Blockchain-based online metaverse, The Sandbox, recently announced a new partnership with famous DJ and musician, Steve Aoki . If you’ve been living under a rock, Steve Aoki is an NFT memelord who is well-known for his ability to destroy any NFT collection simply by aping in. But that isn’t the worst part of his new collection. Memes aside, there is a more troubling aspect of this story that deserves our attention.
The Steve Aoki Avatar Collection
Before we get into the problems with the new Steve Aoki collection, let’s get familiar with exactly what it is he’s selling. The collection itself features 3,333 randomly generated avatars that come in one of 6 rarities: Gold, Diamond, Hybrid, Rainbow, Android, and Human. The set also features several extremely rare 1/1 avatars, but details are light on exactly how these will work. The avatars will be sold to players for 100 SAND tokens (which is about $140 at the time of writing).
Avatars in the collection will be limited to 2 per wallet through a series of access lists during the sale. Users can get on the list by purchasing other Sandbox NFTs or Steve Aoki NFTs that he has released in the past. Like many other NFT sales, these new avatars will only hit a public sale if they have not sold out after all of the access list members are done minting. We will save the discussion on the evils of access lists and list-based minting for a future article, but that’s the gist of the collection. Pretty standard stuff that everyone should be familiar with by now.
Now let’s talk about why this, and other mints like it, are destroying The Metaverse.
Artificial Scarcity is STUPID
In order to understand the problem that mints like the Steve Aoki collection introduce, we need to talk about “artificial scarcity.” The term “artificial scarcity” simply means that you limit the supply of something, despite having the ability to produce a sufficient amount. Let’s look at some of the tactics used in this collection in particular to make our point a little clearer.
3,333 NFT Avatars
This collection will only ever issue 3,333 NFT Avatars. That’s it. That means of the almost 8 BILLION people on planet Earth, only 3,333 will be able to own one of these Avatars (technically even less considering each person can mint 2 if they’re on the access list). That’s crazy, right!? You better get on that list! These puppies are gonna skyrocket! (Hold up, I’m being sarcastic, don’t actually FOMO in people).
6 Different Rarities
Not only are you going to be one of only 3,333 people that can own this out of 8 Billion, but you might even get a rare one. Only 9% of the 3,333 will be Diamond avatars, that’s only like 300! Imagine if you got the Gold: it’s only 2%! Holy shit bro, this is nuts! Maybe I’ll pay for 2 and make another fake account to buy 2 more so I can get past their high tech security (again, sarcasm, don’t ape in).
Limited 1/1 Avatars
What in the actual F%@#? You had me at Diamond and Gold, but there’s 1/1 avatars too!? How is this even possible? This is INSANE! Screw it, I’m setting up 6 fake accounts, buying all the Snoop Dogg NFTs and then getting on the access list, like, 6 times. That’s 12! I’m definitely gonna get a 1/1!
So you’re seeing the theme here, right? All of these choices are deliberate in order to garner intense FOMO among NFT collectors. Creators consistently choose to use tactics like this because they work. Countless NFT collections have skyrocketed in price due to speculation as a result of this kind of artificial scarcity. Their greed steers their decision-making process, and they’ll do whatever it takes to bring in the highest price tag.
Now do you blame them? Maybe not. You might take the approach that “business is business” and, “don’t hate the player, hate the game.” But that’s exactly what we’re talking about here. The problem isn’t the player: it’s the entire nature of the game!
Gamers HATE NFTs
This idea of artificial scarcity may be rampant in NFTs but it isn’t isolated to Steve Aoki OR The Sandbox. In fact, it’s kind of an industry standard at this point. So why is it a problem? Why is artificial scarcity ruining the potential of NFTs as a whole? To understand that, we need to look at the general reception of NFTs outside of our small circle, specifically with gamers, the core audience of something like The Sandbox.
If you haven’t looked into this in the past, you may just want to start taking notice. YouTube is filled with streamers and content creators who absolutely 100% DESPISE NFTs. It’s not just that they dislike them or don’t want to buy them; they actively go out of their way to talk shit about them and genuinely feel vindicated when someone gets hacked or loses millions of dollars. This kind of attitude may seem toxic to us, but WE are toxic to them.
So you might be wondering, how does this all tie back to artificial scarcity and Steve Aoki? Let’s take a deeper look at why gamers hate NFTs and maybe, just maybe, we can find the common thread.
NFTs Are 100% Pay-to-Win
If there’s one thing gamers hate as much as NFTs, it’s Pay-to-Win (P2W) games. Outside of maybe China and South Korea, P2W games are seen as manipulative and outright predatory in most cases. Take Diablo Immortal for example, which recently drew the ire of the entire streaming community for its use of purchased gems to increase player power. One streamer went so far as calling out his local Senator to take action against these kinds of practices. Suffice it to say, these kinds of games aren’t popular with the majority of players.
This leads us back to our critique of NFTs in general. The problem with NFTs, and the reason that many gamers despise them, is that they are 100% P2W. There is no achievement involved, no quest, you don’t earn them by completing some time-consuming task or by showing a great feat of skill. No, you just buy them. Want the best NFTs? Pay the most money. Want great items in The Sandbox? Buy a lot of SAND tokens. Want to be able to create an experience for other players? Sorry, you don’t own a $10,000 plot of land, so you can’t.
Are you seeing the problem here? Blockchain games in general are the epitome of P2W and the logical evolution of the most hated types of games in existence. Why? Because not only are they P2W, but you can’t even call them “microtransactions.” No, these are MegaTransactions (I hereby coin that phrase). With NFT avatars, items, and lands ranging anywhere from $100 to $1 million, it’s a rich man’s game, and people simply don’t want anything to do with it.
If gamers are railing against Blizzard Entertainment for charging $9.99 for in-game gems, imagine if they started charging $100 per skin. The problem gets exacerbated by NFT culture (which we already pointed out SUCKS in another article). But this is the crux of the matter. That $140 price tag to mint a Steve Aoki avatar is completely artificial. There is no reason it needs to be like this. As a matter of fact, the solution is a rather easy one, and we have quite a few examples we can look to for inspiration.
The Solution Is Simple
To fix the problem, we can’t just address the symptoms. Sure, NFT culture is full of bro bros bragging about their “gains.” Yes, basing the entire industry off speculation and trying to get rich overnight is toxic to most looking in from the outside. But what is the actual problem underlying all of this and destroying any chance for NFTs to go mainstream?
Why do people speculate that the price of a collection will go up after release?
Artificial scarcity and FOMO.
Why do the select few who made the access list see exorbitant gains in some cases and then get toxic and brag about it to people who don’t care?
Artificial scarcity and FOMO.
Why do people get rekt when they mint something for $3,000 only to see it catastrophically collapse to $100 because it was never any good in the first place?
Artificial scarcity and FOMO.
In my opinion, this incessant use of artificial scarcity and the way we choose to release NFT collections is the cancer that is poisoning the well, which makes the solution quite easy.
Stop using artificial scarcity and FOMO to try and line your pockets at the cost of the entire industry!
Gamers have long been fans of games that feature microtransactions in a less predatory manner. Let’s use Fortnite as an example. Fortnite rose to the absolute top of the industry and made billions for Epic Games. Fortnite featured an in-game shop with TONS of cosmetics for sale. The thing is, players didn’t rail against Epic Games. They didn’t create streams discussing the predatory nature of Fortnite. No, they were OK with it. Why? Because it simply isn’t predatory.
In a game like The Sandbox, there is no reason to artificially limit supply of a skin other than Greed. Players who want to look like Steve Aoki shouldn’t have to pay $140 for a skin in a video game. Do you realize how absolutely stupid that is to everyone else in the world, Especially considering we are in the middle of total global economic collapse? Let’s be real here people, this just isn’t sustainable.
So how can we make the Steve Aoki Avatar collection fun and accessible to everyone, but still allow for excitement and a bit of dopamine when you create one, while allowing the creators to still make some money off of their efforts?
Here Are Some Ideas:
- Don’t limit supply. Let the market determine it.
- Turn all traits into individual items and sell them as cosmetics.
- Don’t limit the supply of the trait items either.
- RNG the rarity of the actual skin itself. How? 1 in every 20 minted is Android, 1 in 100 is Rainbow, and so on.
- Sell Avatars for $9.99 each.
- Sell Trait Items for $2.99 each.
Is this list all inclusive, and will it fix everything? Maybe not, but it’s a start. By increasing the supply and separating out the items to make more available to collect, you still allow for revenue while making the entire collection more accessible to traditional gamers. Not only that, but it allows everyone to express themselves in the way they want, rather than forcing some users to be stuck with ugly ass PFPs because they had bad luck on mint day.
And Here’s the Verdict!
OK, so the headline might have been a little bit clickbaity, but it’s not entirely false. People like Steve Aoki are playing into the worst aspects of the industry, and it needs to stop. Gamers absolutely HATE NFTs right now, and last time I checked, The Sandbox and other “metaverses” like it are still just games. In order to appeal to the mass market, we have to stop thinking with speculation and greed-tinted lenses and start making products that can bring joy and fun to everyone, without a huge financial barrier to entry. If we can do that, who knows? The Sandbox might just be the next Fortnite.
But what do you think? Is Steve Aoki ruining the Metaverse? Are NFTs doomed to fail because of the culture? Let us know your thoughts!