The Z*ckerverse is NGMI
I bought a bike, how the m*tav*rse got rekt, intro to NGMI, a few gameverses and use-cases
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I hope you didn’t mind my absence from your inbox last week.
This past Monday, I moved into my new apartment in Austin. It was a bit stressful, as moving always is, and I have been keeping a little too busy the past few weeks. Saying no to great professional and social opportunities is tough right now. I’m still not used to living somewhere with this much going on!
This is not a complaint.
I also bought a bike, which I’m happy about. My new neighborhood is highly bike-able and has great access to public transit. Hoping to wait out the insane spike in prices for used vehicles.
Wild how shutting down production of new goods and global transit causes prices to rise, amirite?
I missed hearing from y’all. Reading your replies is one of my favorite parts of my week!
Our New Digital World
Grant, what the hell are you talking about?”
This past week, Facebook announced that it was rebranding itself to Meta. People in Web3 aka crypto had been coalescing around the term ‘metaverse’ for a certain collection of projects. By rebranding to Meta and leveraging their near-endless cash flows and communications powers (they own Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram…and have a strange relationship with all media companies that are reliant on their distribution channels) to do so, they have effectively claimed (and killed) the term ‘metaverse’.
Within several months, people will hear ‘meta’ and think of Facebook. The ‘metaverse’ will seem to them to be purely a reference to the digital worlds that Facebook is creating. You can not like Zuckerberg and Facebook all you want but you have to admit this was a genius move.
If you’re interested in strategy, tech R&D, and communications, the release is worth watching in its entirety. Their positioning and framing as a benevolent giant investing in an open, inclusive future of the social internet is highly persuasive. I don’t buy it but their branding is excellent and the message was designed to disarm and win over a lot of people who otherwise despise Facebook.
I’m still planning on deleting my Instagram. I do not miss having a Facebook.
Perhaps the decentralized crypto community will be able to coalesce around a new term in the coming weeks or months. But there are already many brands who have established themselves as “The First Metaverse DAO” or “The Metaverse Index [Fund]”
NGMI is a crypto-native acronym that means ‘not gonna make it,’ meaning a mix of “will not be successful” or “something I dislike”.
In this case, the latter is more likely to be true but the former is plausible. The ‘gameverse’ or ‘nft-verse’ or ‘cryptoverse’ or otherwise is not at all guaranteed to be dominated by an entrenched player—whether that’s Facebook, Epic Games, or Roblox.
While I have mixed feelings about the trajectory of the internet and the acceleration of our digital world, I do believe that a transition from our current social platforms is inevitable. I am not long on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook—the websites and apps.
We’re going to move into new paradigms that will be more immersive (AR/VR compatible), decentralized, and user-controlled and created—relative to our current paradigm.
With the current NFT craze—perhaps best exemplified by the rise of Crypto Punks and Beeple’s $69 million dollar sale—there is significant demand for people to purchase and interact with scarce digital items and art.
NFTs as a class are not going anywhere, although any given project may become illiquid (no one will buy it from you) or moon (wildly increase in value).
All of “crypto” is a radical challenge to our ways of valuing ideas, art, and mediums of exchange. It is a revolution born from our nascent ability to coordinate by leveraging our [near-]global communications channels and engage in costly signaling. Talk is cheap but now it’s much easier to put your money where your mouth is. Much of crypto may be a bubble and I would not encourage anyone to “bet the farm,” or invest any money they’re not okay losing, but the general technologies are not going anywhere.
My friend framed it to me as “You don’t want to end up with shower regret. If you bet it all and lose, you’ll be standing in your shower and ruminating about how you’re a total sucker. If you don’t have any exposure and a project moons, you’ll be standing there calculating what your portfolio would be worth if you weren’t a risk-averse coward.” Finding a middle ground is easier said than done. FOMO may be unavoidable.
Bitcoin is not going anywhere. NFTs are not going anywhere. Decentralized protocols attempting to disintermediate middle-men of all sorts are not going anywhere. These are global markets and new products and use-cases are emerging every day. Just because it doesn’t solve your personal problems today, doesn’t mean it won’t in the future or isn’t solving someone else’s.
Examples of Gameverses and Use-Cases of NFTs
Axie Infinity is the dominant ‘play-to-earn’ game in crypto. It appears to be a mix between a Pokémon (or Dragon Warrior Monsters, iykyk) and Hearthstone. It has generated a lot of buzz because people in countries with lower per capita incomes have begun to play Axie Infinity full-time.
I listened to a podcast where the guest described how he built a business on top of the Axie Infinity economy. They give out Axies (required to play) as a scholarship to people and then take a piece of their earnings from the game. The guest described how people in the Philippines make an average of ~$3,600/year and by playing Axie for 4 hours a day they can earn closer to $12,000/year, approaching the median income of ~$12,955. Based off of those numbers, it seems that people can earn an average wage of ~$8.20/hour playing Axie ($12,000/(365 days * 4 hours) or $32.80/day.
They do this by selling two of the crypto assets generated through game play. AXS (1.8Bn market cap) and SLP (169M market cap). Making money by playing video games is not new—Chinese people were known to farm gold on World of Warcraft and sell it on Ebay, etc. and many Venezuelans play Runescape full-time because the income is more stable than what they can earn in their native currency. However, those markets have always been gray—somewhat tolerated but a violation of the ToS—and you could have your account banned and lose all of your earnings, which potentially means you can’t feed your family. Whereas, as long as you abide by Axie’s ToS, you know that you can swap your assets into the highly liquid market and convert them to stable coins, Ethereum, Bitcoin, etc.
My friend Zach released, minted, and sold the first narrative feature film as a 1-of-1 NFT. His film, He Who Lives In Hidden Lakes, is now available for streaming on Amazon Video.
He is now building a Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) around the intellectual property in the film. His plan is to build out a cinematic universe where ownership is collectively shared through members of his DAO. The plan is to ensure that the cult fans can benefit from the success of his project and receive rewards for adding-value to the universe, by developing their own lore, helping with marketing, and creating memes and adjacent projects. The possibilities are endless and the vision will continue to adapt as the relevant technology is further developed.
NFTs and tokenized DAOs allow creators to bootstrap their initial networks by creating powerful incentive alignment. In this paradigm, users are also owners. Without these incentives, competing with a more established player would be much more difficult.
At present, if I had to take a bet on which upstart might be able to rival the Z*ckerverse, or at least parts of it, Nifty Island would be my choice. Their gameverse is not live but I love the vision and they have a highly engaged early community.
Nifty Island aims to be a mix between Roblox, Animal Crossing, and Open Sea. Each player will receive an island when they join, which they can customize with a mix of built-in elements and home-made art. You will be able to meet up with your friends and play games, engage with your existing NFTs, and buy, trade, and sell [mini-]games and artifacts to other users. And who knows what else!
This is a look at how the terrain system will work. The more important content to consume, if you’re interested in learning more, are these two long-form interviews with one of the co-founders, Charles, here and here.
Facebook has the users, it has its own native token, it has an VR company and developers, and it may even have the right talking points. But it goes with the old saying “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” They may claim that their digital world is going to be open and artist, developer friendly. But that’s how both Facebook and Instagram started as well.
First it was open and the spaces were made beautiful through the hard work of a diverse set of people. Now they’re down-ranking and banning creators who don’t fit within a certain deviation from the norm. If you build on Facebook’s digital land, you should expect to become a digital serf.
The Nyft team is positioning themselves as radically open and player owned. They’re making intentional decisions to ensure their world will not just be dominated by a few early entrants. Other gameverses have a fixed amount of digital land and are essentially allowing their friends to come in and buy up the prime real estate. Now they can just sit on it and wait for the value to rise. Literally recreating the worst part of our present reality, the dynamics that are wreaking havoc on cities like San Francisco and New York City.
In juxtaposition, Nifty Island is going to give everyone an island when they join and the map will be dynamic. By contributing to the world and adding value, you will be rewarded. The dynamics will encourage new people to bring their talents to their ecosystem long after launch. Of course being early will give you certain rewards and opportunities, assuming the project succeeds. But they’re avoiding the model of gifting the ‘first district’ of a new city to friends and family and damning everyone else to a sort of digital homelessness.
If this project is interesting to you and you’re an elite front-end developer, please reach out to me. I would like to make an introduction to Charles. This is not sponsored content but he is offering a finder’s fee and I’d love for them to win.
I hope this brief introduction to the world of gameverses was interesting for you. Please reach out if you’d be interested in learning more. As someone who is interested in building community, in-person and online, these projects and their dynamics are incredibly interesting to me.
Maybe one day we’ll all be vibing on my island, as we plan an in-person meetup in Austin, or elsewhere!
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