After seemingly pulling off the most bizarre unicorn success story tech, the founders and CEO of NFT project Bored Ape Yacht Club have a lot to prove with their startup Yuga’s early beta visions of the metaverse, a gaming platform called Otherside.
Rare entertainment startups have faced this much community pressure on their first game, and even fewer have seen so many people rooting them for failure. NFT bull runs, which made Bored Apes holders early on and their founders extremely rich, also created plenty of enemies who decried NFTs for making vulnerable people part with their money. Many retail investors who invested in crypto have lost significant amounts in recent months due to the crash in crypto prices.
Yuga must manage the challenge of keeping a community of NFT holders during the development of Otherside, which many fear will be a crypto winter nestled within a recession. While transitioning from six-figure NFT clubs and the exclusivity of an MMO, the startup will have to deal with the skepticism of gamers about NFTs.
Otherside’s success would be an awful lot for Yuga’s Venture Capitalists. The latter gave it an unheard-of 4 billion seed stage valuation. However, it could also be a lot for the basic idea of web3 ownership in a time where tech’s most potent powers, led by Meta, are promising a metaverse revolution.
“There will be many metaverses… There are many other metaverses, but I think the most intriguing question is: Are these open? In an interview with TechCrunch, Nicole Muniz, Yuga CEO, asks: “Or are they closed?” “Do you feel like you are the only one in this world?” That’s my first question. Do you have or?
This reporter was invited to join a private demo of Otherside, called “First Trip”, where over 4,500 Yuga members joined simultaneously for an hour-long scripted demonstration. Users were dressed up in multicoloured robot avatars, and only one Bored Ape was visible. However, a large one called “Curtis” guided thousands of gamers through an experience that demonstrated controls and gave them their first taste of Otherside.
Technically, the demo went without any problems. Interacting with so many avatars was more interesting, knowing each one was real. The demo had a small festival’s social vibes and energy, allowing you to move from one space to another with hundreds of avatars.
Otherside will offer a game developers platform similar to Roblox and Meta’s Horizon Worlds. Users can build and monetize experiences on virtual land that can then be sold and bought.
It’s one thing to get thousands of gamers in a room, but it’s another to give them something worth their time. The Otherside’s first gameplay featured a boss fight between 4,500 and 1, was quite unique. However, multiplayer concurrency can quickly get chaotic. This could allow for a new level of experience.
Muniz told me that while Otherside will tap Improbable’s gaming startup’s tech, it doesn’t necessarily mean that developers outside of the platform will have to design everything for thousands. However, Muniz also pointed out that users will also be able to experience smaller scale, solo experiences.
And the open world. You can do what you like and say what you want unless you intrude on the rights of others or their safe space.
Gordon Goner, the cofounder of Bored Apes, explains that the title is needed at such a large scale because other games can reach larger audiences with smaller concurrent players.
Although the Bored Apes NFT audience remains small, the Otherside launch was a significant win for the Improbable U.K., which is currently developing the title. The startup raised $500 million five years ago to fund its multiplayer vision. It also recently raised $150 million at $1 billion for its new “metaverse” network M 2.
Improbable CEO Herman Narula told TechCrunch that this is the fourth generation in technology that began in his house. “It’s been a long process of evolution. We’ve become the global leader in multiplayer experiences.
Otherside is still in beta. The team insists that Yuga NFT holders will have plenty of community tests as they refine and crowdsource their vision. “I like that there’s going be a first, second, and third trip,” Goner states. “There are these landmark moments for the community that you’re co-developing and iterating the metaverse with.”
While many games have seen their fortunes tied up by major publishers, very few games have seen their players’ fortunes depend on a successful launch. Yuga already has a lot of user investment in Otherside’s future promise. In an NFT land sale, Yuga made $517 million, selling 55,000 virtual plots known as Otherdeeds.
The sale came before a significant drop in cryptocurrency prices. It hit the native ApeCoin token users used to pay for their land. This brought it down almost 90% from its presale highs before recovering slightly. Users paid around USD 5,800 for an Otherdeed at launch. The floor price is still around 30% lower than that price, giving users hope that their early investment will pay off. The startup has received $450 million in seed funding from a16z.
While other play-to-earn cryptocurrency gaming titles such as AxieInfinity have been criticized for their unsustainable economic models, the startup’s demo is timely. Although Yuga’s monetization plans are still being developed and the founders have yet not set a date for a broad public launch, Yuga is positioning herself to compete with significant platforms like Epic Games and Roblox.
“The idea is to create an open, interoperable universe. Not the kind of 50% rake we see elsewhere. Bored Apes cofounder Gargamel tells us that users, owned by them can generate assets, and moved off the platform without any restrictions.
The company’s founders managed to allude to Meta many times without mentioning its name. They also took shots at metaverse platforms that have high take rates. The Horizon Worlds platform by Meta has a 47.5% sales tax. Yuga’s hesitation in criticizing the company directly could be due to Muniz’s assertions that virtual reality, a large hardware platform, will be huge for Otherside.
Yuga’s desire to make it easier for creators to charge lower platform fees through web-based gameplay might be a good thing. However, users may not have the option to access the platform via traditional app stores. This is especially true as hardware platforms continue tight control over web browser capabilities on their devices.
“We see this as multiplatform. It’s mobile and desktop… VR will be an important platform,” Muniz states. While there will likely be a local component where people run a local version, it is not necessary to have the link. Anyone can tweet a message saying, “Hey, holy sh*t, I just killed this dragon!” and anyone can join.
Update 3:05 pm PT An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Improbable had just raised a down round. That round was a token sale for a legal entity.