UPDATED: Cryptoland Just Lost Its Island in Fiji

Cryptoland’s contract to purchase Nananu-i-cake, the Fijian island which was to be its home base for its fantastical crypto paradise, has fallen through, and the island is once again up for sale on the market

You may have been following my recent blogposts about the Cryptoland project (here and here), and so I bring you this breaking news, courtesy of The Guardian newspaper:

Widely mocked plans to establish a tropical haven for cryptocurrency enthusiasts have run into trouble after a contract to buy an island in Fiji for US$12 million fell through.

A group of crypto-evangelists, led by Max Olivier and Helena Lopez, outlined plans for the island, Nananu-i-cake, in a lavishly animated YouTube video, featuring a wide-eyed crypto bro named Christopher landing by helicopter and being given a guided tour by a talking coin called Connie.

The full YouTube clip has been taken down, but cached copies show it touted the island as “an international hub for the community to come live, work and have fun and enjoy a first-class crypto lifestyle”, boasting “a complete ecosystem that represents the blooming crypto space” that was “a paradise made by crypto enthusiasts for crypto enthusiasts”.

Ben Butler of The Guardian goes on to write:

But the project appears to have hit a bigger hurdle than bad publicity. The real estate agent selling Nananu-i-cake, Rick Kermode, of New Zealand firm Bayleys, told Guardian Australia that the contract to sell it to Cryptoland’s backers fell through this week and the island was back on the market.

“We’re telling people that it was under contract during the period of time that they had the contract but it has come back on the market,” he said.

So, it would appear that Cryptoland’s grand plans have come to nought, unless they can somehow find a way to renegotiate the contract. Somehow, given all the negative publicity and ridicule this project has attracted, I don’t think that is going to happen.

I had also heard that they had removed the project’s highly-scrutinized white paper (called a “Why Paper” ) from the Cryptoland website, but I was able to locate it fairly easily, here. Of course, they’re still minting their butt-ugly NFTs, and still trying to sell the project to crypto bros using the face, voice, and quotes from Carlos Matos:

As to why Cryptoland would want to associate Mr. Matos (infamous for his batshit crazy speech promoting the BitConnect ponzi scheme) with their project in any way absolutely mystifies me. I mean, c’mon people, the quote comes from this:

So, it would appear that the strange Cryptoland saga is coming to an end sooner than expected! However, I have no doubt that many equally cringeworthy NFT projects will come along to take its place in 2022.

UPDATE Jan. 16th, 2022: Well, it looks as though I wrote off Cryptoland too easily! Apparently, the team is undeterred by this development. I am not on the official Cryptoland Discord, but someone shared the following screen capture with me:

I know it’s a bit hard to read, so here is a transcription:

Thanks for the list of thoughtful points.

1. Right now the purchase agreement is until December 17th, but we had a conversation with the sellers of the island and they said they would be open to extend it (for a few more months, we need to discuss that still) if things look promising (if we get more investors). The island has been for sale for many years, no one is going to buy it right now, even if the contract expires.

2. If somehow someone were to buy the island, we would find another one (there are some) or we could re-buy it from the new owner maybe. This island is going to be for Cryptoland, we know the market for islands like this is very small, the risks of someone else acquiring before us are very low.

This response seems overly confident, bordering on brash, to me. All this talk about simply switching to another island if Nananu-i-cake is sold to another buyer means (among other things) that the Cryptoland team will have to completely rewrite their white paper proposal, as well as impact the layout and even the number of real estate parcels they can sell. Stop and ponder this incontrovertible fact for a moment: Cryptoland is already selling land on an island they don’t even own yet.

I still believe that this project is never going to come to fruition. Anyway, the Cryptoland saga seems to have a few more chapters left, Stay tuned!

Wilder World: A Brief Introduction

Wilder World’s website features some rather disturbing imagery; a crystal skull?

Today, through a VentureBeat article about the metaverse, I learned about a blockchain-based metaverse platform called Wilder World, which I had never heard of before, so I decided to do a little investigating.

Wilder World is an Unreal-based platform using the Ethereum blockchain, with its own cryptocurrency (WILD), which appears to be catering to NFT (Non-Fungible Token) artists. According to the VentureBeat article I read:

Wilder World is a newer metaverse than The Sandbox and Decentraland. Built on Ethereum, Unreal Engine 5, and its sister company ZERO.tech, Wilder World is a metaverse based on photorealism. Wilder World’s team consists of experienced 5D artists — including founder Frank Wilder and Chad Knight who was previously at Nike — that help to create exquisite in-game graphics for Wilder World’s metaverse.

The first city built in the Wilder World metaverse is #Wiami, a 1 to 1 replica of the city Miami. Like Miami in real life, Wilder World says #Wiami is poised to become the crypto hub of the metaverse. Wilder World is powered by the token $WILD, which can be used to purchase NFTs such as wilder.kicks, wilder.wheels, and wilder.cribs. The NFTs’ value doesn’t just stop at aesthetics. NFT owners can use their items in-game or stake their NFTs to earn more rewards.

Wiami? OK, whatever, bro… 🙄

Like many similar NFT metaverse projects, Wilder World is already selling vehicles (“wheels”), sneakers (“kicks”), and condos (“cribs”). They also plan to sell virtual land NFTs. However, there is as yet—at least, as far as far as I can tell—no currently-available metaverse platform which you can visit as an avatar yet. A May 10th, 2021 article by Dean Takahashi states:

If it sounds a little fuzzy on the metaverse details, it’s a little fuzzy. The company said that the best example of what it means when they say “metaverse” is Ready Player One. The company added, “In essence, a fully immersive, 3D virtual world that can be accessed with a VR headset. Unlike normal games, Wilder World enables games and economies created in world. Given that all economic transactions and ownership in Wilder World happen on the blockchain, assets are ‘interoperable’ between different game worlds. Wilder World’s objective is to create an immersive reality that is as similar to this reality as possible.’

Wilder World also has what it calls a Guild, which it describes as follows:

Wilder.Guild is Wilder World’s first official artist DAO. Built for and by artists, the guild is curating the greatest 3D artists of our time to collaborate on the stories, characters, and environments that will ultimately become the Metaverse.

DAO stands for Decentralized Autonomous Organization, a blockchain-based structure represented by rules encoded as a computer program, which is completely transparent, and controlled by the organization’s members (definition taken from Wikipedia).

One aspect of Wilder World which I found very interesting is that, in addition to using Discord and Telegram, they are using something called ZERO (a product from a sister company) as a community discussion platform, which at first glance, looks rather similar to Discord:

According to their “zine” webpage:

We are honored to officially invite you to join the Wilder World private network on ZERO, as we collectively transcend deeper into our immersive 3D Metaverse powered entirely by NFTs. We are super excited to give our audience early access to the ZERO network.

The powerful network enables communication, collaboration and commerce. This occurs directly between content-creators, developers, and members, independent of third parties or big tech. It’s where curious minds come to access unparalleled behind the scenes concepts and content from the Wilders.

The ZERO platform provides a number of useful features for our community (artists, collectors and fans) to connect, collaborate and co-create, some of those features include –

PROFILES: Curate your profile highlighting your skillset and portfolio

CHANNELS: Tailored chat channels to keep up to date with all the $WILD and Metaverse news

MESSAGE: Join town halls, AMAs or have video chats with other Wilders

VIDEO: Real-time direct messaging old and new friends

FEED: Share the latest articles, artwork, and videos with the Wilder community

ZERO is the technology infrastructure that powers Wilder World allowing our vision of a multi-levelled, photorealistic and mixed reality Metaverse to really come to life. An immersive world where our community can acquire virtual land and express themselves through unique avatars, decorative digital assets and fashionable accessories.

With all this talk of “wheels”, “kicks”, “cribs”, and “zines”, I came away from my investigations today feeling distinctly ancient and out-of-touch, and most definitely not one of the cool kids… 😉 Ryan takes a swig of Geritol, and yells at those damn kids to get off his lawn:

However, what Wilder World is doing might be just up your alley, especially if you are an NFT artist looking for a community of like-minded people!

For further information about Wilder World, please visit their website, join their Discord server, their Telegram group or their ZERO group, or follow them on social media: Twitter and Instagram. And, of course, I will duly add Wilder World to my ever-expanding popular list of metaverse platforms.

Editorial: The Current Business Land Rush in the Blockchain-Based Virtual Worlds (and the Forgotten Lessons from Second Life’s Corporate Boom)

It’s déjà vu all over again.

—Yogi Berra (source)
The virtual office of accounting firm Prager Metis International in Decentraland (image source: The Wall Street Journal)

This morning, I read a January 7th, 2022 article in The Wall Street Journal titled Accounting Firms Scoop Up Virtual Land in the Metaverse (archived version), which discusses how PricewaterhouseCoopers and Prager Metis made acquisitions last month to begin operating in the metaverse. Please go over there and read the article in full; below is the section pertinent to my editorial today:

Businesses across industries, including real estate, technology and cryptocurrency, have been purchasing digital land on platforms such as Decentraland and the Sandbox. Executives have started drafting business plans for operating in those virtual worlds, which are typically conceived by videogame developers.

Prager Metis International LLC, a New York-based accounting and advisory firm, on Friday said it opened a virtual three-story property on a site it bought for nearly $35,000 in late December. The firm, which operates 23 physical offices in the U.S., Europe and Asia, made its purchase on the Decentraland platform in partnership with Banquet LLC, a firm that funds and manages blockchain ventures.

Prager Metis plans to use its virtual building to advise companies and other new and existing clients on tax and accounting issues, Chief Executive Glenn Friedman said. The firm expects that many of its clients, particularly those in the entertainment and fashion industries, will seek its services in the metaverse as more companies decide to conduct business there, according to Mr. Friedman. “If the metaverse is going to replace the internet, then certainly business is going to use it,” he said.

Other accounting firms are also venturing into the metaverse. PricewaterhouseCoopers in late December said its Hong Kong unit acquired virtual real estate in the Sandbox, a subsidiary of software firm Animoca Brands Corp., for an undisclosed amount.

“The Metaverse offers new possibilities for organizations to create value through innovative business models, as well as introducing new ways to engage with their customers and communities,” William Gee, a partner at PwC Hong Kong, said in a statement.

And, like Yogi Berra once famously said, I got déjà  vu all over again.

In November 2017, in the earliest days of the RyanSchultz.com blog, I wrote:

I still remember the crazy heyday of Second Life, with the hype machine set to maximum, from 2006 to 2008. Everybody was going on about how virtual worlds in general, and Second Life in particular, were going to revolutionize business and education. News organizations like Reuters, countries like Sweden, and big corporations like American Apparel and IBM trooped into SL and set up sims.

(Of course, most of those organizations trooped out of SL just as quickly as they trooped in, leaving the field to the many mom-and-pop businesses that give SL its vibrancy.)

And in July of 2018, I wrote:

Second Life went through a period (around 2006-2007) where many real-life companies, like American Apparel and Playboy, trooped in and set up shop. Almost all of those corporations left after a year or two, not seeing any real value for their investment of time and money in SL.

But, you may say; but!! It’s different this time around, you may say. And you may well be right. Perhaps, this time, all the stars will align and people will create an avatar, go into a social VR platform or a virtual world like Decentraland or the Sandbox, figure out how to dress themselves, move around and talk, locate your virtual office or shop, and actually transact business. But, for anybody who was in Second Life between 2006 and 2008, during a previous iteration to the current metaverse hype cycle, this all has a rather familiar ring to it.

Businesses who want to set up a virtual office or shop in any metaverse platform—Decentraland, the Sandbox, venerable old Second Life, wherever—need to stop and ask themselves the following pertinent questions (and yes, a consultant like Cathy Hackl, Godmother of the Metaverse, would probably charge you a pretty penny for this advice, but hey, me, I’m going to give it to you for free!):

  1. What is your use case? Prepare a written-down description of the ways in which a user would interact with your virtual office. Yes, I’m serious! WRITE IT DOWN AND THINK IT OUT. A formal use case would establish the success scenarios, the failure scenarios, and any critical variations or exceptions to your plan, before you commit.
  2. Who is your target audience? Who are you hoping to reach by setting up a virtual office in social VR or a virtual world, that you you wouldn’t already reach? NFT enthusiasts? Crypto bros? Your Joe or Jane Average consumer? If there’s a mismatch between your target audience and the people who actually use the platform, you need to take a step back and rethink this. You shouldn’t expect a sudden influx of people who are different from the demographic of the current userbase, either.
  3. How technically savvy is your target audience? For example, during Second Life’s boom, many academic libraries set up virtual versions, only to later close them when they realized that expecting people to install and set up a Second Life client, just to look for information or ask a reference question, was too steep a learning curve. In other words, the price of admission was too high. (Yes, I know, Decentraland is web-based, but that, too, has a learning curve and its tricky set-up bits, particularly if you are new to cryptocurrencies, blockchain, and NFTs.)
  4. Will this virtual office be staffed? Or will it just be a place where an avatar can get information, kind of like a fancy, three-dimensional brochure, but with NFTs and videos? 😉 And, if you do plan to staff it, will you have posted office hours? Keep in mind that most metaverse platforms operate 24/7/365; will you have people working in shifts? At the same time, paying someone to hang around in Decentraland or the Sandbox, waiting for someone to wander in, could potentially be expensive.
  5. Seriously, ask yourself why you are doing this, and keep digging until you hit bedrock! Are you setting up a virtual office just for the bragging rights? Are you just responding to all the recent articles about the blockchain-based metaverse which are triggering your FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)? Are you responding to someone else’s FOMO (e.g. your CEO or CTO)?

    So go look into the mirror, and ask yourself why. And whatever answer you give, keep asking yourself why, again and again and again, until you strip out all the corporate-speak and bafflegab and bullshit and you hit your underlying bedrock, your true motivations and intentions. THEN act.

There, you see? Auntie Ryan could definitely give the Godmother of the Metaverse a run for her money! 😜 (Seriously, love you, Cathy! Don’t change what you’re doing!)

Look, people (and by “people”, I mean corporations); I’m not saying don’t do this. I’m saying: if you choose to do this, then carefully think about what you are doing, and why you are doing it, before you jump in feet-first, and start flailing about. And (shout-out to Cathy!) hire consultants who will advise you. (Hey, forget Cathy, hire me! Me!!!)

I remain optimistic that this iteration of the metaverse will take off (unlike Second Life’s relatively short-lived and now seemingly-forgotten corporate boom). But my optimism is tempered by my 14 years of experience in SL…I often joke that I got my Ph.D. in the Metaverse from the University of Second Life! 😉 That experience informs my perspective as I passionately explore and write about the ever-evolving metaverse on this blog.

Second Life is the perfect model of a mature, fully-evolved metaverse platform, which newer entrants into the marketplace would be wise to study, and learn from both its many success stories and its failures, controversies, and scandals.

UPDATED! Cryptoland and the Streisand Effect: the Craziness Continues

The Streisand effect is a phenomenon that occurs when an attempt to hide, remove, or censor information has the unintended consequence of increasing awareness of that information, often via the Internet. It is named after American singer Barbra Streisand, whose attempt to suppress the California Coastal Records Project’s photograph of her residence in Malibu, California, taken to document California coastal erosion, inadvertently drew greater attention to it in 2003.

—Wikipedia article. Streisand effect

Since my original blogpost about one of the bat-shit craziest NFT projects which I have seen to date (and trust me, in the current environment, that’s saying a LOT!), there have been so many new developments in the past 24 hours, that I decided it was time to start a new blogpost, rather than keep updating the original one!

First, if you haven’t seen it yet, here is the cartoon portion of the original promotional video for Cryptoland (the complete video was taken down from YouTube, but you can find it via PeerTube, where it has racked up an impressive 12,000 views in just 2 days). Honestly, even if you aren’t up to speed with all the crypto lingo, this is one of the most cringeworthy things I have ever witnessed:

Among other things I mentioned in my first blogpost, the creator of the seagull used in this cartoon has publicly stated that the creators of this cartoon did NOT have her permission to use this asset to promote this NFT project. The team behind Cryptoland then promptly blocked her on Twitter, as they have many other people who have commented on and criticized this project:

Molly White first alerted me to the existence of this video via this epic, hilariously snarky Twitter thread, which you really should settle down with a cup of coffee and read through, to bring you up-to-speed as to what’s been going on over the past four days.

So, what’s been going on lately? Glad you asked 😉

Yesterday, the people behind Cryptoland send the following threatening message to Molly, which she was only too happy to share via Twitter:

Needless to say, this announcement provoked an outpouring of hilariously sarcastic comments (you can read through them here).

One commenter stated, “How about your attempt to scare someone for exposing your bullshit? Impersonating a lawyer is a felony. Keep digging that hole, guys.”, which prompted the so-called “Cryptoland Legal Team” to respond with this gem:

A lawyer using the phrase “Perfectly legit tool”? And “Cease and decease”?!?? Well, you can imagine how this went over. Eventually, heavy hitters like Keith Olberman (with almost a million Twitter followers) retweeted both the original threat and the Cryptoland team’s response far and wide. If Cryptoland had expected their efforts to extinguish the firestorm, their bully tactics backfired rather spectacularly!

Witness the Streisand effect at work: dozens and dozens of people, who had never heard of Cryptoland before, started looking for and watching the original video that prompted this back-and-forth on Twitter! A video which the Cryptoland team is now apparently trying really hard to erase from the internet, without success.

And there is now a small cottage industry of YouTube reaction videos to the original Cryptoland promotional video. I shared three as updates to my first blogpost, but here’s a fourth one I watched last night (I roared with laughter at points!):

But wait, there’s more! In a now-deleted tweet (still viewable via the Wayback Machine), they responded to a question about the age of consent on Cryptoland (a perfectly reasonable question, given that a cartoon was created to promote the project) as follows…

…which (of course!) just poured gasoline to the fire. The YouTuber in the video I linked above talked about this tweet, referring to the Cryptoland island as “Epstein Island”, and even non-crypto folks started to weigh in:

Cryptoland’s responses to this storm of controversy? Well, they’ve been busy trying to spin their self-inflicted wounds into some sort of organized, diabolical conspiracy to discredit this truly hare-brained scheme, as Molly has only been too happy to report on:

So, at this point, me and literally thousands of other people are like:

Stay tuned!

P.S. It turns out that Cryptoland is not the only NFT project involving a real-world island! VICE reported in an article about both projects:

As The Next Web pointed out in its dive into the island and Wikipedia editor Molly White in a Twitter thread sharing her research into the project, there are a few problems that stick out even beyond Cryptoland’s wild marketing video. Take the fact that the island mentioned in its “Why Paper”—an island in Fiji named Nananu-i-cake— is still for sale on at least two websites, despite the project’s website claiming that it has secured an “island purchase agreement.”…Cryptoland did not respond to Motherboard’s request for comment.

Cryptoland isn’t alone. Satoshi Island is another crypto utopia supposedly in the works, featuring a 32 million square foot island (approx 1.1 square miles) in Vanuatu—an archipelago of islands between Australia and Fiji. It’s slightly larger than Cryptoland, but has substantially less information available on it.

Its website states that the island is owned by Satoshi Island Limited, but there’s no information on who runs the company or how beyond a Team section listing some individuals involved. It also claims to have “a green light from the Vanuatu Ministry Of Finance and all approvals in place.” Motherboard reached out to various Vanuatu offices to confirm this, but has not heard back.

Hear that? There’s TWO projects out there! This just keeps gets better and better, people!

Buckle up; it’s gonna be a wild ride to follow these projects!

UPDATE Jan. 10th, 2022: VICE has just published a follow-up story on the Cryptoland debacle, covering many of the same points I covered here, plus a few new developments I hadn’t yet heard about:

Even Carlos Matos, the face of the infamous Bitconnect scam that Cryptoland features a memorial and casino in honor of, threatened legal action against Cryptoland for using his likeness in a tweet. “This is the first time I see this and whoever is using my name, brand,  or image here is using it without my approval and authorization,” Matos tweeted on January 5. “I will definitely look more into this and bring this dudes into justice. They may want to get in contact with me before they hear from me.”

In case you have no idea who Carlos Matos is, you need to watch this truly iconic video of him shilling BitConnect, a cryptocurrency which turned out to be a massive Ponzi scheme (Wikipedia article) :

You know your project is in serious trouble, when someone who is literally the face for blockchain scams threatens legal action for using your name and likeness!

The VICE article concludes as follows:

In response to all of this and other criticism, the project’s Discord has been in the midst of an ongoing purge. Criticism is labeled as spreading “FUD” (fear, uncertainty, doubt) or “bullshit,” and a new update posted to the Discord warns that members should not “engage in negative conversations with any of the trolls who enter the discord.” Instead, if you “suspect that someone is spreading fud or negativity, please report it to any member of the team and we will handle it from there.” Links to the Wayback Machine, where Cryptoland’s age of consent tweet is archived, are blocked in the Discord, Motherboard confirmed.

All in all, things are going poorly at Cryptoland it seems. It hopes to be the future beating heart of the cryptoeconomy, but is currently beset by a myriad of questions about how it’ll work, where the funding will come from, and whether its handling of the wave of criticism makes it a viable and responsible project.

I leave you with yet another wonderfully snarky YouTube video by KiraTV, who makes it his business to rip crazy NFT projects to shreds, and is absolutely scathing in his latest update on the Cryptoland project:

UPDATE Jan. 12th, 2022: Callum Upton has dropped a new commentary video about Cryptoland, and the tea is piping hot, so enjoy: