China NFT Weekly: Animoca Brands’ Empire of NFT Games

Digestible news about the latest developments across the fields of NFT, blockchain and metaverse in China, delivered to you every week.

This week: IOC launches Beijing Olympics-themed NFT mobile game, Binance Labs makes strategic investment in Animoca Brands subsidiary GAMEE, Hong Kong to launch CNY pilot soon after spring festival, and more.

Ubisoft to experiment with gaming NFTs in The Sandbox metaverse

French video games giant Ubisoft has teamed up with The Sandbox metaverse platform, marking the latest sign of the possible fusion of games and NFTs.

  • Animoca Brands, the Hong Kong-based game software and venture capital company behind The Sandbox, said that it formed a strategic partnership with the Paris-listed company, in which Ubisoft would receive its own land in the metaverse and develop game experiences with NFTs.
  • The company said work was already under way to recreate characters and features from Ubisoft’s Rabbids games.
  • Ubisoft’s move reflects a broader trend of traditional gaming giants looking to sell player items in the metaverse in the form of NFTs.
  • While The Sandbox metaverse platform is still under development and has yet to announce a launch date, it has become a favorite for NFT gaming and venture capital communities thanks to partnerships with companies like Ubisoft.
  • In its latest fundraising round last month, Animoca Brands saw its private valuation surge to $5 billion. Last November, The Sandbox itself raised $93 million in a funding round led by Japanese conglomerate SoftBank.
  • Ubisoft is one of the world’s largest video game publishers, as well as the first established gaming company to make moves into the crypto space, dating all the way back to its 2018 blockchain game prototype HashCrash. In December 2021, Ubisoft became the first major international gaming developer to introduce NFTs to a video game, prior to which the space was conventionally dominated by smaller gaming startups. (SCMP, Decrypt)

SEE ALSO: The Sandbox developer Animoca Brands sees private valuation surge to $5 billion amid metaverse frenzy.

Binance Labs makes strategic investment in Animoca Brands subsidiary GAMEE

Play-to-earn (P2E) gaming platform GAMEE has recently received a $1.5 million strategic investment from Binance Labs, the venture capital arm of Binance, the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange.

  • The proceeds will be used to support the growth of GAMEE’s blockchain gaming experience, as well as to drive product development and decentralization, according to a press release.
  • The Animoca Brands-owned P2E mobile gaming platform rewards players with GMEE tokens, which are used to make in-game purchases of products and gears. GMEE tokens were initially launched on the Ethereum blockchain and were later bridged to the Polygon Chain and Binance Smart Chain.
  • Arc8 and G-Bots are the latest blockchain-backed products developed by GAMEE. Arc8 is a play-to-earn mobile esports platform that provides its over 300,000 monthly players with high-engagement, skill-based casual games. G-Bots are Polygon-based NFTs, as well as “playable” and “upgradeable” game characters that can be collected and traded. (Animoca Brands)

IOC launches Beijing Olympics-themed mobile game with NFTs

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has become the latest organization to make its foray into the burgeoning global NFT industry.

  • The association that organizes the Olympic Games said last Thursday it has launched an NFT mobile game based on the ongoing Beijing 2022 winter sporting event.
  • The app, called Olympic Games Jam: Beijing 2022, was developed by nWay, a blockchain game studio owned by Hong Kong-headquartered firm Animoca Brands. nWay’s titles reward users with NFTs as they progress, part of a fast-growing P2E game genre.
  • Olympic Games Jam: Beijing 2022 will let players compete in a number of sporting events, including snowboarding and skiing. Users can also choose to have their avatars don a range of custom skins.
  • People will be able to buy digital versions of the famous Olympic pins and trade them with other users on nWay’s marketplace. The digital pins are licensed through the IOC’s official licensing program, with the organization taking royalties on each sale.
  • An nWay spokesperson said the game will be available in each country where Apple’s App Store and Google Play are available. This excludes China, which has strict regulations both on games – all of which must be approved by Beijing officials – and crypto.
  • The launch arrived a day before the opening ceremony for the Beijing Winter Games. (CNBC)

SEE ALSO: China NFT Weekly: NFTs and the Music Industry

Hong Kong sets stage for e-CNY use, to launch pilot ‘soon after Spring Festival’

Hong Kong will soon roll out a pilot scheme for the use of the digital yuan, or “e-CNY,” in the city for shopping and dining, making the special administrative region the first city to use this digital currency outside mainland China.

  • According to Eddie Yue Wai-man, CEO of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority (HKMA), the city’s de facto central bank, “the pilot testing of e-CNY will be an important move for Hong Kong to strengthen its role as an international offshore yuan trading center.”
  • The HKMA has been testing the use of the digital yuan since March last year, with some bank staff using Hong Kong’s Faster Payment System (FPS) electronic payments platform to transfer Hong Kong dollars into e-CNY wallets.
  • Under the pilot, the HKMA and the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) will select certain mainland visitors and other individuals to use e-CNY at select shops and restaurants in Hong Kong, while Hongkongers who live in mainland Chinese Greater Bay Area cities will also be able to use the digital currency instead of two separate e-wallets, as was previously necessary.
  • Those who want to use the digital yuan will need to download e-CNY wallet application, which will link up with Hong Kong’s FPS, to top up and make payments. As of December 2021, FPS has a total of 9.6 million registered users.
  • The digital yuan is currently being used in several cities in mainland China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, as well as Winter Olympics venues outside the country’s capital. The number of e-CNY users nearly doubled to 261 million last December from 140 million. (SCMP)

AssangeDAO raises $38 million to aid WikiLeaks founder’s court battle

AssangeDAO, a decentralized autonomous organization set up to fund the legal defense of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange against extradition to the US, where he is wanted on criminal charges including espionage, has raised more than 17,422 ETH ($53.8 million) in less than a week since it went live.

  • The DAO is using the funds to bid for an NFT produced by digital artist Pak in an auction. The piece, called “Clock 1/1,” is a muted clock that counts the days that Assange has spent behind bars. The proceeds will go to the Wau Holland Foundation, a Germany-based nonprofit that has accepted donations on behalf of WikiLeaks to fund Assange’s legal defense.
  • Donors, whose contributions must be made in ETH, will see their funds exchanged and returned to them in DAO’s governance token, JUSTICE. 
  • Earlier this year, the WikiLeaks founder was given the right to request the UK Supreme Court block his extradition to the US, where he would face criminal charges under the Espionage Act for his role in obtaining and publishing classified government documents.
  • AssangeDAO’s funding has outstripped that of the previous record set by ConstitutionDAO, which was narrowly outbid at a $43 million auction for a rare edition of the US Constitution last November.
  • AssangeDAO has attracted names such as Vitalik Buterin (co-founder of Ethereum) and Edward Snowden (American former computer intelligence consultant who revealed numerous global surveillance programs, many of which were run by the National Security Agency), all of whom appear to have either donated directly to, or helped to promote, the DAO.  (Coindesk, Forkast)

Sequoia Capital leads $450 million investment in Polygon blockchain

Sequoia Capital is playing catchup with arch-rival Andreessen Horowitz in the race to invest in Web3 by investing $450 million in the Ethereum-backed blockchain network Polygon.

  • Polygon plans to allocate $100 million of this investment to an “ecosystem fund” supporting the development of new projects on its network. The rest will serve as “buffer money” to help Polygon’s 240-person team continue building out the platform in the years to come.
  • Like Ethereum and other blockchains, Polygon has its own token, called matic. Rather than issuing new shares, the company sold units of these  tokens to investors in a private round. Polygon’s backers are making a bet that matic will go up in value as adoption of its network increases. The funds came from Sequoia’s India unit, with SoftBank, Galaxy Digital and Tiger Global also investing.
  • Sequoia Capital’s move echoes a similar deal involving Solana Labs, the start-up behind Ethereum-rival Solana, which raised $314 million in a private token sale backed by Andreessen Horowitz.
  • How Polygon works:
  • Polygon sits on top of the Ethereum network as a proof-of-stake blockchain. Whereas Ethereum uses power-intensive crypto mining to verify transactions, participants in Polygon’s network just need to show they hold some tokens – in other words, a “stake” – to become validators.
  • The result is much faster transaction times – in the thousands per second, according to Polygon. In comparison, Ethereum’s network can handle about 15 transactions per second.
  • Polygon says it is now valued at $2 billion. (CNBC)

That’s it for this week’s newsletter – thanks for reading! As always, I welcome any feedback on how to make this newsletter better. My email is [email protected]. Happy early Valentine’s Day to those who celebrate, and see you all next week!