Pixelmon NFTs cost $9,000. Then They Noticed the Art

Pixelmon intended to become the Pokemon of NFT gaming and raised $70 million to do so. Then its artwork vanished.

It's envisioned as the Pokemon of NFT games. Pixelmon is an open-world RPG set in Eden in which Pixelmon creatures are caught, traded, and sold as nonfungile-tokens (NFTs). Pixelmon NFT holders will be given land when the game launches at the end of the year, which they can use to build living areas or become in-game merchants by opening a shop. Pixelmon developers raised funds for the project by selling 10,000 Pixelmon NFTs in February.

They were successful in raising $70 million, a budget often associated with blockbuster PlayStation or Xbox titles.

However, the initiative encountered a stumbling obstacle. After raising all of that money, the Pixelmon that would populate the world was revealed. Since then, the endeavor has become a social media laughingstock.

First, some background. NFT sets containing 10,000 NFTs are not uncommon. The most well-known example is the Bored Ape Yacht Club. However, the price in the primary sale, when customers buy directly from the authors, is frequently less than 0.1 ether ($280). Prices can only grow to a modest fortune on the secondary market, on marketplaces like OpenSea. (Or, as it is more frequently known, fall to zero.)

Pixelmon was unique. Being associated with a big open-world game, it was a hugely hyped project. The project's developers sold the collection in a Dutch auction, with the price starting at 3 ether (about $9,000) and decreasing by 0.1 ether every 10 minutes until the final NFT was gone. The collection sold out in an hour, with NFTs ranging from 3 to 2.4 ether ($7,000).

The deal netted the squad more than $70 million. Stylish, voxelated Pixelmon monsters had been offered on Twitter, and a sample video purporting to show real gameplay footage had persuaded investors and speculators to place large bets.

The "reveal" occurred on February 26. NFT art collections frequently have a scheduled mint date (the principal sale) followed by a reveal date a few days later. When an NFT is minted, placeholder art appears in the owner's wallet. You find out what NFT you have when you expose it. It's similar to Pokemon cards in that different NFTs within the same collection are valued based on how scarce their traits are, similar to how a holographic Pokemon card is more valuable than a standard one, so the reveal is essentially the same as opening your booster pack to see what cards you get.

The art that holders received – on which several had spent more than $9,000 – was awful enough to become an immediate trend. It also lowered the collection's value. The floor price (the cheapest NFT in the set available on the OpenSea marketplace at the time of writing) is.39 ether ($1,500).

Pixelmon is one of several NFT initiatives that seeks to accomplish more than just make art. Many people are turning to play-to-earn gaming, in which NFTs of characters or monsters are necessary to participate. Pokemon is a famous source of inspiration for such games, notably Axie Infinity, the most popular P2E game to date. Other collections attempt to build value by establishing a digital environment, or "metaverse," in which NFTs can be used to produce one-of-one avatars or to allow ownership of virtual real estate. Prices, like bitcoin and normal NFT trading, are erratic.

In the project's Discord server, Pixelmon's pseudonymous developer, Syber, admitted that the reveal went poorly. (The majority of NFT commerce is conducted over Discord.)

"I'm not going to sugarcoat it — we made a terrible error," Syber admitted on Discord. "This is intolerable. We felt pressed to push disclosure, but the truth is that we weren't prepared to push the creative work. This does not represent the brand, and we will make amends as we have disappointed many people with this announcement."

He stated that $2 million will be spent to entirely redesign the artwork. The Pixelmon crew, which is entirely anonymous, has also collaborated with Magic Media, a video game development studio.

"We are determined to delivering on our long-term goal and all that was put out in our litepaper, no matter how long it takes or how much FUD [fear, uncertainty, and doubt] occurs," he tweeted.

However, the story does not finish there. The Pixelmon art reveal was such a big failure that it created an emblem – or, at the very least, a meme – in "Kevin," the turtle creature who served as the reveal's face. ("Kevin" is the name given to him by Pixelmon creators.)

It's not merely that Kevin has become a social media meme. Kevin has become an asset unto himself. The floor price of Pixelmon's NFT collection -- that is, the cheapest ones you can buy -- is 0.39 ether ($1,140). The floor price of Kevin Pixelmon is 4.75 ether ($13,900). Not only that, Kevin has become the star of his own deriviative art collections. 

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

It's an example of how NFTs allow meme culture to be commoditized -- if only for an afternoon. 

lives-of-kevin.png

Three NFTs from the Lives of Kevin collection./ OpenSea.

Not everyone was dissatisfied with their Pixelmon. According to Pixelmon's roadmap, the browser-based game would be released by the end of the year. Some are optimistic that the ship will be righted by then.

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