February 18, 2023
Issue No. 42
Welcome to this week's AtherXplorer, covering the latest in gaming, blockchain, and everything in between.
This week’s top picks include:
- Blockchain & Defi: Lido Yield Farming Event on Optimism; Theta Network to Enable Collaborative Machine Learning…
- Gaming: Square Enix Taps Polygon for Web3 ‘Symbiogenesis’; Dumb Ways to Die Passes 100M Downloads After TikTok Trend
- Web3 & Metaverse: Napster Acquires Web3 Music Startup Mint Songs; Sony Teams Up with Astar Network for Web3 Incubation Program…
- NFTs: GQ Magazine to Launch NFT Collection with Real-World Rewards; Limit Break: 10K DigiDaigaku NFTs Gone Instantly After Super Bowl Ad
- Legal Landscape: Wyoming Passes Bill to Prevent Forced Disclosure of Private Keys; Russia CBDC Pilot…
Blockchain & DeFi Developments
Lido Finance Kicks Off Yield Farming Event on Ethereum Scaler Optimism
In a move towards further decentralization and democratization, Lido Finance and Optimism have announced the launch of their joint yield farming program. Through this initiative, users who stake their Ethereum with Lido, move that staked Ethereum to Optimism, and provide liquidity for select token pairs will be rewarded with 1 million OP tokens from Optimism.
The OP token is the governance token of Optimism. This layer-2 scaling solution uses rollups to help scale the Ethereum network by moving activity off of the mainnet, batching it, and then executing this compressed data on the mainnet.
Lido Finance is the market’s largest liquid staking platform, letting users deposit a variety of proof-of-stake (PoS) tokens and earn rewards for doing so. Instead of needing 32 ETH, a whopping $49,000 today, to begin staking on Ethereum, users can instead deposit any amount into Lido and begin earning. The service is also available for Polygon, Solana, Polkadot, and Kusama.
In exchange for their ETH deposits, Lido users get the stETH token in return, which can then be used elsewhere in DeFi to earn yield or to borrow against. In this case, instead of migrating stETH to Optimism, users will move over to wrapped stETH (wstETH) which is more compatible and easier to integrate with crypto protocols.
The new program incentivizes great liquidity on Optimism by rewarding users with OP tokens. This extra yield can be earned if they turn to what Lido has called “priority pairs,” namely wstETH-ETH as well as a host of other stablecoin pools. Lido has named Aave, for example, as one project that would benefit from the program.
The LidoOnLayer2 initiative seeks to improve liquidity for Lido’s staked Ethereum (stETH) product across all layer-2 solutions, and the yield farming program is set to kick off today and end in six months.
Theta Network to Enable Collaborative Machine Learning with New Partnership
A partnership between Theta Labs and AI platform FedML is set to enable collaborative machine learning on content recommendation and generative AI. Theta’s Edge Network, which is operated by many decentralized nodes, is a good fit for distributed computing required for collaborative machine learning and other AI use cases. This will allow the Theta TV community to contribute personal preferences and compute resources in training and deploying AI models to enhance personalized recommendations and advertisements.
The partnership combines two visions to enable collaborative AI within the Web3 space, and unlocks a new use case for Theta’s edge nodes by unlocking AI and machine learning development at a “distributed, global level.” One of the most popular recently-released developments in the AI space has been ChatGPT, an AI helper tool developed by OpenAI.
HashEx CEO Dmitry Mishunin said that ChatGPT could either go great by enhancing security in the long term or wrong, like dystopian fiction. Nansen CEO Alex Svanevik spoke about how AI will be integrated into the crypto user experience, noting that it will play a major role in the future of the crypto space.
Web3 Communication App Goes After Twitter With $12.5M Seed Funding
Sending Labs, a startup focused on decentralized communications protocols, has raised $12.5M in seed funding to launch a Web3 communication stack. The platform is designed to provide secure communication infrastructure and guarantee digital assets ownership and transfer within community chats.
The seed funding was led by Insignia Venture Partners, MindWorks Capital and Signum Capital, and participated by K3 Ventures and Lingfeng Innovation Fund. This was accompanied by the launch of SendingNetwork and SendingMe, two messaging products to assist developers in building decentralized social applications and helping the community access an encrypted decentralized group chat platform.
The tools allow users to monetize their projects using smart contract payments and trading protocols through a wide variety of methods like peer-to-peer swaps, community marketplaces, crowdfunding, airdrops, gifting, auctioning, and more. The products are intended to help return data ownership back to the user, as Twitter recently banned third-party clients, and millions of FTX users were cut off from withdrawing assets.
The founders of Sending Labs, Joe Yu and Mason Yang, previously co-founded MoboTap and developed Dolphin, one of the earliest Android-based mobile browsers. The browser was named one of the best iPhone and iPad apps of 2011, reaching a community of 200 million users across the United States, Europe, and Japan.
With the launch of their new products, they are hoping to bring online communication to the next level by introducing it to Web3, enabling privacy-preserving communications and providing a secure way of transferring digital assets.
Games & Blockchain Gaming
Square Enix Taps Polygon for Web3 Experience ‘Symbiogenesis’
Square Enix, the Japanese game developer, and publisher, has partnered with Polygon to launch Symbiogenesis, an interactive Web3 digital collectible art experience. Leveraging the Polygon blockchain network, the project will offer players fast, secure, and sustainable transactions.
Players can explore a mysterious floating continent and unfold unique storylines with digital collectible art that represents different characters. They can also earn art by completing various missions, replicating and selling digital art for their character, and even deciding the ending of the story by meeting certain conditions.
Polygon provides an exceptional experience with its high transaction speeds, low gas fees, and overall user-friendliness. Furthermore, the network is carbon-neutral and leverages Ethereum’s robust inherent security and decentralization.
Square Enix is planning a series of campaigns leading to the launch of Symbiogenesis in the spring of 2023. This will help prospective players familiarize themselves with the project’s integration of digital assets. These campaigns will include an opportunity for players to enjoy discovering more about the story and uncover hidden items as they explore a virtual world. Symbiogenesis will comprise a plethora of utility items initially issued off-chain, which players can opt to trade on-chain via Polygon.
Players can unlock numerous engaging stories about this secretive world and its inhabitants by holding or trading digital collectible art and can earn them by completing various missions. They can also replicate and sell digital art for their character, sharing their unique storylines with others and working together as a community to complete the mission. Symbiogenesis offers players multiple endings and only three players, meeting specific conditions, will be chosen to participate in the final “World Mission.” These special three will decide the ending of the story, the fate of the world, and everyone in it.
Three League of Legends Games Arrive This Year, Including New Title The Mageseeker
Riot Games is releasing three League of Legends spin-off games this year - The Mageseeker, Convergence, and Song of Nunu.
The Mageseeker, developed by Digital Sun, is a gritty 2D action RPG starring Sylas set in Demacia. It will be available on PC and unspecified consoles this Spring.
Convergence, starring Ekko, is a 2D action-platforming adventure by Double Stallion that features parkour and time-manipulation mechanics. It launches on PlayStation and Xbox consoles, Switch, and PC via Steam and Epic this Summer.
Song of Nunu is a cute adventure game set to release this Fall and follows the story of Nunu and his yeti partner Willump searching for Nunu's mother. It comes from Tequila Works and will be available on PlayStation and Xbox consoles, Switch, and PC via Steam and Epic.
Riot Games has a lot of promise with these upcoming titles and we are looking forward to seeing how they fair and if they will attract new, non-MOBA fans from the well-received Arcane series.
Dumb Ways to Die Tops Charts, Passes 100M Lifetime Downloads After TikTok Trend
Ten year-old game Dumb Ways to Die has been topping charts around the world and just passed 100 million lifetime downloads, thanks to a TikTok trend. Appmagic data shows that before the Dumb Ways to Die meme format blew up in January, the game was averaging just over 600,000 downloads per month, or about 20,000 per day. After the trend took off, however, according to Appmagic Dumb Ways to Die has claimed 3.5 million downloads in the last 30 days, and passed 300,000 daily downloads on both February 11th and 12th, a new all-time record.
Publisher PlaySide told us that the Dumb Ways TikTok account already had over 1.5 million followers at the end of 2022, and that its social teams were very active on the platform before it spiked in the last few weeks. PlaySide Studios’ Dumb Ways GM Ben Kelly said they had a lot of fun with the brand and were not surprised that it had the potential to inspire memes by others.
A fan uploaded a CapCut template on TikTok which made it easier to duplicate the format and music, which is when the trend started to take off. PlaySide also conducted Duets with other users and even created animated scorecards to rate those people who had submitted their own versions. The publisher also said there have been over 40,000 new videos posted to TikTok using the Dumb Ways template, grossing over 200 million views. The official Dumb Ways TikTok channel also passed 76 million views, with over 1 million new followers added in recent weeks.
PlaySide’s YouTube channel, home to the original viral Dumb Ways To Die video, also just ticked over a million subscribers. PlaySide’s other Dumb Ways games have seen some uplift recently too, the publisher said. The publisher acquired the Dumb Ways To Die brand in October 2021 for $2.25 million AUD (around $1.64 million USD). It was originally created as a public safety campaign by Metro Trains and was turned into a game after the original YouTube video went viral back in 2012.
Web3 & Metaverse
Napster Acquires Web3 Music Startup Mint Songs
Napster, the independent music streaming service, has acquired Web3 music startup Mint Songs. Mint Songs runs a marketplace that helps music artists build Web3 communities and mint songs and art for their fans to own and trade, and previously raised $4.3 million. As part of the acquisition, Napster has hired Mint Songs’ Nate Pham to lead its Web3 product initiatives. When former Roblox executive Jon Vlassopulos joined Napster as CEO, he announced the company’s plans to make acquisitions within the Web3 and digital music startup ecosystem, and Mint Songs was the first of a series of acquisitions intended to speed up its Web3 feature rollout plans. Mint Songs’ co-founder and CTO, Garrett Hughes, will join Napster as an adviser and help integrate Mint Songs’ technology into the Napster platform. Vlassopulos said Mint Songs did an excellent job working with artists on Web3 products.
The acquisition of Mint Songs creates an opportunity for artists to join a trusted platform that can help with their existing streaming distribution while also providing new creative and commercial opportunities for fans through collectibles. It will also expose the idea of collecting and ownership to mass-market music fans, allowing them to take part in artist releases and fan engagement campaigns.
Overall, this move by Napster demonstrates the potential of Web3 and the metaverse to revolutionize the way we think about digital assets, allowing holders to access unique experiences and rewards.
SoftBank Teams With Startup Oasys as a Blockchain Gaming Validator
Softbank, a Japanese technology conglomerate, has partnered with Oasys, a gaming-optimized blockchain built for gamers. As an official validator, Softbank will provide the security and computing power for the proof-of-stake blockchain network to enable transactions for gamers more easily and inexpensively. This move positions Softbank as a player in blockchain gaming, as the industry is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 13.3% from 2020 to 2025, reaching a value of $3 billion by 2025.
Oasys' strategy is to build the fastest network powered by the gaming community and a blockchain offering the best user experience with fast transactions and free gas fees for users. It is a multilayered Ethereum virtual machine-compatible, proof-of-stake public blockchain project that is registered as an exempt private company, limited by shares based in Singapore. The Oasys core team comes from Japan and is an expert group of developers from Doublejump.tokyo, a successful Web3 game developer.
The company also recently partnered with ConsenSys to produce a gaming-optimized wallet for players, as well as announced a collaboration with Mythical Games, a leading crypto-native games developer, to serve as an initial validator. The goal is to create an ecosystem for gamers and developers to distribute and develop blockchain-based games that are highly scalable with high transaction speeds and low/zero gas fees for users, with a well-designed user interface and interoperable between various multiverses. Blockchain games are designed to be borderless and regionless, and this reduces friction for projects like Oasys to collaborate with Korean game developers in expanding into other markets.
Sony Teams Up with Astar Network for Web3 Incubation Program
Sony Network Communications, a business division of The Sony Group, has launched a Web3 incubation program in partnership with multi-chain smart contract network Astar Network. The program is organized by Singapore-based Startale Labs, which is founded by Astar Network CEO Sota Watanabe, and will run from mid-March to mid-June of this year. It provides an opportunity for projects that focus on the utility of non-fungible tokens (NFT) and decentralized autonomous organizations (DAO) to receive learning sessions from global venture capital firms such as Dragonfly, Fenbushi Capital and Alchemy Venture.
The program seeks to explore how blockchain technology can solve various problems in the industry, and projects accepted into the program may also be considered for investment from Sony Network Communications. This is part of Astar Network's continued partnerships with companies looking to explore use cases for Web3 technology, such as its partnership with automotive giant Toyota on a Web3 hackathon last month.
Sony has also started to embrace Web3 technology, announcing a motion-tracking metaverse wearable called Mocopi in November 2022. This incubation program provides a platform for companies to collaborate on how to best use Web3 technology and is a step towards Sony's goal of revolutionizing the way we think about digital assets, allowing holders to access unique experiences and rewards.
GQ Magazine to Launch Its First NFT Collection Linked to Real-World Rewards
GQ Magazine has announced its first NFT collection, allowing holders to access a magazine subscription, merchandise and live events. Titled "GQ3 Issue 001: Change Is Good," the collection is made up of 1,661 NFTs linked to one-of-a-kind art pieces created by four different artists. Each token is priced at 0.1957 ETH (approximately $330) and will be available for purchase on March 8.
The artwork in the series was created through a combination of over 100 unique traits from each artist, algorithmically combined. Upon purchasing a token, holders will receive a GQ magazine subscription, a curated box of products, exclusive merchandise, and a ticket to the inaugural GQ3 party in April. Additionally, holders will have access to a special Discord channel and priority access to future releases.
This move by GQ marks a growing trend among legacy publications to embrace Web3 technology, with both CNN and Time Magazine launching their own NFT projects. Though CNN's Vault project was shut down in October 2022, Time Magazine's "TIMEPieces" collection has grown to over 11,450 pieces to date, showcasing artwork from over 40 artists.
These developments illustrate the potential of NFTs to revolutionize the way we think about digital assets, allowing holders to access unique experiences and rewards.
Art Blocks and NFT Gallery Bright Moments Team Up to Bring Generative Art IRL
Art Blocks, a generative art NFT collective, and NFT gallery Bright Moments have partnered to create a unique project that ties NFTs to real-life, in-person experiences for collectors. Artist Michael Kozlowski, also known as Mpkoz, has been commissioned to produce a collection titled Metropolis, which features generative art NFTs based on architectural influences from five cities. The 500-unit collection will be available to mint online from Feb. 22 and holders will be able to mint a “diptych” counterpart to the original NFT in the city related to the NFT when the time is right.
The two companies have previously collaborated to produce “experiential collaborations” and Art Blocks has also partnered with Pace Gallery in June to further its mission to bring generative art to wider audiences. Kozlowski’s Chimera collection, which was minted on Art Blocks, has a 2.16 ETH (about $3,700) floor price, and a trading volume of 3,753 ETH, nearly $6.4 million.
The partnership between Art Blocks and Bright Moments aims to introduce NFTs to a wider audience and to bring the art of the digital world to life. It allows NFT holders to access unique experiences and rewards, demonstrating the potential of NFTs to revolutionize the way we think about digital assets.
Limit Break: 10K DigiDaigaku NFTs Gone Instantly After Super Bowl Ad
Limit Break, a mobile gaming company, gave away 10,000 “free-to-own” non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in its DigiDaigaku Dragon series during the Super Bowl on Sunday. The company's CEO, Gabe Leydon, said the first 5,000 dragon egg NFTs were taken instantly and an additional 5,000 were randomly given away to those who signed up on the company’s website. Under the “free-to-own” model, players can receive NFTs for free and eventually use them in a game or sell them to others.
On the NFT marketplace Open Sea, the DigiDaigaku dragon eggs have a floor price of 0.28ETH, or $426. About 33% of the NFTs hit the market, with a total volume of 1,180 ETH, or about $1.4 million. During the past day, the price had soared as high as $700. The actual dragons have yet to be revealed and the NFTs will enable those holding the eggs to get the dragons.
Limit Break has been giving away free NFT assets for months among a growing number of fans in advance of this coming free NFT giveaway during Super Bowl LVII. This marks a radical departure from the previous generation of NFT projects, which often charge thousands of dollars for digital collectibles.
The ad, which cost $6.5 million, was well worth the price according to Leydon. After the Super Bowl mint, players began selling off their holdings and the company added more than 1.3 million followers on its social platforms like Twitter. The company decided to hold half the NFTs for later distribution through a raffle process because it expected most people watching the ad wouldn’t already have crypto wallets.
Overall, this move by Limit Break demonstrates the potential of NFTs to revolutionize the way we think about digital assets, allowing holders to access unique experiences and rewards.
Magic Eden Partners With Moonpay to Offer Credit Card Payments
Magic Eden, a non-fungible token (NFT) marketplace, announced a partnership with Web3 payment platform MoonPay. The strategic collaboration allows Magic Eden users to purchase NFTs using credit or debit cards, Apple Pay and Google Pay. The goal of the partnership is to make onboarding new users easier and allow individuals to own and control their digital assets.
MoonPay has been actively building strategic partnerships since it raised $555 million in November 2021. The company also secured registration with the U.K.'s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to signify compliance with local money laundering rules. Earlier this month, MoonPay partnered with NFT marketplace LooksRare to enable users to buy and sell cryptocurrencies via credit card and purchase NFTs.
The collaboration between Magic Eden and MoonPay will open up more opportunities for users to invest in digital assets. Users can now purchase NFTs from various chains quickly and securely, making it easier to get involved in the NFT market. The partnership is part of Magic Eden’s continued efforts to make NFTs more accessible to everyone.
Blurs Token Reaches $500M Lifetime Trading Volume After Airdrop
Blur tokens have already reached $500 million in trading volume just 24 hours after their much-anticipated airdrop. Airdrops are a common marketing tactic used to gain users, and Blur distributed tokens to users on their platform depending on the total activity, network volume, and transactions made by each wallet. The number of tokens awarded ranged from 25 to 128,000 BLUR.
Since the airdrop, the tokens were listed at $1 on Coinbase but quickly dropped to 48 cents before rising to 72 cents due to buying pressure. Over $530 million worth of BLUR has been traded on exchanges such as OKX, Kucoin, and Uniswap. Furthermore, the total value of tokens on the Blur marketplace increased by $10 million in the same period.
It appears the airdrop was successful in encouraging users to join the platform and gain access to the wide range of NFTs available. As the tokens become more widely available, the demand is expected to increase further and propel the market further.
eBay NFT Platform KnownOrigin Launches Creator Smart Contract
eBay's nonfungible token (NFT) marketplace KnownOrigin has launched its Creator Smart Contract, allowing artists to split earnings and earn royalties as co-creators. The Creative Contract beta release has been tested for the past few weeks with 84 contracts deployed and 250 editions of NFTs minted. Starting Feb. 24, all approved creators on KnownOrigin will be able to deploy and mint work on their own contract for public release.
KnownOrigin was acquired by eBay in June 2022 in an effort to "empower creators and collectors by giving them the ability to showcase, sell and collect unique, authenticated digital items." The platform has enabled NFT listings on its direct marketplace since May 2021, although it does not yet support payments or transfers in cryptocurrencies.
The most popular collection on KnownOrigin is XCOPY's "digitally glitched" and flashing image artworks, which has surpassed 1,523.78 Ether ($2.56 million) in total sales volume. With the new Creator Smart Contract, the platform will be able to expand its offerings and empower its creators to gain more control over their works.
National Policies & Legal Updates
Wyoming Lawmakers Pass Bill to Prevent Forced Disclosure of Private Keys
Wyoming has become the first state in the U.S. to pass a law that prohibits courts from forcing someone to disclose their digital asset private keys. The law, which will come into effect on July 1 if approved by Governor Mark Gordon, allows for a minor exception where a public key is unavailable or unable to disclose details of a digital asset, digital identity, or other interest or right.
The law - W.S. 34-29-107 - will be titled “Production of private keys; prohibition.” It comes under Chapter 29 - Digital Assets which is a subset of Title 34 - Property, Conveyances, and Security Transactions. The bill was passed by a vote of 41-13 in the Wyoming House of Representatives on Feb. 15, a day after passing 31-0 in the Wyoming Senate.
Wyoming has been touted as one of the most crypto-friendly states in the U.S. and has previously been considered a state-issued stablecoin in February 2022. The private keys legislation has been in the works since as early as September 2019 and the passing of the bill is seen as a great step forward for the crypto community.
Oman to Establish Regulatory Framework for Virtual Assets
Oman’s financial markets regulator, the Capital Market Authority (CMA), is looking to establish a new regulatory framework for the virtual asset industry in the Sultanate. This framework will include oversight of virtual asset activities, a licensing process for virtual asset service providers (VASPs), and a framework to identify and mitigate risks surrounding the new asset class. XReg Consulting Limited and Said Al-Shahry and Partners were enlisted to advise and assist the CMA in drafting the new regulations. The aim of this new regulation is to establish a market regime for virtual assets that include rules to prevent market abuse, including surveillance and enforcement mechanisms.
The proposed regulatory framework aligns with Oman’s Vision 2040, an initiative to digitally transform the country’s economy while attracting global players to Oman. Despite this, the Central Bank of Oman (CBO) has issued several advisories to citizens, warning them to exercise caution when transacting with cryptocurrencies due to the risks of fraud. The CBO has yet to license any entity to trade cryptocurrencies in Oman and currency banking laws do not cover any digital currencies and activities involving their use.
Despite this, the Souq Analyst survey found that about 65,000 residents, or 1.9% of the adult population, own cryptocurrencies in the country. Of those, 62% said they own crypto for the long term, while 25% said they use digital assets for learning and education. The remaining individuals said they use cryptocurrencies for daily trading.
Russia to Roll Out CBDC Pilot With Real Consumers in April
The Bank of Russia is gearing up to launch the first consumer pilot for the nation’s central bank digital currency (CBDC) on April 1, 2023. This trial will involve 13 local banks and several merchants conducting real-world digital ruble transactions with real consumers.
The pilot will be limited to a set number of transactions and customers in the first stage and general customers will not be able to participate. Following the first stage of the pilot, the Bank of Russia will determine how to scale the digital ruble further. The central bank initially announced the CBDC roadmap in June 2022 and brought forward the consumer CBDC pilot from 2024 in order to create an alternative to the SWIFT payments system.
Additionally, Russian officials are considering launching a gold-backed token in order to facilitate cross-border transactions. This “golden token” is intended to create a new attractive investment product and build a demanded payment method in international settlement.
The CBDC pilot is a major step forward for the nation's digital currency development and the Bank of Russia is keen to ensure that the new asset class is subject to the proper regulations and oversight. The rollout of the digital ruble is part of the nation’s Vision 2040 initiative to digitally transform the country’s economy and attract global players to Oman.
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