I delivered no less than seven different training sessions (online and remotely, either from my office at the science library or from home) to various classes of agriculture students. I have been fighting with computer hardware and software problems all week, starting on Monday when I couldn’t get my microphone to work, to yesterday when I got unceremoniously booted out of the the online class I was teaching using Cisco WebEx—TWICE. I am exhausted.
To add to my overall bad mood, the most recent data on breakthrough COVID-19 cases here in Manitoba are somewhat worrying. According to this report from CTV News, while fully vaccinated people are not being affected nearly as much as the unvaccinated, breakthrough cases are happening. And even more worrying, 16 fully vaccinated Manitobans have died of COVID-19 so far. That is not good news.
Mark my words: COVID still has the ability to throw some curveballs at us. For the love of God, if you have not already done so, GET VACCINATED! And please do everything you can—handwashing, face masks, social distancing, etc.—to stay safe and healthy. You do not want to catch this virus if you can avoid it!
However, I can still laugh at the continued silliness in the hothouse of the NFT (Non-Fungible Token) market. Everybody seems to be leaping on the get-rich-quick bandwagon.
I am currently blocking and deleting spam direct messages on Discord (people shilling for one blockchain-based scheme after another), at the rate of about one per day now. It would appear everybody and their dog has come up with some sort of harebrained NFT project to try and part you from your hard-earned dollar.
Today, I got the following spam direct message via Discord (blurred to avoid giving you his name and link addresses):
Hi. A new project Mint will begin in 7-9 days. There will be 10000 Covid themed NFT’s in total. Don’t miss your chance to get in on the start of an incredible cool project. FUCK COVID
Clicking through to the website (and no, I am not going to bother to link to it), and behold!
OMG!!! There’s only ten thousand NFT facemasks, supplies are limited so act now and get that rare collectible!
Which reminded me of the following message I received recently via the feedback form on my blog:
Hello there, I’m David from Next Earth – we are the only blockchain and Earth map based metaverse 🙂 We’ve launched in the end of July and now only a few hours left until the end of land pack presale.. By now, more than 150.000 Dollars worth of land tiles has been sold and it’s increasing day by day, just like our community, so we are really excited about our future. It would be awesome if you could help us with spreading the word, and since you have quite a lot followers I can easily offer you a referral code with a fair amount of commission.. I’d be extremely interested in what you think and how we could collaborate, so please get back to me and let’s discuss our opportunities! Best regards, David
There was a time, back in the day (ohhh, let’s say, May of 2006) when a Second Life avatar named Anshe Chung graced the cover of Businessweek magazine, which told the story of how she became the first online personality to achieve a net worth exceeding one million US dollars from profits entirely earned inside a virtual world.
It can be argued that this Businessweek article, and the resulting media attention it caused, was the spark that ignited a period of explosive population growth in Second Life, as people realized that they, too, could earn money on Second Life, and they began joining the platform in ever-increasing numbers.
In particular, between late 2006 and early 2007, dozens of real-life companies and brands decided to set up shop in Second Life: Dell, Toyota, Nissan, Sun Microsystems, IBM, even American Apparel and Playboy. Unfortunately, this corporate heyday did not last long. By the end of 2008, most real-world corporations were pulling out, not seeing the benefit (i.e. profit) in running operations on a virtual world, especially during a somewhat brutal recession.
And, for a long time, burned by their initial enthusiastic foray into Second Life, most real-world brands pretty much steered clear of virtual worlds, leaving them to the mom-and-pop stores, the individual content creators who were able to make a go of it.
Well, I am starting to notice the beginnings of a new trend lately: real-life brands are starting to enter into partnerships with social VR and virtual worlds once again. Is this the start of a new trend in marketing?
Two different news items, about two completely different types of partnerships, crossed my desk yesterday, one for Bacardi rum and the other for Coca-Cola, which tickled my fancy and made me laugh (hence the clever title of this blogpost!). Both are instructive examples of how such corporate partnerships have evolved and changed since the Anshe Chung summer of 2006 in Second Life.
Barcardi and Sansar: The Casa Bacardi Virtual Island Festival
Bring home some Caribbean vibes and get grooving to your favourite beats at a music experience like never before.
Casa Bacardi is a whole new virtual world on Sansar, with an epic stage for your favourite artists to perform on, games to play with your friends, hang out with them, play cocktail games and meet new people. Enjoy all of this and more from the comfort of your home along with your favourite Bacardi Cocktails.
You can even design your own look and express yourselves through your avatar before you land on Casa Bacardi Island. Festival fashion doesn’t go away, you know?
Find liberation from the real world on a virtual Caribbean island. Teleport to Casa Bacardi this Rum Month!
Performers at this event include a mix of afrobeat, hip hop, electronica and dance music artists:
Divine and the Gully Gang
Tsumyoki with Kidd Mange
Tickets are quite inexpensive, only US$1.99 for a concert pass, and US$2.99 for a concert pass plus a limited after-party event (you can pay via credit card or PayPal).
Coca-Cola, Tafi and Decentraland: The Friendship Box NFT
In a piece of news which I somehow missed, Coca-Cola entered the ultra-trendy NFT space with a limited-edition auction, partnering with the Tafi avatar creation system and the blockchain-based virtual world Decentraland (NFT, of course, stands for Non-Fungible Tokens, the concept that blockchain-based property is a unique, distinguishable, indivisible blockchain-based asset which has some sort of monetary value, usually denoted in a cryptocurrency like ETH/Ethereum).
Coca-Cola is not the first big brand name to jump into Decentraland, of course; not too long ago I wrote about how Sotheby’s set up shop. It would appear that the current unabated frenzy over blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and NFTs is bringing together some rather unlikely bedfellows!
Tafi announced today that it has partnered with Coca-Cola® by designing virtual wearables for Coca-Cola’s first-ever non-fungible token (NFT) collectibles offering in the “metaverse” to celebrate International Friendship Day on July 30th, Coca-Cola will be auctioning an NFT loot box on OpenSea, that contains Tafi-designed digital apparel that can be worn forever in the virtual world of Decentraland.
Tafi, a leading designer of avatars and digital wearables, is a digital strategy and development partner with Coca-Cola. Tafi worked alongside Coca-Cola to produce the NFTs, as well as Virtue, the agency by Vice, who developed the initial concept. Details of Tafi’s involvement in Coca-Cola’s NFT Lootbox can be found at https://maketafi.com/coca-cola-nft.
Coca-Cola collaborated with designers at Tafi on all the NFTs including the branded wearable apparel. Auction-goers can bid on the Coca-Cola Friendship Box, a reimagined version of Coca-Cola’s highly collectible vending machine, itself an NFT, and once opened there will be three one-of-a-kind digital assets to own:
• A custom Coca-Cola Bubble Jacket Wearable – a futuristic jacket – is illuminated with effervescent fizz, purposely designed with subtle nods to Coke’s nostalgic delivery uniforms. It also will include an unlockable version that can be worn in the Decentraland 3D virtual reality platform. Inspired by metaverse trends and utility, the jacket features the Coca-Cola color palette, fusing the metallic red of the aluminum can and caramel brown of the delicious drink.
• The Sound Visualizer captures the experience of sharing a Coca-Cola using instantly recognizable audio cues: the pop of a bottle opening, the sound of a beverage being poured over ice, the unmistakable fizz and that first refreshing taste.
• The Friendship Card reimagines the design of Coca-Cola’s famous friendship-inspired trading cards from the 1940s for the digital world. The cards bear the “Symbol of Friendship” moniker.
This one-of-a-kind loot box contained some ultra-exclusive items, including a puffy jacket which can be worn by Decentraland avatars, and it sold for a whopping 217 ETH (which works out to about half a million U.S. dollars)!
Now I can tell you one thing for damn sure: no matter how luxurious and glossy that Coca-Cola puffed jacket may look on the OpenSea marketplace (and you can check out the fancy animations here), it is not going to look anywhere near as good when your avatar wears it around Decentraland! The current state of graphics in Decentraland looks like this, in case you needed a reality check:
Perhaps I am not the best person to explain all this, because frankly I am still mystified as to why people would want to spend outrageous sums of money on NFTs, except perhaps for bragging rights. However, it is clear that blockchain, crypto, and NFTs are not going away anytime soon (although they will not doubt continue to fluctuate wildly in value). I just report on what I see, safely from the sidelines.
And I repeat my usual warning: do EVERY. SINGLE. SCRAP. of your homework before investing a penny in any blockchain/cryptocurrency project.
Are we seeing a renaissance in such partnerships between real-world brands and social VR platforms and virtual worlds? Who knows. But it is fascinating to watch!
Have you joined the RyanSchultz.com Discord yet? You’re invited to be a part of the first ever cross-worlds discussion group, with over 500 people participating from every social VR platform and virtual world! We discuss, debate and argue about the ever-evolving metaverse and the companies building it. Come join us! More details here.
If Second Life has taught us nothing else during the 18 years of its existence, it is this: that people are willing to invest considerable amounts of time and money on avatar customization. In some worlds like VRChat, the customization applies to the entire avatar; in others, like Sinespace, Second Life and Sansar, you can have dressable, human(oid) avatars, where you can mix and match clothing you purchase from content creators to make your own signature look. (In fact, at one time I had aspirations to teach myself Marvelous Designer and become an avatar fashion designer in Sansar…you can read through all the blogposts of that particular saga here.)
The blockchain-based virtual world Decentraland has followed the latter path of Sansar and Second Life (i.e. dressable human avatars), and early this month, they have taken another step on that journey by releasing the Decentraland Wearables Editor. Here’s a quick promotional video:
Now, unlike Sansar and Second Life, creating and selling avatar clothing is different in a blockchain-based virtual world like Decentraland. Every single copy of every single article of clothing has to be minted as a unique NFT (non-fungible token). In other words, the designer decides ahead of time how many copies he or she wants to sell. All clothing is limited edition!
The Decentraland Wearables Editor allows you to name items, model wearables on an avatar, assign categories and item rarity, and set a price for each item in your collections. After that, according to the official blogpost:
Once you’re happy with the details, you can publish your item or collection which then goes to the Curation Committee for approval.
The Curation Committee was voted in place by the DAO, and exists to prevent buggy or offensive wearables from appearing in Decentraland.
While there is no gas cost for minting wearables on Polygon, there are fees for publishing wearable items in the Editor. These fees are intended to discourage and reduce wearable “spam”, which can have a negative impact on the performance of the Decentraland Platform.
Again, this is another key difference between Second Life and Decentraland: everything you create for the latter has to go through an approvals process. Since this is a new process, it is impossible to say how much of a potential bottleneck this could create. (By the way, the Decentraland DAO is an autonomous body which owns the most important smart contracts and assets that make up Decentraland—the LAND Contract, the Estates Contract, Wearables, Content Servers and the Marketplace—and subsidizes various operations and initiatives throughout Decentraland.)
The current boom in NFT art has led to new partnerships between bricks-and-mortar art galleries and brokers and blockchain-based platforms, such as Cryptovoxels, Decentraland, and Somnium Space, where such art can easily be displayed and admired.
Venerable art auction house Sotheby’s has just announced via Twitter that they have set up a digital replica of its London galleries in the blockchain-based virtual world of Decentraland, as part of Natively Digital, an inaugural curated sale of Non-Fungible Token (NFT) artworks (along with a discussion room on Clubhouse today):
Artnet News reports (this site is paywalled so use the incognito mode of your web browser to see this article):
Sotheby’s virtual gallery is a twin of its New Bond Street outpost, complete with five ground-level galleries—but instead of London’s tony Mayfair enclave, it is located in Decentraland’s prime art hub, known as the Voltaire Art District (map coordinates: 52,83).
A virtual version of Sotheby’s avuncular London commissionaire Hans Lomulder…welcomes visitors at the gallery entrance, top hat and all.
The NFTs that will be for sale include both the work of early, pioneering crypto artists in the field and more recent blockbuster stars; some of the names represented in the sale are Rhea Myers, Lethabo Huma, and Larva Labs. Recently, Christie’s scored a huge win with the $16.9 million sale of 9 Cryptopunks NFTs manufactured by Larva Labs, so that listing in particular is likely to score comparable dividends for Sotheby’s.
If you want to visit the virtual Sotheby’s in Decentraland, read my step-by-step guide on how to get started, then type /goto 52,83 into chat (note that you should also be able to visit Decentraland as a guest, without setting up an account). Enjoy the art!