Apple's pound of flesh, Christie's lunch theft, and Walmart's digital delusions (Issue #41)
Less of a magic kingdom, more a tragic kingdom, no doubt.
If we sound like insiders, it’s because we are insiders. The team at Metaversal builds and invests in iconic NFTs and the technology behind them. We are collectors, investors, creators, and artists. We believe in the power of web3 to create a creator-first future.
The Metaversalist helps you stay on top of what’s essential in a space that changes by the hour. Delivered fresh to your inbox and seasoned with our signature blend of spice and editorial sass. And memes. Because the memes of production aren’t going to seize themselves.
In this week’s edition:
Apple allows apps to sell NFTs! 🤩 But wants a 30% cut 🤨
Auctioneers gonna auction… but make it web3 🖼
“Let’s go to Walmart Land!” said no one ever 🛒
Is the future of art utopian or dystopian? 💊
The Information reports that Apple will allow app makers to sell NFTs (paywalled), but will expect the same 30% cut of every transaction it takes from almost every app. Colloquially, it’s called the “Apple Tax.” And many companies and developers hate it.
One of the most vocal opponents is Epic Games boss Tim Sweeney, whose efforts to sidestep Apple’s fee resulted in his company’s biggest game, Fortnite, being removed from the App Store entirely and have left him embroiled in a series of protracted legal battles with the tech giant.
Of course, Sweeney can afford to challenge Apple and its army of lawyers. But few smaller developers can, so they have two choices. Either pay the fee (while absorbing it or passing it on to customers) or accept exclusion from Apple’s ecosystem (and its billions of users). In an app-dominated world, the latter is a tough decision, because replicating an app-like experience as a web-only service is almost impossible.
But it’s not just the potentially ruinous effect of fees NFT purveyors have to worry about when dealing with Apple. To use the App Store, businesses also have to transact in fiat currencies, which adds more complexity and cost, especially if they’re crypto-first.
There are obvious benefits to playing ball with Apple: Not only does it have a gargantuan customer base, but those customers also aren’t afraid to pay for services. Apple users are so much more likely to pay for apps or subscriptions than Android users that even today, developers often focus their efforts on Apple first, or even exclusively.
For NFT marketplaces or other web3 businesses, reaching that audience is a tantalizing prospect. It’s made even more attractive by the credibility the App Store conveys… and that could be invaluable for platforms that are treated with suspicion by non-crypto folk who worry about getting scammed. As some people see it, Apple’s move could get its customers comfortable with crypto-wallets and digital collectibles, making it easier to eventually ween them from it, which is a win for web3.
The pound of flesh Apple is demanding isn’t quite as egregious as the 50% toll MetaFacebookStagram plans to levy… but it’s not far off. Apple’s reasoning is easy to understand. If you want to play in the walled garden, you pay for the privilege. Same as it ever was. But that’s not the web3 way. Most NFT marketplaces charge 2.5% on transactions, with a further 5-10% going to creators in the form of royalties, and in the pro-decentralization world of web3, there’s less need (and very little appetite) for intermediaries.
Of course, Apple doesn’t care about any of that. It’s a web2 business grappling with an increasingly web3 world, applying what’s always worked for it to new paradigms while safe in the knowledge it’s too big for most players to sidestep. Also, gatekeeping and rent-seeking are core to its business. This is, after all, the same company that removed the USB-A ports from its laptops and then charged customers for the USB-C dongles they needed to navigate the sudden change.
Instead, web3 builders are going to have to do what they’re good at — innovate around the problem. If you can’t onboard people through their iPhones, you’re going to have to find another way to reach them. Or you’re going to have to make Apple miss out on enough revenue from NFTs that it reconsiders its position. Either way, it’s going to be fun to watch.
🍽 The community is always hungry 🍖
Drop alert 🚨
Indie documentary filmmaker Dan Sickles is producing “I’m New Here,” a web3 film shedding light on the burgeoning NFT and CryptoArt scene, featuring some of the biggest names in the space. The public mint of the 10,000 avatars — which will grant holders access to “curated events IRL and in the metaverse” — is on right now.
Bowie on the Blockchain, which we covered earlier this month, is undeniably the big drop of the week, and it’s happening tomorrow, September 30, on OpenSea. It features art from the likes of Fewocious, Nadya Tolokonnikova, and Osinachi, and proceeds from the sale go towards CARE, a non-profit that counts among its ambassadors none Iman… supermodel, humanitarian, and widow to the Thin White Duke himself.
Tastes rare 👅
Flippin’ brugers with frens 🍔
The team at Metaversal is delighted to be working with Menches Brothers (who invented the hamburger way back in 1885) on lil Mench, a collection of hand-illustrated burger NFTs that pay homage to innovative brothers throughout history — from the Wright Brothers to the Super Mario Bros.
To celebrate the drop, we’re giving friends of Metaversal (which includes you, dear reader) the chance to mint a little Mench for $120. You only need a credit card to participate, and the friends-and-family minting window will be open from October 1 to 11 on lil Mench website.
Holders can look forward to in-store discounts, Menches spice packs so they can recreate the Menches magic at home, giveaways of sports tickets, grills, merch, access to lil Mench parties, and more perks in the future. Plus, for no extra charge, the warm fuzzy feeling that comes from supporting a small business. Supplies are extremely limited, so get ’em while they’re hot!
Probably nothing 🤔
Christie’s three-point-oh 🧑⚖️
Venerable auction house Christie’s has launched its own fully on-chain marketplace for NFTs. Called “Christie’s 3.0,” the platform supports bids in Ethereum (but also offers pricing in information in USD), and its first offerings are nine 1/1 pieces from a collection called “Phases” by teenaged multimedia phenom, Diana Sinclair, with starting prices of either 4 ETH (~$5,300) or 5 ETH (~$6,600).
Of course, Christie’s is no stranger to NFTs, and was responsible for the $69 million auction of Beeple’s “Everydays: The First 500 Days.” But the decision to create its own marketplace signals how serious it is about digital art and NFTs… and how much money it believes it stands to make from them. Bidding for Sinclair’s collection opened today and will run until 11 October.
Flex your, err, debit card 💳
Mastercard has announced a partnership with European fintech app hi that sees the service offering its users the chance to customize their hi debit card with an NFT profile picture. At launch, the supported PFP collections are Azuki, Bored Ape Yacht Club, CryptoPunks, Goblins, and Moonbirds. For now, you’ll need to be in the EU or UK to apply, and though it’s not a credit card, it does include credit card-like perks, like cash back and rebates on “lifestyle services” like streaming services and hotel bookings.
Users will only be able to use a PFP they own and will need to hold a gold tier hi account or better. Tiers are determined by how much of the HI token users have staked — for a gold account, a user needs to stake 100,000 HI, which is currently trading at ~$0.05 apiece, so it’ll cost users $5,000 to put their Bored Ape on their debit card… which is the textbook definition of a weird flex, but okay.
We need to talk about Kevin’s… again 👹
Soon after Pixelmon began selling NFTs in February, it became clear the project wasn’t going to be able to live up to its lofty promises of a world-class game and traffic-stopping artwork. The project raised over 23,000 ETH (~$70 million), but when the art was revealed, well, it wasn’t pretty. The only good thing to come out of it was Kevin, a pixelated disaster with eyes akimbo who spawned a million memes. But now the Pixelmon team is having another stab at it, and aiming for redemption.
“Project aggregator” and studio LiquidX has taken the reins after acquiring a majority stake in the business and it’s promising revamped art, realistic timelines, and that there’ll be grownups in the room throughout the process. The best news, though? Kevin’s artwork remains unchanged. After all, you don’t mess with an icon.
🌍 Always has been 🔫
Bag boosters 💸
The week that was (Sep 22-29, 2022) 🗓
Last week, there wasn’t a Solana project in sight in the top 10. This week, there’s Critters Cult. The other fresh face comes courtesy of Looki, but the real MVPs of the last seven days are the QQL Mint Pass from Tyler Hobbs, which raised nearly $17 million in primary sales, and CryptoPunks, which reached and breached 1 million ETH in volume traded. In this economy? In this economy.
Nobody ever: “Let’s go to Walmart Land!” 🏝
Retail juggernaut Walmart this week unveiled not one, but “two new immersive experiences in the metaverse mega-platform, Roblox.” First, there’s Walmart Land, and then there’s the Walmart Universe of Play, and frankly, we can’t tell which sounds worse. Visitors can buy virtual merchandise in Walmart Land — or as Walmart is calling it, “verch” 👀 — and there are various brand-affiliated games and activities they can participate in.
Walmart Universe of Play, in a bout of extreme late capitalism, is designed to get youngsters to *checks notes* create toy wish lists for the holiday season. Now look, we get it, Roblox is huge, Walmart is huge, and Walmart wants to be seen as a progressive retailer that’s willing to embrace new things. But the whole announcement has a “How do you do, fellow kids?” vibe about it, and it’s filled with awkward phrases like this one: “The year’s best toys will have busted loose and turned up in Walmart’s Universe of Play.” 👀 👀 Oh boy.
Roblox is awesome, and Walmart gets points for recognizing that, but there are roughly a billion more interesting things to do in it than hang out in something called “Walmart Land.”
To the moon🌛
Disney is looking to hire someone for the role of “Principal Counsel - Corporate Transactions, Emerging Technologies & NFTs.” The successful applicant will, among other things, “[p]rovide full product life cycle legal advice and support for global NFT products,” and “[a]ssist in performing due diligence for NFT, blockchain, third-party marketplace and cloud provider projects, and negotiating and drafting complex agreements for those projects.” Sounds lucrative.
Cool Cats dropped its first comic book yesterday and it looks… excruciatingly adorable. Holders can read it on the Cool Cats website.
CryptoPunk #2924 was sold for 3,300 ETH ($4,451,633.94), a record for a non-alien Punk, and a move that helped push Punks’ all-time volume to over 1 million ETH (~$1,3 billion).
The 999 mint passes for Tyler Hobbs and Dandelion Wist Mané’s collaborative project QQL, which lets users create their own generative work, sold out at 14 ETH each (~$18,600), raising nearly $17 million in the process. The floor price has since climbed to nearly 21 ETH (~$28,000). That right… in. this. economy.
Solana’s founder, Anatoly Yakovenko, believes the next Marvel or Disney will come from the NFT space. And Epic Games released a playable demo of Solana NFT game, Star Atlas.
Robinhood has launched a beta version of its web3 wallet for 10,000 users on the Polygon network. Why Polygon and not Ethereum? Probably the comparatively low cost to transact.
Bedtime reading 📚
Art has long been a medium used to ponder the big questions, and in a relatively concise read from I See You Gallery, you can discover digital artists who explore concepts of “Utopian vs Dystopian Depictions of the Future.”
Perhaps one of the most ‘utopian’ of the artists in this list, Reisinger Andres creates dreamy architectural spaces that are pristine in composition, color and concept. His imaginative vision of the future is one where quality design has prevailed, there are no people present, and nature is very much in-sync with human artifacts. His sensible and highly stylized creations often involve soft natural tones and textures, albeit modernist in a way that becomes almost retro-futurist.
What say you, dear reader? Are you team glass half-full or team it’s-all-going-to-hell-in-a-paddleless-canoe-bobbing-atop-an-ominously-brown-creek when it comes to your artistic preferences? Who are your favorite ’pian artists? We’d love to hear from you.
Goats only 🐐
Whether you’re a Moonbird maxi or a dedicated Doodles collector, all-in on Apes or pumped about Punks, you should be watching or listening to Goats and the Metaverse.
In each episode, collectibles OG and entrepreneur Stan “The Goat” Meytin and Metaversal co-founder and CEO Yossi Hasson talk about digital and IRL collectibles, NFTs, the week’s news worth knowing, and interview incredible guests.
This week, they unpack the Omega RUNNER project and its first edition NFTs, and get a sneak peek at ISG Metaverse’s virtual reality fashion show from its creators.
Aside from providing unique insights into digital art and collectibles, Stan and Yossi have also put together a collection of NFTs dubbed “The Goat Vault” purchased with their own cold, hard, Benjamins. When the show hits 5,000 subscribers on YouTube, one of those lucky subscribers will win the contents of the vault, which at last count is valued at more than 10 ETH (~$13,300)… which is a not-insignificant pile of the aforementioned Benjies.
Prefer listening? Check out Goats and the Metaverse on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Anchor, or wherever you get your podcasts. But do subscribe on YouTube too, because as the saying goes, “one has to be in it to win it.”
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Come one, come all 📢
Artists, with or without crypto experience, are encouraged to submit work of their own before October 3 for consideration and possible inclusion in the show.
Follow for more 🐦
Congrats on making it all the way down here, fren! If you’re reading this, it’s not too late to follow @HelloMetaversal on Twitter. There you’ll find hot takes, fresh memes, deep insights, carefully curated RTs, and the latest news from us and our coterie of illustrious frens.
We love feedback. For real. Like real love. Not that puppy-dog teenage stuff that always sees your parents telling you a decade later, “We told you so!” So let us know which stories left you cold, steaming mad, or lukewarm, and we’ll see if the devs (or our parents) can do something.
This week’s newsletter was brought to you by the beady eyes and nimble digits of @craigwilson and @juliataoo from the @HelloMetaversal team. They hope you enjoyed reading it as much as they enjoyed making it. Or even half as much, that would do, too.
Until next time, see you in the Metaverse.