September 17, 2022
Issue No. 20
EDWIN ONG, JOEL COLON, ASHRAF AHMAD
Welcome to this week's AtherXplorer, covering the latest in gaming, blockchain, and everything in between.
This week’s top picks include:
- Blockchain & Defi: Ethereum Transitions to PoS; Ronin Onboards Google Cloud
- NFTs: Doodles Raises $54M; San Diego Car Wash’s Higher Demand with NFTs
- Web3 & Metaverse: BAYC NFT Band to Make Music With Beyoncé & Timberlake-Linked Producers; Ubisoft Cools-off on NFTs and Blockchain
- Gaming: First NFT Game at Epic Games Store Goes Live; Cyberpunk2077’s Edgerunners is a Hit!
- Ather Labs’ Backers: Bitkraft Participates in $5.5M Raise for Ruckus Game Studio
Blockchain & DeFi Developments
Ethereum Transitions to Proof-of-Stake
Ethereum has completed the Merge this week, combining its Execution Layer and Consensus Layer - and with it, the successful transition to Proof-of-Stake. Major Headlines pertaining to Ethereum’s Merge are as Follows: 1. Ethereum’s Carbon Footprint Down 99.99% 2. SEC Chairman’s Comments on PoS Ethereum as a Security 3. Centralization Risks of PoS Ethereum (Coinbase and Lido contribute over 40% of blocks)
Earning Cryptocurrency via Opt-In Ads
Many Crypto Enthusiasts would have heard of and are using the Brave Web Browser, a Chromium-based browser that allows you to earn a cryptocurrency, $BAT via opt-in ads while surfing the Web. A new browser extension, compatible with Chromium-based browsers like Google Chrome and Brave, was released recently by Adtech Startup Slice, which would effectively allow users of the Brave Browser to double dip on their Ad rewards. Users are able to install the free extension and be rewarded for viewing ads, which can then be exchanged and converted to Bitcoin.
Ronin Network Onboards Google Cloud as a Validator
In the aftermath of the Ronin Network $500 Million hack in March, Sky Mavis has been onboarding more validators in order to secure its network. Its efforts have seen a doubling of the Network’s Validators, from 9 to 18 in the past 6 months, with an eventual target of 21 Validators representing different interest groups - from Gaming Guilds like YGG, Analytics Firms, Nansen and Dappradar, and Game Publisher, Animoca Brands.
NFT Collection Doodles Raises $54M
Non-fungible token (NFT) collection Doodles has raised $54 million at a $704 million valuation, according to the feed.
“We are using the funding to rapidly acquire a world-class team of engineers, creatives, marketers, and business executives. As well as to fund product development, acquisitions, proprietary technology, media, and collector experiences,” the Doodles team tweeted.
Starbucks to Offer NFT-Based Loyalty Program Using Polygon's Blockchain Technology
Starbucks is set to begin a non-fungible token (NFT)-based loyalty program with the blockchain technology provided by Polygon.
The company's Starbucks Odyssey will allow customers to purchase and earn digital collectible stamps in the form of an NFT that offers benefits and immersive experiences.
The program is to be built on Polygon's proof-of-stake network, a scaling tool that sits on top of the Ethereum network. Applications that run on Polygon and other scalers can avoid some of the high costs and low transaction speeds caused by congestion on Ethereum's main network.
Customers can now join a wait list to gain access to Starbucks Odyssey.
Yuga Labs to Launch New Collection
Yuga Labs, the startup that developed the Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) series of non-fungible tokens (NFTs), plans to launch a new NFT series, “Mecha Apes”
The new collection of NFTs is aimed at raising $50 million and 100,000 metaverse parcels. There’s not much information on the Mecha Apes collection at the moment, but the Otherdeeds have featured a thing called a “Mecha Piece.”
Yuga Labs describes the Otherdeeds as a place where “players will be able to interact at the same time in a single place, connect with natural voice chat (even in crowds of thousands), experience rich, immersive gameplay supported by AI and physics, and move between metaverses.”
This new “Mecha Apes” collection may bring in some massive value and additional utility required for the Otherdeeds ecosystem to kick off!
New York’s Museum of Modern Art Considers Buying NFTs With Proceeds of $70M Auction
New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is considering buying non-fungible tokens (NFT) with some of the proceeds of an auction of William S. Paley's art collection, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The museum plans to sell $70 million worth of the collection gathered by the founder of the CBS broadcasting network, which it has been holding since he died in 1990, the Journal said. The collection includes Pablo Picasso’s 1919 "Guitar on a Table" as well as works by Renoir and Rodin. Sotheby's will auction off 29 of Paley's 81 pieces at MoMA this later this year.
The museum's director, Glenn Lowry, said the intention is to extend the digital reach of the museum after attendances slumped during and after the pandemic. The museum has a team of people keeping tabs on the digital art market and it is considering purchasing digital art connected to NFTs, Lowry said.
San Diego Car Wash Uses NFTs to Drive Up Demand
Soapy Joe’s car wash, located in San Diego, CA, has seen an increase in customers visiting multiple of its car wash locations after adding digital collectibles to its list of membership benefits.
Soapy Joe’s began its own NFT campaign at the beginning of July.
The campaign consists of a scavenger hunt that requires them to visit each of of the 17 Soapy Joe’s locations to collect Ethereum-based NFTs. The more NFTs a customer collects, the more rewards are unlocked, ranging from physical key chains and hats to amusement park tickets and a free annual membership to the car wash.
“We are seeing numbers that we have never seen in our 11-year history in terms of people going to multiple sites,” Anne Mauler, Soapy Joe’s vice president of marketing, told CoinDesk in an interview. “They are blowing it out of the water.”
Some determined customers have even decided to make sure their cars are sparkly clean in the process.
Bored Ape NFT Band to Make Music With Beyoncé, Timberlake-Linked Producers
A pair of Grammy award-winning producers tied to hit acts from Beyoncé to Justin Timberlake are helping to create music for a non-fungible token (NFT) band made up of Bored Apes.
James Fauntleroy and Hit-Boy, the producers and songwriters, are creating the discography for Kingship, the BAYC band created last November by Universal Music Group’s crypto culture-focused sublabel 10:22PM.
The addition of Kingship’s first producers could give the band a sound whereas before there was just an image: the non-fungible token (NFT) status symbol of Bored Ape Yacht Club.
Fauntleroy and Hit-boy will develop each Bored Ape band member’s sound. The head of UMG’s crypto sublabel was already constructing an extensive storyline, albums, and metaverse concerts for the four-member team. UMG plans to sell access to the band’s output as NFTs as well.
JPMorgan: China’s Metaverse-Related Economy Could Reach $4T
The metaverse will have “profound implications” for China and will affect gaming, advertising, and e-commerce, JPMorgan said in a research report last week.
The digital world will offer an improved user experience across various internet business models, and this could lead to increased user penetration and average revenue per user (ARPU), the report said. The bank’s bullish scenario suggests that the metaverse could triple China’s online-gaming market to $131 billion from $44 billion.
The metaverse “could digitalize everything in the long term,” the bank said. It estimates a $4 trillion total addressable market (TAM) for the metaverse in China from “converting offline consumption across physical goods and services.”
The digital world could “help internet companies tap into business services and potentially double the internet time spent,” analysts led by Daniel Chen wrote. They estimated a TAM of $27 billion in China for business services and software in the metaverse.
The bank says that the development of the metaverse will also have a notable impact on the entire technology, media, and telecom (TMT) ecosystem.
Ubisoft Cools-off on NFTs and Blockchain, Says it’s in ‘Research Mode’
Yves Guillemot, the CEO of French gaming giant Ubisoft, appears to have cooled the rhetoric behind the company’s nonfungible token (NFT) gaming project Quartz, noting in a recent interview that it was merely in “research mode” concerning Web3 tech integrations.
It’s a relatively different take from other Ubisoft execs in the past, including chief financial officer Frédérick Duguet who in October stated that blockchain integrations will enable users to own and earn content and the firm wants to “be one of the key players here.”
During a Saturday interview with gamesindustry.biz, Guillemot appears to be walking some of those comments back, emphasizing that at this stage, Ubisoft is primarily looking to discover how NFTs can be applied to games and whether they will benefit gamers or not.
“We are very much on cloud, on the new generation of voxels, and we’re looking at all the Web3 capabilities. We tested a few things recently that are giving us more information on how it can be used and what we should do in the universe of video games,” he said, adding that:
“So we are testing ground with some games, and we’ll see if they really answer the players’ needs. But we are still in research mode, I would say.”
Games & Blockchain Gaming
First NFT Game at Epic Games Store Goes Live!
Mythical Games launched its Blankos Block Party on the Epic Games Store, making it the first Web3 game to release its official launch on the platform.
Blankos Block Party is a vibrant open-world multiplayer game styled like a giant block party, with a focus on custom art and design, building and exploration, and curating a collection of unique and rare Blankos. The game is also Free to Play with the option for purchasable in-game cosmetics, accessories, and limited edition Blankos!
The game is free-to-play and available to download today in early access with the full game launch on September 28, which will feature Blankos Block Party’s Season One content.
Cyberpunk2077’s Newly Released Anime Series is a Hit!
CD Projekt Red joins the ranks of other gaming studios that have launched a Netflix series based on their videogame.
The new anime series titled “Cyberpunk: Edgerunners” launched earlier this week on Netflix and is already being called the best anime of 2022 by critics and fans alike.
The series follows David, a street kid trying to survive in Night City. In the story, David becomes an edgerunner – a mercenary outlaw.
There are many publications online that gave the anime high scores in their reviews. One such publication is IGN. In their review, they called Edgerunners “an exhilarating 10-episode series” that bodes well for the future of the Cyberpunk series.
If you’re down to binge, the show is currently streaming on Netflix.
SKYPlay: All-in-One Earning Platform
SKY Play introduced a new advanced concept of “eP2E (easy play-to-earn)” with easier ways to “earn” for the users who might feel frustrated participating in traditional P2E. SKYPLAY Inc plans to continuously develop and publish a series of eP2E games based on the Ethereum Layer 2 blockchains, the Polygon (MATIC) network in addition to their very first game CoinGrid.
Prior to the SKYPlay platform's official launch at the end of this year, its stability and reliability will be ensured by featuring key functions including the SWAP system and the Marketplace for NFT transactions in sequential orders.
Sang-ok Chang, the CEO of SKYPLAY Inc. said, "We are expanding user-pool with events and community activities based on user communities already established in over 170 countries. SKYPlay will create NFT contents that cater to varied lifestyles alongside popular casual games to ensure the 'sustainability' and 'stability' of the platform. We will build an open ecosystem that will grow with users by incorporating user-friendly innovation and technology."
Square Enix Joins Oasys Blockchain
Square Enix, the Japanese game developer behind the beloved Final Fantasy franchise, has signed on as a node validator for blockchain gaming project Oasys, a gaming-oriented blockchain advertised as a “high-speed, zero gas fee experience” for users. As part of the deal, the duo has plans to create new blockchain games together!
This decision also cost them IP rights for games like Tomb Raider, Legacy of Kain, and Thief. According to their announcement in the same month, the step was taken due to their new plans to establish new studios and acquisitions in the future.
“From having fun to earning to contributing, a wide variety of motivations will inspire people to engage with games and connect with one another. It is blockchain-based tokens that will enable this. By designing viable token economies into our games, we will enable self-sustaining game growth.” Matsuda wrote
Ather Labs’ Backers
Bitkraft Participates in $5.5M Raise for Ruckus Game Studio
Ather Labs’ backer, Bitkraft, participates in a funding round for Ruckus Games, a game studio started by former Gearbox and Riot Games developers. The funding round has raised $5.5 million in seed funding.
The Frisco, Texas-based company is building a cross-platform cooperative game built with proprietary procedural technology and a “whole lot of style,” said Paul Sage, CEO of Ruckus, in an interview with GamesBeat. Ruckus is a fully remote, developer-first studio dedicated to making sure every member of their team has a voice.
Magic Eden Defends Launch of NFT Royalty Enforcement Tool
Solana-based non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace Magic Eden has fended off some community backlash following the launch of MetaShield, its new enforcement tool aimed at deterring NFT buyers who bypass creator royalties, by flagging and blurring NFTs that were sold while bypassing creator royalties.
There were mixed reactions from the NFT community following its launch on September 12, who were split on whether NFT marketplaces should protect creator rights or cut royalty fees to make NFTs cheaper for collectors.
In an eight-part Twitter post on Wednesday, Magic Eden defended its new tool, noting that some of the “hardest working creators today” are getting “punished” by “custom” royalty marketplaces.
The new tool came only a few weeks after NFT marketplace X2Y2 introduced a new feature that affords buyers with the discretion to decide whether they pay a royalty fee — and, if so, how much — when buying an NFT.
Magic Eden cleared the air in its most recent thread, noting that it launched MetaShield in order to protect creators, rather than punish buyers.
“Most people recognize that zero royalty marketplaces for all creators shouldn’t become the ecosystem norm,” argued Magic Eden. “What we do is experiment, collaborate, and ship. MetaShield might not be perfect, but it provides an option to creators in this debate.”
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