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The Latest NFT Fad Is a Text-Based Fantasy Game Building Block

An open-source side project from Vine co-founder Dom Hofmann has quickly built a devoted community – and a market cap over $180 million.

Sep 1, 2021
CoinDesk Insights

The latest non-fungible token (NFT) craze is among the simplest – and the strangest – yet: a randomly generated list of items ostensibly intended for players of a fantasy video game.

In just five days, “Loot: (for Adventurers),” a text-based NFT side project from social media network Vine co-founder Dom Hofmann, has managed to attract $46 million in sales and a total market cap well in excess of $180 million.

Perhaps even more impressively, the Loot community now counts among its ranks an all-star list of Web 3 founders, builders and investors, including executives from projects including Aave, Axie Infinity and Fractional Art – many of whom are building new projects on top of the original drop in an effort to expand the “Loot-verse,” as Aave founder Stani Kulechov puts it:

While some believe the project signals the genesis of an open-source fantasy metaverse, others – including the founder himself – are worried the sky-high prices might be the latest sign of an unsustainable NFT bubble and could end up deterring more would-be players than not.

Free launch

With a simple tweet, Hofmann kicked off the Loot run last Friday.

The project had no front-end interface, and users had to directly interact with the minting contract in order to obtain the NFTs. Hofmann charged no mint fee and the NFTs do not include royalties – users only had to pay for the Ethereum network transaction fee to claim them.

While there was initial speculation that Loot may be a part of Hofmann’s forthcoming projects Supdrive, an “on-chain game console,” and Sugar, an on-chain game, Hofmann specified in the Supdrive Discord channel shortly after launch that Loot was “not related.”

Hofmann did not respond to CoinDesk’s request for comment by press time.

Despite clearly being a side project, a community quickly formed around Loot. Within hours there was a dedicated Discord channel, Twitter handle and even token-gated communities around certain items – social channels that could only be entered if users could prove they held a Loot NFT with a “Divine Robe” item.

In the following days, the “floor price,” or lowest price at which you can obtain an NFT for a given project, rose as high as 7.5 ETH, or $28,000. The floor currently sits at 5.25 ETH.

Developer ecosystem

While the rapid value accrual is impressive, the list of complementary projects is where Loot truly stands out. An expanding set of related NFT drops are forming what appears to be the early stages of a full game ecosystem.

On Tuesday night, Fractional Art founder and noted NFT collector Andy Chorlian released Ability Score (For Adventurers), a “Dungeons & Dragons”-style set of stats designed to add another character creation-style element to an adventurer’s Loot. Like the original Loot drop, Ability Score was free aside from the gas charge, and holders of Loot were each entitled to a single Score.

Chorlian confirmed he programmed and launched the drop “in 25 minutes.”

Chorlian told CoinDesk in an interview that the open-source nature of the project is what makes it special.

“What is cool about Loot and its new derivatives is the push to have them be unopinionated and fully on-chain. It makes it so that anyone can build games/art/lore without having to worry that one day it will go away,” he said via Twitter.

In a blog post on Wednesday, Darren Lau of crypto investment firm Not3Lau Capital argued that the simplicity of the project has galvanized and inspired the Web 3 community.

In an interview with CoinDesk, Lau said that Loot is similar to “the perfect writing prompt.”

“[Loot is] a minimum viable product that anybody can take up and expand upon, limited only by their collective imaginations,” he said. “The speed of which builders have flocked towards Loot has been astounding, incensed by the possibility of building something all together.”

Other related projects now include cities, banquets, characters, weapon descriptions and multiple artistic renderings.

However, in the Cambrian explosion of related efforts, the project is showing some signs of having jumped the shark – one drop is called Diccs (For Adventurers), a project that gives statistics on the nature of each adventurer’s genitalia.

Likewise, copycat projects have emerged in full force sporting varying degrees of promise, including randomly generated soccer players similar to those seen in the popular Football Manager video game series:

While it’s too early to say this will be the beginning of a text-based NFT trend or a flash in the pan, more Loot-inspired projects appear to be emerging every hour.

Even in a space known for coordination and rapid iteration the pace of development since the initial drop less than a week ago has been torrid, with some industry veterans referring to the progress as “insane.”

Prices and players

Despite the number of developers devoting time to the Loot-verse, some have wondered whether the eye-popping prices may keep casual players away.

Rainbow Wallet co-founder Mike Demarais said Tuesday on Twitter the high price tag for a Loot NFT may prove to be a barrier. Hofmann responded, saying that “you shouldn’t need an NFT to play anything:”

Wednesday morning, however, Hofmann announced the launch of “synthetic Loot” – a contract that gives all Ethereum address holders the ability to generate a synthetic NFT.

The synthetic cannot be traded, sold or transferred, but can be used by game makers to ensure that anyone can play a hypothetical game utilizing the original Loot drop with just an Ethereum address.

Some observers remain worried that Loot prices represent a speculative bubble.

In an interview with CoinDesk, Fiskantes, a self-described “Crypto Degen and Venture Communist” at Zee Prime Capital, said that the success of the project now hinges on the various drops forming together in a functioning world.

“Loot floor pamped quite hard and is currently supported by the novelty, high expectations, promise of community-driven development and future drop optionality,” Fiskantes told CoinDesk via Twitter DM, adding:

“It remains to be seen whether it will reach escape velocity. That can only happen if Loot and its derivative drops will start being connected in a meaningful way to create a coherent ecosystem that’s fun to engage with. In the meantime we can expect many low-effort copycats.”

Editor’s note: This reporter minted and subsequently sold Loot NFTs on the day of the launch. He does not currently hold any Loot or related projects.

DISCLOSURE

The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is a media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. CoinDesk is an independent operating subsidiary of Digital Currency Group, which invests in cryptocurrencies and blockchain startups.

Andrew Thurman is a tech reporter at CoinDesk with a focus on DeFi.

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