It’s been a blockbuster month for Yuga Labs, the owner of the Bored Apes Yacht Club (BAYC) NFTs.
First, it acquired two other popular NFT projects: Crypto Punks and Meebits. Second, it announced the listing of the ApeCoin token on leading exchanges.
And last, but not least, the company raised $450 million from marquee investors like a16z crypto, web3 gaming company Animoca Brands, and FTX cryptocurrency exchange. Now, it’s valued at over $4 billion.
With this latest funding the firm has announced its metaverse plans — as one does in web3. Now that Yuga Labs has popularity and money, it needs to deliver on these projects and differentiate itself from the rest of the pack.
Before we talk about its roadmap, let’s have a quick refresher on BAYC.
What the hell even is a Bored Ape Yacht Club?
Yuga Labs’ marquee product, BAYC, a collection of digital ape avatars, has generated the most hype in the web3 world. There are a multitude of famous owners, with musicians like Snoop Dogg, Timbaland, and Diplo; Hollywood celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow and Paris Hilton; and athletes like Neymar, Serena Williams, and Steph Curry all owning some of the, uh, art.
The project launched in April 2021, selling each piece for 0.08 ether ($190). While all original 10,000 apes have been sold, the resale of these NFTs generates millions per month. Earlier this year, BAYC passed $1 billion in total sales.
BAYC holders get access to new NFT airdrops from Yuga Labs — such as the Mutant Ape Yacht Club — and get a chance to sell those in the secondary market. They also get access to exclusive in-person parties featuring some of the stars mentioned above.
If you don’t want any of these perks, you can generate money by reselling your ape. The lowest value you’ll get for a resale at the time of writing is $305,385.78.
All this is great. Now what?
Sure, BAYC, Yuga Labs, and a16z have everyone dreaming about owning an ape. After all, it’s all about hype and being part of this exclusive club.
But with its latest funding round, Yuga Labs is aiming to be an “NFT media” empire with projects like its own metaverse, called Otherside, and play-to-earn games. The company wants to do all things in the space : virtual land sales, entertainment, NFTs, and more.
— Yuga Labs (@yugalabs) March 19, 2022
In an interview with The Verge, Greg Solano — a BAYC co-founder with the Gargamel pseudonym — said the differentiating factor will be people bonding through collaboration:
You only play with people and make friends because you’re getting your ass kicked. Basically, we don’t think deep social experience comes from essentially a Zoom chat and walking around saying ‘hi.’
Wylie Aronow — another BAYC co-founder best known as Gordon Goner — told the publication the company hopes to create “an interoperable world” that is “gamified” and “completely decentralized.”
“We think the real Ready Player One experience will be player run,” he added.
Don’t ask me what any of that actually means.
The company hasn’t really provided a solid roadmap of how all of this will pan out. But it noted that these upcoming games won’t be limited to just Bored Ape, Mutant Ape, or Crypto Punk holders.
But until we see some of those projects, all that talk is vaporware.
Criticism of the project
Despite reportedly generating millions of dollars in revenue, BAYC and Yuga Labs haven’t escaped criticism. As Bloomberg’s Hannah Miller noted, its ApeCoin distribution could give founders and entities like Andreesen Horowitz a commanding influence over the ApeCoin DAO.
Casey Newton of The Platformer noted that tactics like this allows YugaLabs to market the benefits of decentralization like community governance and democratizing access, while keeping firm control over key decisions.
Not all people are impressed by the perceived value that ApeCoins or NFTs bring.
In a recent interview with Time, Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin commented about inflated NFT sales saying, “The peril is you have these $3 million monkeys and it becomes a different kind of gambling.”
Later, in a tweet, he said that he said that he had nothing against BAYC, but there should be more to them than being collectibles.
I don't hate apes, I just want them to fund public goods!
— vitalik.eth (@VitalikButerin) March 22, 2022
Kyle Chayka, of the newsletter Dirt, pointed out that ApeCoin is separate from BAYC, and we shouldn’t consider its value based on the primate NFT’s success:
“To restate the problem: Apecoin has to be considered as a product on its own, and succeed on its own.”
Given the spotlight on Yuga Labs, the criticism will only stop when we see substantial projects in the next few months.
The company has all the components to truly show a wonderful NFT-filled world, but the jury’s still out on whether this can actually happen.