While many K-Pop fans are still on the fence about virtual idols, the AI revolution is showing no signs of slowing down. In a new report, Bloter states that Kakao Entertainment and Netmarble subsidiary Metaverse Entertainment are preparing to debut their own new four-member AI girl group.
Back in August this year, Netmarble launched Metaverse Entertainment—a new company set up to explore the world of virtual entertainers. If Netmarble sounds familiar to you, you likely know it as the mobile gaming company behind BTS WORLD, created by Bang Joon Hyuk (the brother of HYBE founder Bang Si Hyuk).
As the name suggests, Metaverse Entertainment is a foray into the metaverse concept—a proposed future iteration of online life in which users inhabit a virtual space as avatars. The company plans to develop a virtual reality platform with metaverse-related games, including a game that allows players to manage virtual idols.
We will endeavor to become a global metaverse entertainment company.
— Seo Woo Won, Netmarble F&C co-CEO
Now, they’re reportedly already in the process of debuting a virtual idol group in conjunction with Kakao Entertainment. This week, it was announced that Kakao Entertainment has acquired 80,000 stocks in Metaverse Entertainment, and reports state that the two will be collaborating on a four-member AI girl group aimed at the global market.
Where two frontiers of reality meet, we craft a fusion from the cold touch of technology and warm breath of human sensibility to tell a story of humans beyond humans — Meta Idols.
— Metaverse Entertainment
According to Bloter, the girl group will be named MAVE, as revealed in a recent job advertisement from Metaverse Entertainment. It’s said that the Netmarble subsidiary will be responsible for creating the group’s members (or “characters”) as well as the concept, while Kakao Entertainment will focus on marketing the group globally using prior knowledge of the entertainment industry.
Kakao Entertainment currently owns several well-known K-Pop agencies, including Starship Entertainment, Play M Entertainment, and Cre.ker Entertainment.
Another job post from Metaverse Entertainment seeks stylists and photographers for female Instagram influencers, which may tie into MAVE. Virtual influencers are currently all the rage among brands. For example, Sidus Studio X‘s virtual human Rozy—said to be the first in South Korea—recently appeared in a commercial for Shinhan Life Insurance.
Of course, as novel as the idea may seem, virtual idols aren’t a completely new concept. K/DA, a K-Pop-inspired girl group with League of Legends characters as its members, shot to fame in 2018. The group features the voice talents of (G)I-DLE and TWICE members.
Then, in 2020, SM Entertainment debuted aespa—a metaverse concept girl group in which all four members have virtual AI counterparts known as æ. Interestingly, Kakao Entertainment was in the running to acquire a majority stake in SM Entertainment for quite some time but is reportedly set to lose the deal to entertainment and media conglomerate CJ ENM.
Currently, Metaverse Entertainment has not confirmed or denied the rumors of a four-member AI girl group. “It is difficult to confirm anything at this time as the project is very early in its planning stages,” said a company representative this week. Later that day, Metaverse Entertainment confirmed that MAVE is a “metahuman-related project,” but added, “in its current phase, [the company] cannot disclose too much information.”