February 4, 2023
Issue No. 40
Welcome to this week's AtherXplorer, covering the latest in gaming, blockchain, and everything in between.
This week’s top picks include:
- Blockchain & Defi: BNB Chain to Offer Decentralized Storage System; Cardano-Based Stablecoin Attracts $27M Backing…
- Gaming: Apex Legends Mobile & Other Mobile Games’ Shutdown; Supercell Reveals IP Mash-Up Squad Busters
- Web3 & Metaverse: Ready Player Me Launches Generative AI Avatar Creator Trial; Meta's Metaverse Division Lost $137B in 2022
- NFTs: Steve Aoki & Seth Green Let NFT Holders Shape Animated Short; Nouns Comic Books Turn NFTs Into…
- Legal Landscape: Australia Introduces Crypto Assets Classification; CFTC Head Looks To New Congress For Action On Crypto Regulation
Blockchain & DeFi Developments
Binance’s BNB Chain to Offer New Decentralized Storage System
Binance’s blockchain network BNB Chain released on Wednesday morning the white paper for BNB Greenfield, a new decentralized data storage system that will round out Binance’s existing decentralized network.
The decentralized storage system with smart contract-integrated Web3 applications will be powered by BNB tokens, according to the project announcement. The system aims to grant users and decentralized applications (dapps) complete ownership of their data, allowing the system to support website hosting, publishing, data storage, and personal cloud applications.
Community developer teams from Amazon Web Services, NodeReal, and Blockdaemon aim to launch the BNB Greenfield testnet within the next few months, according to the white paper.
The BNB Chain's newest decentralized offering comes at a time when Binance is ramping up its influence in the decentralized finance space in the wake of the collapses of several high-profile centralized crypto exchanges. The network’s previous iteration, Binance Smart Chain (BSC), attracted criticism for being too centralized and susceptible to rug pulls.
Structured Finance Platform Intain Opens Tokenized Marketplace for Asset-Backed Securities
Structured finance platform Intain has launched a “tokenized marketplace” for asset-backed securities, according to an announcement this week.
The platform is expected to open up access to asset-backed securities to a broader range of investors, including retail investors and institutions. The platform also aims to reduce the cost and complexity of the issuance and trading of asset-backed securities.
Ava Labs, the company behind the layer 1 protocol Avalanche, said this is the first structured finance marketplace that combines tokenized issuance and investment with end-to-end administration on-chain.
Avalanche was the company’s choice of protocol because of its subnet architecture, which allows Intain to create a permissioned network for select financial institutions while complying with particular regulatory frameworks, Intain said in its statement.
Cardano-Based Djed Stablecoin Attracts $27M in ADA Tokens as Reserve Backing
Djed, a new stablecoin project built atop the Cardano blockchain, has attracted $27 million in ADA tokens as backing for its reserves.
The project is the first stablecoin to be built on the Cardano blockchain, according to its founders. Djed is a stablecoin backed by other tokens and requires between 400% and 800% in collateral value to be posted before it is issued to a user.
The project has attracted backers from the Cardano community, with $10 million worth of ADA tokens being locked up to back the stablecoin’s reserve. This is a significant amount of capital for a project that is still in its early stages, and the Djed team has stated that the backing will help to ensure the long-term stability of the stablecoin.
Games & Blockchain Gaming
Manticore Games Launches NFT Collection With Mekaverse Developers
Manticore Games, developer of the Core Games platform, has teamed up with developer MekaVerse on a new collection of non-fungible tokens (NFTs). The collection, Meka-Drivers, is set to launch today and will deliver real utility for the buyers in the game. Players will be able to turn their 2D PFPs into fully customizable and playable 3D avatars in the Core Games platform, home to more than 50,000 games, live events, concerts, and more.
The collection will mint 8,888 pieces today at 11 a.m. Pacific time with the full reveal of the collection coming next week. Meka-Driver owners will be able to see their unique 2D NFT transformed and fully realized as beautifully rendered, 3D characters playable in Core. The collaboration introduces new content and features, including a new social hub in Core, the Meka-Citadel, where Drivers can chat and meet other Core players and explore. It also includes the Meka-Hangar and the Training Ground, two exclusive areas for Meka NFT owners where players will be able to spawn and play with their Meka and Drivers.
Players who own a Mekabot NFT can spawn it as a pet in the hub, with exclusive MekaVerse emotes and customization options for owners of multiple Meka-Drivers. Players access portals to join other worlds. This collaboration brings new interactive utility for NFTs, exciting the MekaVerse and Core communities.
Apex Legends Mobile to Close, Battlefield Mobile Cancelled, Industrial Toys Shuttered
EA has announced that the development of Apex Legends Mobile and Battlefield Mobile has been ceased and developer Industrial Toys will be shut down.
Respawn said that the content pipeline for Apex Legends Mobile has failed to meet the bar for quality, quantity, and cadence, leading to the mutual decision to close the game. Although disappointing, the team is proud of the game they launched and is confident this was the right decision for players.
EA also announced that the studio behind Battlefield Mobile, Industrial Toys, will close. The game was in soft launch on Google Play in five markets, but development will now stop as EA pivots from the current direction.
EA remains committed to unlocking Battlefield’s potential and is hard at work evolving Battlefield 2042 and pre-production on future Battlefield experiences at their studios across the globe.
Supercell Reveals IP Mash-Up Squad Busters
Supercell has made a huge announcement with the reveal of Squad Busters, a mash-up of characters from Hay Day, Boom Beach, both Clash games, and Brawl Stars. The company will be holding a closed beta test in Canada on February 6-16th on Android devices. The gameplay appears to be a top-down adventure with character collecting.
Players who take part in the closed beta will have their progress reset, however, Supercell has not released any further information on the game. Recently, Supercell transferred ownership of its village-builder Everdale to partner studio Metacore and canceled its second game, puzzler Clash Quest.
Brawl Stars has become a big success for Supercell, having accrued an estimated $1.25 billion in revenue and 355 million downloads as of December 2022. The company was also the eighth top-grossing mobile game publisher of 2022, according to data.
It will be interesting to see how Squad Busters evolves in the coming months and what kind of features it brings to the table.
Capcom and Crunchyroll Team Up for Street Fighter: Duel Mobile Game
Capcom and Crunchyroll are launching a new Street Fighter mobile game, Street Fighter: Duel, which will feature 2D brawling and RPG elements.
Players will be able to recruit and level up iconic characters from the Street Fighter series in order to take down Seth and Shadaloo’s army of mech clones.
Players can collect more than 40 characters, build up a team to take on levels, and play in real-time RPG combat or use auto-battle. Street Fighter: Duel will be launching in February in the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and select European countries including the UK.
Preregistration is now open on iOS and Android. Street Fighter: Duel is set to launch just months ahead of the series’ next mainline game, Street Fighter 6, which is set to release on June 2nd.
Web3 & Metaverse
Ready Player Me Launches Trial of Generative AI Avatar Creator
Ready Player Me is launching an experimental trial where players can use generative AI to craft their own avatar outfits. Combining user-generated content and generative AI is becoming a popular trend in gaming, and the avatar outfit customization feature is a project of Ready Player Me Labs, a new division focused on testing new ideas.
The project's goal is to create a more fun and creative experience for users and developers to create their own avatars. To achieve this, the company is leveraging DALL-E's generative AI art platform, which allows users to use text prompts to create their own avatar outfits. Ready Player Me wants to be the default provider of digital avatars for the metaverse, and so far has signed up over 6,000 apps and games.
The company also recently established partnerships with major brands such as L’Oreal, Adidas, BMW, Calvin Klein, New Balance, and more, to bring mainstream fashion and technology companies to the metaverse.
Ready Player Me Labs will be offered free to the public and will serve as a testing ground for new features prior to releasing them to the platform’s users. The company plans to add new experimental features to its Labs, including AI-based avatar stylization, gender-neutral body types, diverse body shapes, and age-preset options. They also plan to host new test features for the developers using Ready Player Me avatar creator in their apps, including advancements to the Avatar API, Unity, and Unreal SDKs.
Facebook Parent Meta's Metaverse Division Lost $137B in 2022
Facebook Reality Labs (FRL), the augmented and virtual reality arm of Facebook's parent company, Meta, continued to be a major financial burden for the company in 2022.
The division reported a loss of $13.7 billion for the year on revenue of $2.2 billion, an increase from the previous year. Despite this, CEO Mark Zuckerberg remains optimistic about FRL's future and believes the technology will become the baseline for all headsets and eventually augmented reality glasses. He also noted there are now over 200 virtual reality apps in the Meta ecosystem that have more than $1 million in revenue, and that more than 100 million WhatsApp users have created animated avatars since the feature was released last quarter.
Meta also reported fourth-quarter FRL revenue of $727 million and guided for first-quarter revenue of between $26 billion and $28.5 billion. Shares of Meta were up 20% to $184 in after-hours trading.
NFL and Roblox Team Up for Saweety Super Bowl Concert
The NFL is continuing to explore the potential of the metaverse, with the announcement of the first-ever virtual Super Bowl concert. Featuring hip-hop artist Saweetie, the concert will launch on Roblox during Super Bowl weekend and will be free to users in Rhythm City—a music-themed social roleplay experience built on Roblox.
The concert was developed in partnership with metaverse game developer Gamefam and sponsored by Intuit. It's one of several metaverse initiatives the NFL has launched recently, including NFL All Day—an NFT collectibles platform built on the Flow blockchain in partnership with Dapper Labs—and commemorative NFT ticket stubs at over 100 games in partnership with TicketMaster.
These metaverse experiments are part of a larger push by the NFL to bring fans together in an immersive, digital experience. Ed Kiang, the NFL’s VP of Video Gaming, described the virtual Super Bowl concert as “an anchor entertainment event bringing fans together in the metaverse.” With major brands like the NFL experimenting with the technology, and platforms like Roblox becoming increasingly popular, the metaverse is sure to continue to gain traction in the coming years.
Nouns Comic Books Turn Ethereum NFTs Into Unconstrained Anarchy
Nouns, the Ethereum NFT-based project building open-source IP, has already put its vibrant characters into a Super Bowl commercial, the annual Rose Parade, and elsewhere around the physical and digital worlds. Now they’re headed to bookstores and comic shops.
The project’s goal is to create a new type of comic book that is not constrained by the traditional publishing industry. Instead, comic books are created by a decentralized community of creators and readers, who can create, buy, and sell their own comic book creations.
The project’s creators believe that this type of unconstrained anarchy will enable a new type of creativity and freedom for creators.
Cool Cats Multi-Chain Expansion Makes Customizable NFTs Easier To Create
Cool Cats was one of the hottest profile picture projects to come out of the late 2021 NFT market boom, but prices declined sharply last year as collectors’ gripes piled up. Today the founders behind the project unveiled a new path forward with refreshed branding—and future expansion beyond Ethereum with customizable, full-body avatars.
Cool Cats and Cool Pets NFT holders will soon be airdropped a free Fracture NFT, which co-founder and Head of Content Robert Mehew described as “dynamic NFTs that enable a new storytelling experience via digital collectibles.” The Fracture NFTs will evolve as holders complete missions (or "Journeys") within the project's "World of Cooltopia" narrative, and eventually unveil potential rewards.
But the upcoming Explorers NFTs will represent a larger expansion of the Cool Cats project later this year, including customizable full-body avatars that can be used across multiple blockchain networks and brought into various supported apps and platforms.
Steve Aoki, Seth Green Will Let NFT Holders Shape Animated Short
Steve Aoki, the DJ and producer, and Seth Green, the actor and co-creator of “Robot Chicken,” have joined forces to create an animated short that will be shaped by NFT holders.
Each week, NFT holders can vote on how each new scene will conclude, and then the producers will film the segment accordingly.
It will all add up to a single stop-motion animated short that will be viewable by anyone via the Shibuya platform, but only NFT holders will be able to vote during production. Those holders will also receive a reward NFT in one of the various rarity levels, depending on how much they participated during the process.
Coinbase NFT Pauses Creator Drops, Insists Marketplace Is Not Shutting Down
Coinbase NFT, the cryptocurrency exchange's NFT marketplace, announced on Wednesday that it is “pausing” future NFT drops, though it is not shutting down its marketplace completely.
The company believes that this will help focus on other features and tools that creators have asked for. The move was possibly due to a shortage of staff, as Coinbase has laid off employees in the past year.
Coinbase NFT has released new features for its marketplace in an effort to attract new users, but according to a Dune Analytics dashboard, its efforts have not been very successful, with just $106 in total volume traded in the past 24 hours. This is dwarfed by rival marketplace OpenSea, which saw over $11.3 million in total volume traded in Ethereum NFTs just yesterday. Since its launch last year, Coinbase NFT has seen roughly $7.34 million in all-time total volume traded. Twitter users have cracked jokes about the marketplace's small user base in response to its announcement.
Coinbase insists that its mission for Coinbase NFT remains unchanged and they remain optimistic about their future as they continue building.
Sorare Premier League Football Soccer Partnership Brings Web3 Fantasy Sports To The Masses
Sorare, the blockchain-based fantasy sports game maker, has partnered with the English Premier League (EPL) to release cards based on players from all 20 of the league’s football clubs. The deal allows Sorare to reach soccer fans across the world, as well as expand into different sports such as basketball and baseball with partnerships with the NBA and MLB. The partnership also comes with new gameplay features like league-specific competitions, draft-based gameplay, and a salary capped-mode.
Sorare began with soccer when it launched in 2018 and has since grown to partner with nearly 300 clubs in 50 different leagues. This network effect between the various top-tier leagues will help keep fans engaged. Additionally, the company partnered with FIFA to launch a free-to-play version of its game for the 2022 World Cup which saw over 585,000 fans sign up.
The Premier League has been on the hunt for an NFT partner and while talks with rival ConsenSys for a four-year deal worth over $450 million collapsed, this partnership looks to be focused on long-term fan engagement. Sorare’s gameplay and slow-but-steady growth have helped it avoid the stigma of a get-rich-quick speculative asset. This deal signals that NFT and blockchain partnerships will be valued very differently in 2023 than in 2022.
National Policies & Legal Updates
Australia Introduces Crypto Assets Classification
Australia has recently opened a public consultation on its own taxonomy of crypto assets. The national regulators propose to distinguish four major types of products related to the crypto industry: crypto asset services, such as lending and borrowing, fiat on/off ramping, crypto token trading, funds management, mining/staking-as-a-service, gambling, and custody; intermediated crypto assets, such as stablecoins; network tokens which are “new types of currencies”; and smart contracts which exist on a spectrum from “intermediated” to “public.”
The consultation paper does not provide any legislative initiatives, but its authors anticipate a relatively easy tailoring of existing laws for a large portion of the crypto ecosystem. The treasury will wait for feedback up until March 3, and the next major step of a national regulatory discussion will come with a release of a similar paper on the possible licensing and custody framework for crypto in mid-2023.
Meanwhile, the UK Treasury has also published its consultation paper for the crypto regulation, emphasizing the lack of necessity in the separate legislation and the capacity of the existing Financial Services and Markets Act to cover digital assets.
US Congress to Hold Crypto Crash Hearing on Feb. 14
The United States Senate Banking Committee has scheduled a second hearing to explore the impact of a crypto market crash. On February 14th, the Senate Banking Committee will convene in a hearing titled “Crypto Crash: Why Financial System Safeguards are Needed for Digital Assets.” The hearing is the second one held by the Committee since the start of the 118th session of Congress.
The hearing follows the collapse of the crypto exchange FTX in December, which resulted in the first hearing concerning the company. The House Financial Services Committee is also expected to hold a second hearing on FTX sometime in 2023. At the time of publication, no hearing appeared on the committee schedule.
Senator Sherrod Brown will remain committee chair, but Senator Tim Scott will take over as ranking member following the departure of Pat Toomey. During the December hearing, Hollywood star Ben McKenzie, Shark Tank star and investor Kevin O’Leary, the Cato Institute’s Jennifer Schulp, and law professor Hilary Allen all testified. Former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried was scheduled to speak at the House Financial Services Committee hearing prior to his arrest in the Bahamas. It’s unclear who will speak at the February hearing.
The hearing is an opportunity for lawmakers to discuss the importance of financial system safeguards for digital assets. It is likely that the hearing will explore how the current financial system can be adapted to digital assets, as well as the potential for new regulations and laws to ensure the safety of digital asset investors.
CFTC Head Looks To New Congress For Action On Crypto Regulation
The United States Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Chair Rostin Behnam has called for action from the newly-formed Congress to regulate cryptocurrencies. He believes that regulation is necessary to protect customers and prevent financial failures and that the CFTC is well-positioned to fill any regulatory gaps. He has also requested a budget increase so that the CFTC can grow its enforcement team, which has already brought 69 crypto-related actions against fraudulent or illegal digital asset projects.
Behnam has suggested revisiting the Lummis-Gillibrand Responsible Financial Innovation Act, a bill first introduced in June 2022. This bill aims to address the roles of the CFTC and Securities and Exchange Commission with regards to crypto regulation.
The action taken by the CFTC and other regulatory bodies is important to ensure that digital assets are properly regulated and that investors are protected. With the new Congress in place, it is possible that the CFTC will be given additional authority to regulate digital assets. It remains to be seen what kind of legislation will be introduced in the coming months.
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