values.
A Multiplayer Metaverse
While the game instructions were pretty simple, users needed to be skilled enough to jump around and onto different objects and rooftops to collect all necessary Stars and Fun Facts. As shown in the video above (recorded by Blockchain Journal’s editor-in-chief David Berlind), if the player doesn’t stick the landing after a jump, it could require the player to start over on that part of the game.
Anytime I found myself feeling challenged, it was enlightening to see the many other players publicly attempting to play the game as well, through the multiplayer metaverse-like experience.
Many of the coins that players had to collect in The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade game involved jumping onto hamburgers and donuts.
I also received additional motivation from Macy’s pre-established Discord channel, which was filled with many active community members and team support during this activation.
Victory and Rewards
Upon completing the game, all users were congratulated with a “Digital Art Trophy,” co-designed by Cool Cats.
Interestingly, the trophy is presented as a “dynamic digital collectible,” which is saved as a digital item in the user’s mstylelab account. According to the mstylelab FAQ, users “will have the opportunity to update the trophy’s appearance and mint it as an NFT around mid-2024.” In this day and age where keeping customers engaged is all about instant gratification, six months or more seems like a pretty long time to wait for a customer to get a return on their investment of time.
Adding to the competitive fun and Cool Cat’s achievement, the first couple hundred users to finish the game were rewarded with a free claim of the “Color Me Cool Commemorative Parade Figurine.”
This figurine is a limited-edition physical collectible from Macy’s and Cool Cats that is intentionally featureless so recipients can decorate and design it with their creativity. The figurines are expected to ship in early 2024 and each includes an embedded near-field communication (NFC) chip to digitize users’ designs for an upcoming feature submission. NFCs are used by some NFT programs to technologically tie a specific physical item to a specific NFT (known as a “phygital” physical-digital pairing). Other phygital programs use RFID tags or QR codes for the same purpose. It is unknown at this time if such phygital pairing is what Macy’s has in mind for the NFC chip.
Claim Technical Difficulties
The claim specifically for the Color Me Cool Figurine appeared to cause a lot of challenges for both users and the Macy’s team. Every time I went to claim my figurine, the web page reverted to the commemorative digital trophy, instead of the phygital toy.
Others in the Discord community reported being able to submit shipping details, but then receiving an “error” message or the website displaying “already claimed” before submitting details.
Thankfully, the developers and moderation team in Discord were quick to address concerns and assist users throughout the whole experience.
On or Off Chain?
Whereas the idea of digital collectibles has been around for many years, NFT-based collectibles are relatively new. One of the challenges with mstylelab has to do with how it blends the two types of collectibles in a way that can be confusing to both Web3 and non-Web3 users. For example, Macy’s goes out of its way to say that certain collectibles are not NFTs. Meanwhile, both types of collectibles (NFT and non-NFT) appear to be kept in a single Macy’s-hosted custodial wallet.
Similar to other custodial wallet technologies that automatically create and store a wallet linked to a user’s email only (i.e., the Nifty Gateway-based custodial wallet used for the Starbucks Odyssey NFT program), mstylelab creates a wallet on its backend for all users during sign up. As indicated in the end-user support message in the partial screenshot below (from the Macy’s support channel on Discord), Macy’s partnered with Magic to facilitate its custodial wallet capability.
With that being said (and as an indication of the confusion), there have been many inquiries within the Macy’s Discord community as to whether the non-NFT “digital collectibles” were indeed NFTs and if transfer or trades would be possible – even in the future. One source of this confusion could be a message encountered when users view their Macy’s wallets. It asks users if they hold any Macy’s NFTs (referring to Macy’s prior experiments with customer-facing NFTs). If the answer is yes, the message suggests that users “connect” their wallets to “showcase your digital items in one place” (see screenshot below)
One element of Macy’s mstylelab leaves end users wondering just exactly what is going on with the Macy’s NFT program. The program’s FAQ suggests that some of the new digital assets that users are collecting are not NFTs. Meanwhile, older assets are NFTs and somehow, the wallets for both can be connected to provide a single combined view of all assets. Macy’s would do well to just tell users what its plans are and what customers can expect in terms of engagement opportunities.
According to at least one response from a Macy’s team member, some of the digital goods are planned for conversion into NFTs on the Polygon blockchain sometime in 2024 (see partial screenshot below).
However, it also appears that the assets will be converted during a formal mint experience and users will be able to self-custody those assets with their wallets (see below).
As many Web3-native users were participating, it may have been beneficial for the experience to have clearly shared this information so the users had a better understanding (as opposed to only communicating these explanations on the Macy’s Discord server). However, at the same time, this strategy may be the key to onboarding and simplifying on-chain features for those who are completely unfamiliar with Web3 concepts. Blockchain Journal sought comment from Macy’s regarding its findings but has yet to receive a reply.