Game development

People spent $9,000 on Pixelmon NFTs. Then they saw the art

The developers released a collection of 10,000 Pixelmon NFTs in February.

pixelmon

It’s supposed to be the Pokemon of NFT games. Set in the world of Eden, Pixelmon is set to be an open-world RPG where Pixelmon creatures are captured, traded, and sold as Non-Fungile Tokens (NFTs). When the game launches at the end of the year, Pixelmon NFT holders will be awarded land that they can use to create living spaces or become in-game merchants by creating a shop. To fund the project, Pixelmon developers released a collection of 10,000 Pixelmon NFTs in February.

They managed to raise $70 million, a budget usually associated with successful PlayStation or Xbox games.

But the project hit a snag. After collecting all that money, the team unveiled the Pixelmon that would inhabit the world. Since then, the project has been a laughing stock on social networks.

First, a little background. NFT collections containing 10,000 NFTs are not unusual. To see the Bored Ape Yacht Club for the most popular example. However, during the main sale where people buy directly from the creators, the price is usually below 0.1 ether ($280). It is only on the secondary market, on marketplaces like OpenSea, that prices can go up to a small fortune. (Or, more commonly, drop to zero.)

Pixelmon was different. It was an incredibly high-profile project, being attached to an ambitious open-world game. The team behind the project sold the collection via a Dutch auction, where the price started at 3 ether (about $9,000) and decreased by 0.1 ether every 10 minutes until the last NFT disappears. The collection sold out within an hour, with NFTs selling for between 3 ethers and 2.4 ethers ($7,000).

The team raised over $70 million from the sale. Sleek, voxelized Pixelmon monsters had been announced on Twitter, and a demonstration video pretending to show real gameplay footage convinced investors and speculators to bet big.

Then, on February 26 came the “revelation”. NFT art collections often have an expected make date – i.e. the main sale – and then a reveal date a few days later. After hitting an NFT, the placeholder art appears in the owner’s wallet. When revealing, you see which NFT you have. It’s kind of like Pokémon cards: different NFTs within a single collection are rated based on the rarity of their traits, much like how a holographic Pokémon card is more valuable than a standard card, so the reveal is essentially the equivalent of opening your booster pack to see what cards you get.

The art the holders got — which many had spent upwards of $9,000 on — was bad enough to become an instant meme. It also brought down the price of the collection. At the time of writing, the floor price (the cheapest NFT of the set is listed on the OpenSea marketplace) is 0.39 ether ($1,500).

Pixelmon is one of many NFT projects that aims to do more than just provide art. Many lean into the game to win, with character or monster NFTs required to play. Pokemon is a common inspiration for such games, including Axie Infinity, which is the most popular P2E game to date. Other collections also attempt to create value by creating a digital world, a “metaverse”, in which NFTs can be used to create 1 in 1 avatar, or to enable ownership of virtual real estate. Like standard cryptocurrency and NFT trading, however, prices are volatile.

Syber, the pseudonymous creator of Pixelmon, admitted the reveal went wrong on the project’s Discord server. (Most NFT business takes place on Discord.)

“I’m not going to sugarcoat – we made a horrible mistake,” Syber wrote on Discord. “This is unacceptable. We felt compelled to push the reveal and the reality is that we weren’t ready to push the artwork. It doesn’t represent the brand and we’re going to fix that because we have let a lot of people down with this revelation.”

He said $2 million would be spent to completely revamp the art. The Pixelmon team – which is entirely pseudonymous – has also teamed up with Magic Media, a video game development studio.

“No matter how long it takes or how much FUD [fear, uncertainty and doubt] happens, we are committed to achieving our long-term vision and everything that has been defined in our summary document, ” he tweeted.

The story doesn’t end there, however. The Pixelmon art reveal was such a public failure that it spawned an icon — or, at least, a meme — in “Kevin,” the turtle creature that became the face of the reveal. (“Kevin” is the real name given to him by the developers of Pixelmon.)

It’s not just that Kevin has become a social media meme. Kevin has become an asset to himself. The floor price of Pixelmon’s NFT Collection – meaning the cheapest you can buy – is 0.39 Ether ($1,140). Kevin Pixelmon’s floor price is 4.75 Ether ($13,900). Not only that, Kevin has become the star of his own spin-off art collections.

There’s The Lives of Kevin, essentially a set of motivational posters with Kevin’s head superimposed over the heads of iconic characters, which for a few hot moments Monday was the hottest collection on OpenSea. Some have sold for as much as 0.295 ether ($860). Then there’s Kevin Punks, a game on CryptoPunks, a set of 8-bit NFTs that regularly go into six figures. Kevin Punks currently has a floor price of 0.85, or just under $2,500.

This is an example of how NFTs can trivialize meme culture, if only for an afternoon.

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Three NFTs from the Lives of Kevin collection.

OpenSea

Not everyone was unhappy with the Pixelmon they received. Pixelmon’s roadmap says the game, which will be browser-based, will launch at the end of the year. Some hope the ship will be righted by then.