Opinion: How to Kill Your NFT Project, Larva Labs Edition


Key points to remember

  • Larva Labs is the creator of the iconic CryptoPunks NFT collection.
  • The design studio also launched a collection called Meebits last year, taking in $80 million in one day.
  • Larva Labs has taken a tough stance against CryptoPunks copycats and recently took controversial action against V1 Punks born from the original CryptoPunks smart contract.

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The CryptoPunks community is growing increasingly frustrated with Larva Labs. Chris Williams, editor of Crypto Briefing, explains why.

How Larva Labs tarnished its reputation

Throughout the last year I’ve spent a lot of time cursing all the NFT blue chips I’ve missed (the Crypto Briefing team are well aware of this; I’ve talked about this enough on our daily calls ). Of all the things I failed to pull the trigger on, I was most disappointed with CryptoPunks– it was such an obvious exchange after this Beeple’s auction, so it wasn’t much of a shock when they went for reasonably sized property prices over the NFT summer.

But more recently, CryptoPunks have fallen out of favor, leaving me less salty about my miss. There are many reasons for the project’s downfall, including its community of closed-minded casual snobs who got lucky being early in Ethereum, and a certain collection of monkeys that caught the attention of Paris Hilton and Jimmy Fallon. But the main reason why CryptoPunks lost its crown is due to its creator, Larva Labs.

Punk #7610, property of Visa (Source: Larva Labs)

For those who don’t know, Larva Labs is a design studio formed by Matt Hall and John Watkinson. A pair of creatives who had previously worked on mobile apps and projects for companies like Android, they released the now iconic 10,000 pixel Punk art characters for free in June 2017, long before anyone had to deal with whitelists or any other pre-mint shenanigans. . Similar to other key crypto projects like Bitcoin and Yearn.Finance, the trade show launch played into the wild success of CryptoPunks. It was also very early; by the time The New York Times and Tech Crunch wrote about NFTs in 2021, CryptoPunks were already historical artifacts. Christie’s and Sotheby’s auctioned them off, Jay-Z and Visa bought theirs, and, well, we all know what happened to price floors after that.

But even as CryptoPunks cemented its place as a cultural gem, Larva Labs managed to tarnish its reputation on several occasions. Hall and Watkinson ditched an uninspiring project called Meebits at the May summit and set up a Dutch auction from 2.5 ETH – about $8,000 at the time – knowing that people who were priced out punks would buy into the hype (in fairness, punk holders could create a Meebit for free). They made 80 million dollars in one day. Nothing has happened with Meebits since then, and the collection has underperformed all notable NFT avatar projects price-wise.

They also signed a deal with Hollywood that would allow their NFTs to be used in Hollywood films. Although punk holders cheered the move, it was a warning of what was to come: around the same time, the pair became more aggressive in issuing copyright takedown notices to various punk knockoffs. that have surfaced on Ethereum and other blockchains.

V1 Punk #6083 (Source: V1 Punks)

More recently, Larva Labs challenged Punks V1, a set of algorithmically generated punks that are nearly indistinguishable from those in the main collection (unlike their more famous token cousins, V1 punks have a pink background). V1 Punks were born out of the original CryptoPunks smart contract, and although Larva Labs removed them in 2017, a community has since formed around them wrapping them up as ERC-721 and acknowledging their status. O.G.

Larva Labs doesn’t like the growing popularity of V1 Punks, as it apparently ruins the prestige of the mainline collection. Like Cobie abstract Well this week, while Hall and Watkinson generally shy away from any form of community building, they recently responded to the latest V1 Punks rally by dumping 210 ETH in the market and firing all the guns on copyrights . In a Discord post, Hall said he wanted to stop V1 Punks from using the CryptoPunks name or artwork. Curiously, he then added that the 210 ETH would go to the Rainforest Foundation.

CryptoPunks command a floor of around 69 ETH today – obviously I would love to own one. However, they are far from the most valuable NFT avatar these days. That title goes to Bored Ape Yacht Club, the celebrity-endorsed collection that has seen a meteoric rise by embracing Web3 values. The team behind the project, Yuga Labs, has given its holders ownership of copyrights and lucrative airdrops, partnered with global powerhouses like Adidas, and will issue a token soon. As I noted the week after the Bored Ape Yacht Club launched, perhaps Larva Labs could have learned something from them.

Don’t get me wrong: CryptoPunks are likely to have enormous historical significance, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a Punk’s entry price skyrocket in the future. But that’s assuming its creator doesn’t completely kill the project’s legacy first.

Disclosure: At the time of writing this article, the author of this feature owned ETH and several other cryptocurrencies. They were also exposed to YFI in a cryptocurrency index.

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