There may never be a way to separate the idea of a digital collectible from the Earth-destroying Ponzi scheme that is the NFT market, but esports org 100 Thieves has made an attempt. Its recent NFT campaign goes so far to distance itself from NFTs as we know them that it’s hard to see why it had to be an NFT in the first place. Buried beneath the obvious scams, artist exploitation, artificial scarcity, cynical celebrity endorsements, massive carbon footprint and crude speculative investments, there is still cultural value in digital collectibles waiting to be discovered. be discovered. 100 Thieves NFT isn’t that, but it’s a step in the right direction.
The 100 Thieves 2021 NFT Championship Chain is a 360-degree animated model of the actual necklaces 100 Thieves CEO Nadeshot gave to his League of Legends team after winning the 2021 LCS Championship. It’s the esports equivalent a commemorative ring that a die-hard Vikings fan could buy if they managed to win another Super Bowl. The difference is that it’s not a cheap version of a priceless piece of jewelry – it’s a digital representation of it given to fans in the form of an NFT.
100 Thieves didn’t get a ton of backlash about their NFT project last week in the same way Stalker, Troy Baker, or Worms developer Team17 did, largely because 100 Thieves didn’t call it an NFT. Although it was minted on the Polygon NFT platform and stored in a crypto wallet, 100 thieves managed to hide the fact that this virtual collectible is like any other NFT.
In fact, the announcement does well to preempt common complaints about similar NFT projects. Three bullet points explain why you shouldn’t worry about them: they’re 100% free, and the organization covers all transaction fees on Polygon; they are not intended for resale and 100T does not charge any royalties on future sales; and hitting them has the same carbon impact as sending two emails. If all of these things are true, then this is really meant to be a free digital keepsake for 100 Thieves fans.
The problem with NFTs isn’t that they’re commodifying something virtual, it’s, well, all the problems I’ve mentioned before. You can’t make a reasonable argument against a digital collectible as a value proposition unless you’re prepared to warn physical collectibles as well. Physical goods are not inherently “better” than digital goods simply because you can touch them with your hands or display them on a shelf. You can’t necessarily say that NFTs like this have a greater ecological impact than physical collectibles. Statues and trading cards cost energy to make, create waste as a by-product, are made of plastic and other materials that end up in landfills, while the 100T necklace would cost that much energy than sending two emails and creates no waste.
There are still some issues with the 100 Thieves project obviously. They may not be for resale, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be. Even though the organization covered the transaction cost of the giveaway and does not charge a fee, the NFT market has paid its fees and will continue to charge additional fees each time any of the 300,000 NFTs currently in circulation is traded. You can already find some for sale on OpenSea. Not only do these dubious platforms get a share of every transaction, but trading on the blockchain costs “gas fees,” which, depending on the number of transactions made at any given time, can cost a lot of computing power. By existing on the blockchain as part of the NFT economy, the 100 Thieves NFT contributes to the overall harm caused by the NFT markets. This doesn’t even begin to address the social and economic fallout that will inevitably occur when the NFT bubble bursts. Whatever its real impact, the 100 Thieves NFT is undoubtedly part of the problem.
100 Thieves played the optical game well here, but it’s clearly not about taking a stand against NFTs or trying to revolutionize digital collectibles. Nadeshot is heavily invested in the NFT racket and proud of it. He has a CryptoPunk NFT avatar on Twitter and Instagram and he has tweeted about the NFTs he has purchased. When the necklace was claimed 300,000 times, Nadeshot tweeted “wgmi”, an NFT community saying it means “we’re gonna make it happen”. The Championship Channel was a gift to fans of the organization as much as a campaign to increase the value of the NFT market.
Still, this represents an important step in the inevitable decline of NFTs. 100 Thieves couldn’t openly announce their NFT without incurring the wrath of the internet and pressure to cancel the project. The organization couldn’t invite people to invest in the project and inflate it like a normal NFT because it got really bad. Nadeshot and the 100 Thieves organization may see fan-focused giveaways like this as a way to accept the NFT Trojan into gaming communities, but the reality is that they had to design an NFT that will against everything NFTs are supposed to be in order to avoid public backlash. This is a good thing. This shows that digital collectibles may have a future beyond the highly predatory NFT market.
We just need a way to decouple digital assets from buy/sell/trade markets. When you buy a Pokemon plush, it doesn’t automatically exist as an asset on eBay where you can track the value or similar plush over time to determine the most profitable time to sell it. Digital collectibles don’t need to exist in a new-age stock market to be valuable to the people who own them. NFTs are currently the only way to create, distribute and maintain digital collectibles in a standardized way. We have to recognize that they are fundamentally different from the jpeg files on your hard drive and then look for a better solution than blockchain. We don’t need exclusivity, rarity, authenticity, or whatever made investors buy $100,000 worth of monkey pictures. If you’re a 100 Thieves fan, the Digital Championship Necklace is a great thing to have. That’s all it takes.
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