September 24, 2022
Issue No. 21
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: Cardano’s Vasil Hard-Fork - Upgrading to Plutus v2
- NFTs: Funko Teams Up With Warner Brothers for NFT Release in Retail Stores
- Web3 & Metaverse: Bandai Namco & SEGA Among Giants Eyeing Blockchain Gaming; Christina Aguilera Files NFT and Metaverse Trademark Applications
- Gaming: Zilliqa to Launch Web3 Games Console In Early 2023
- Legal Landscape: Enforcement and Legislation - Crypto Crimes Around the World
Blockchain & DeFi Developments
Stablecoin News - Coin98’s New Stablecoin; Requests for Tether’s Financial Records
Another week, another stablecoin issuer. Coin98 has launched its new fully collateralized stablecoin, CUSD, which can be minted at a 1:1 ratio with USDC or BUSD on the Ethereum, BNB Smart Chain, and Solana chains. The race between DeFi protocols to create their own stablecoins have been heating up, with Curve and Aave expected to innovate in their own ways in the months to come. In related news, Tether has been ordered by a New York judge to produce financial records regarding the backing of USDT, alongside details about the accounts it holds at exchanges, Bitfinex, Poloniex, and Bittrex, reported Coindesk. This is related to a lawsuit that alleges that Tether’s issuances of USDT have caused $1.4T USD in damages to the market.
Cardano’s Vasil Hard-Fork - Upgrading to Plutus v2
Cardano will begin a five-day upgrade starting from 22 Sept 2022, carrying out its Vasil hard-fork.
This will bring Cardano’s scripting language, Plutus to its second version, which is intended to enrich the chain’s smart contract capabilities, increase throughput, and reduce transaction costs.
Funko Teams Up With Warner Brothers for DC Comics' NFT Release in Retail Stores
Funko is taking another step into the crypto space, teaming up with Warner Brothers to offer a physical and digital comic book collectible exclusively through retail giant Walmart.
The “phygital” bundle includes a comic book cover from DC’s “The Brave and the Bold,” in both printed form and as a non-fungible token (NFT) redeemable online.
DC fans who purchase the collectible can connect their crypto wallet and claim the NFT online, minted on the World Asset eXchange blockchain (WAX) – a network that supports 60 million NFTs (including ones issued previously by Funko, Topps, Atari, and other mainstream brands) and 30,000 dapps.
Starting Oct. 7, Funko will begin selling the 30,000-unit “Brave and the Bold” collection at Walmart.
NFT Project Okay Bears Signs Licensing Deal with IMG
Okay Bears, a successful Solana-based non-fungible token (NFT) project, is teaming up with global entertainment leader IMG to launch consumer products and experiences.
The deal places IMG as the exclusive global licensing representative for the community-focused project, which consists of 10,000 well-dressed bears sold in the form of PFP NFTs.
Co-founded by graphic designer Kais and former engineer Suby, the project has promised merch drops, live events and brand collaborations for its holders, who rally behind the message "We're All Gonna Be Okay." Bruno Maglione, president of licensing at IMG, said that the Okay Bears' "brand message and values" will be reflected in future creative collaborations and products.
Bandai Namco, SEGA Among Video Game Giants Eyeing Blockchain Gaming
Japanese gaming giants are positioning for mainstream blockchain game adoption and will not be swayed by the section of gamers that are against crypto and nonfungible tokens (NFTs), an executive from the Oasys blockchain project told Cointelegraph.
Speaking to Cointelegraph at the 2022 Tokyo Games Show last week, Oasys representative director Ryo Matsubara emphasized that the project’s big-name partners such as Bandai Namco, Sega, and Square Enix are not just jumping on the crypto bandwagon — there’s a long-term vision for blockchain-based gaming:
“We have a shared vision about blockchain at the executive level. They don’t [want to] change that policy. They really understand the future adoption of blockchain. They’re not thinking about, you know, just the revenue, they want to create the next future [of gaming].”
Questioned whether these companies are looking to integrate blockchain tech with their current gaming franchises, Matsubara suggested that they are initially looking at developing brand new blockchain games instead.
He noted that as this is a completely “new model” of gaming, it needs more time to mature before these big companies will look at broader blockchain integrations with traditional games.
“When the model is fixed, becomes sustainable and successful, then strong [popular] IP will be added,” he said.
Looking at what needs to be improved in blockchain gaming, Matsubara noted that a “big problem” so far is that many projects are too dependent on the price of in-game tokens. As a result, there is more demand for “speculation” rather than the gameplay itself.
He went on to note that there will be an “adjustment” over time as projects work to develop genuine hype for the games themselves, most likely by improving the overall gaming experience.
MyMetaverse Implements NFTs into its Minecraft and GTA 5 servers
Despite Minecraft creator Mojang Studios being against the integration of nonfungible tokens (NFT), a Metaverse-focused firm managed to introduce NFTs into several games including its own Minecraft server.
According to Kertonegoro, Minecraft’s rules on NFTs have been about protecting players from negative experiences, and many servers have violated these rules. However, the executive highlighted that within their own servers, they are able to introduce NFTs without violating the game's guidelines. They do this by not having any pay-to-win NFTs and making their best NFTs free to earn. He explained that:
“We wanted to show Mojang that it could be done in a way that benefited them and benefited their player base and benefited the gaming industry as a whole. It's obviously not you know, it's not the fastest way to get people jumping in your server. [...] But we knew that that was the right way to do it.”
Apart from Minecraft, the NFTs created by MyMetaverse also have an interoperability aspect and can be used in other games like the firm’s Grand Theft Auto 5 (GTAV) server and its own massively multiplayer online (MMO) game, Infinity Realm. Kertonegoro explained that:
“These different games, read the user's wallet, see that they own the NFT, and provide them different benefits in the games. [...] In Minecraft, this NFT is a sword. In GTA the NFT is a car and in Infinity Realms, the NFT is a house.”
Christina Aguilera Files NFT and Metaverse-related Trademark Applications
American singer, songwriter, actress, and television personality Christina Aguilera has filed a trademark application signaling her plans to enter the metaverse and NFT market.
According to the application, submitted to the USPTO on September 16, the world-famous singer aims to provide:
- Crypto collectibles;
- Virtual goods, namely, art, avatars, clothing, headwear, footwear, jewelry, beauty products, and more;
- Musical performances, music concerts, and virtual appearances in the metaverse.
Sandbox Metaverse Hosts its First Hybrid Wedding on its Metaverse
The bride and groom, Singaporean couple Joanne Tham and Clarence Chan, CEO of music company Bandwagon, celebrated their matrimony on Saturday in a “70s disco glam” themed wedding, which took place in a digital replica of Singapore's famous Alkaff Mansion.
While the couple was physically present at a real-world hotel venue along with some guests, their digital avatars were also present within The Sandbox metaverse and could be seen by guests who joined remotely. The event was officiated by The Sandbox co-founder and chief operations officer Sebastien Borget in a digital avatar form.
Following their first virtual kiss as husband and wife, the couple exited the Metaverse to continue their celebrations offline.
Games & Blockchain Gaming
Zilliqa to Launch Web3 Games Console In Early 2023
Layer-1 blockchain Zilliqa is preparing to dive into the world of Web3 gaming, with the launch of a hardware console and gaming hub.
A prototype version of the console was unveiled today, showcasing a sleek design with an array of ports including HDMI, Ethernet, and USB-C and USB 3.0 connections. Full specifications for the console remain under wraps, though Zilliqa touts its user-friendliness, with Web3 capabilities including a crypto wallet and mining integrated to "hide the complexity of Web3 from the end-user," according to a press release shared with Decrypt.
Zilliqa’s engineers spent six months in the research phase, designing and testing the console with the intent of seamlessly integrating Web3 aspects—crypto wallet, mining software, blockchain tech—into a recognizable gaming experience.
THNDR Games Launches Play-to-Earn Bitcoin Solitaire Mobile Game
Bitcoin gaming company, THNDR Games, has released a play-to-earn (P2E) mobile version of Solitaire called Club Bitcoin: Solitaire. The game will allow players to earn bitcoin (BTC) while playing one of the most popular and most recognizable card games of all time.
THNDR’s stated mission is “bringing [b]itcoin to the world through mobile games”. This particular game will target women and emerging markets. 63% of all women play mobile games and roughly 60% of THNDR’s users hail from emerging markets, making Club Bitcoin: Solitaire an ideal product for the company’s target audience.
Italy's AC Milan Launches NFT Game With MonkeyLeague
The new wide-ranging, strategic, and design partnership between MonkeyLeague and AC Milan includes creating exclusive, Rossoneri-branded NFT game assets, wearables, special game tournaments, co-marketing events, and a host of other exciting initiatives, such as club players playtesting the game.
As part of the deal, MonkeyLeague will work closely with the Italian Champions to launch a new collection of branded AC Milan NFT game assets, including new MonkeyPlayers, skins, and Stadiums. The first and more exclusive batch will be auctioned on 6 October on MagicEden, with the NFTs going to the highest bidders. Some of the highly-sought after AC Milan MonkeyPlayers to be auctioned will come with physical AC Milan jerseys signed by the entire Club.
In addition, MonkeyLeague will launch its initial MonkeyPlayer NFT breeding season in partnership with AC Milan where AC Milan branded assets can randomly come out through the breeding process. There will also be additional NFTs available, including in-game Stadiums and land.
TravelX NFT Marketplace Officially Launched with Tokenized Travel Products
TravelX, a marketplace for tokenized travel products, went live on Wednesday with the offering of inventory of the low-cost Argentine airline Flybondi.
The platform currently offers 2.5 million tickets, which are tokenized when purchased and converted into NFTs called NFTickets, TravelX Chief Blockchain Officer Facundo Martin Diaz told CoinDesk.
After acquiring an NFTicket, a customer can auction, sell, transfer, gift, or exchange them through a peer-to-peer system on TravelX, Diaz said.
To purchase tickets on the platform, users can fund the TravelX wallet — which also serves to manage the NFTickets — or pay via BinancePay. Diaz added that the company is in talks to integrate other exchanges.
TravelX is built on the Algorand blockchain and made its infrastructure open so that other companies — such as exchanges or marketplaces — can use TravelX's APIs to create their own marketplaces.
Within six to 12 months, the platform hopes to incorporate the inventory of more than 60 airlines, with a special focus on Latin American and European operators. In 2023, Diaz said the company will focus more on the U.S. and Middle East.
OpenSea Implements a New Protocol that Ranks NFT Rarity
NFT marketplace OpenSea announced the implementation of OpenRarity, a protocol that provides verifiable rarity calculations for NFTs within its platform. The protocol uses a transparent mathematical approach to calculating rarity.
OpenSea said that rare NFTs will be awarded lower numbers like 1 or 2, while NFTs that have attributes similar to many other NFTs will have higher numbers. With this, the marketplace highlighted that buyers would be able to view a reliable “rarity ranking” when considering purchasing NFTs.
The feature will not be automatically applied to all NFT collections. According to the NFT marketplace, creators will still have control if they want to choose to apply the OpenRarity feature to their collections or not.
The OpenRarity project was a collaborative effort between various NFT community entities, including Curio, icy.tools, OpenSea, and Proof. The goal is to standardize the rarity methodology and provide consistent rarity rankings across all NFT platforms.
NFT Marketplace OpenSea now Supports Ethereum L2 — Arbitrum
OpenSea announced the support of Arbitrum earlier this week via Twitter. The marketplace said that starting Wednesday, creators would be able to set fees associated with selling NFTs on the network.
OpenSea said it’s planning to support several collections already minting on Arbitrum, including Smolverse, GMX Blueberry Club, and Diamond Pepes.
PGA Tour Links With Autograph for Multi-Year NFT Platform Partnership
The PGA, golf’s premier professional tour, has partnered with U.S. football quarterback Tom Brady’s non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace Autograph to create its own dedicated NFT platform.
The multi-year tie-up will lead to NFT content created from the PGA’s archive of videos and player data, with all of the platform’s revenue going back into the players’ pockets, according to a report from Sportico. The new NFT platform is set to launch sometime in early 2023.
National Policies & Legal Updates
Enforcement and Legislation - Crypto Crimes Around the World
Governments around the world have made comments or changes to their legislation pertaining to crypto-related crimes this week: 1. The United Kingdom announced a bill to allow enforcement agencies to seize, freeze and recover crypto assets when identified to be related to crimes. 2. United States courts have ruled that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can compel banks to provide information on customers who are suspected to owe taxes related to crypto transactions 3. South Korea released information that approximately $8B USD of ‘abnormal’ transfer transactions were related to cryptocurrency exchanges since June 2022.
Government Crypto Ambitions - Indonesia and Iran
The Indonesia Government, amidst growing interest in cryptocurrencies in the country, has taken active steps in propelling crypto within its borders: 1. Cryptocurrencies as a commodity to be ‘exported’ 2. Tightening regulations for crypto operations in Indonesia; 2/3 of directors must be Indonesians residing within the country Iran has also taken a step forward towards digitization this week, with the introduction of a Central Bank Digital Currency pilot program, although its intentions are likely to circumvent the wide economic sanctions placed on it, reports Coindesk.
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