I'm here to get paid.
Screw Mario Kart; let me own Pikachu.
You heard me.
I will not be stifled by concerns of unclean language. Screw Mario. I don't want his kart, or his dinosaur, or even his brother. I want to own Pikachu. It's that simple. In the immortal words of Dave “Batista” Bautista, “GIVE ME WHAT I WANT! [Mario?] THAT’S NOT WHAT I WANT!” I want to own Pikachu. Not at WrestleMania, but broadly.
Back in late October, Bloomberg Wealth published an article trying to explain what the Metaverse is to business types who aren’t serious enough to read the Harvard Business Review. There was a passage that caught a lot of Internet heat, which is of course the most important metric for judging how right you are about something. They made a hamfisted attempt to explain NFTs in the context of “owning” Mario and his eponymous kart in Mario Kart. One could earn “Mariocoins” for their ownership, and the purchase and ultimately sale of Mario and his kart would be registered on the Blockchain.
For completeness sake, I should explain NFTs beyond calling them the latest trend for grifters and griftees. NFTs (Non-fungible tokens), the latest trend for grifters and griftees, are digital signatures that "authenticate ownership" of a digital asset, such as a picture or 1/47 of a Radio Free Nintendo Patreon Exclusive. Ownership transactions are verified on the Blockchain, and at this point its clear that continuing to define terms will get us nowhere. While none of this prevents the digital asset from being infinitely reproduced, the "ownership" is unaltered by this duplication. Just know that unless you're the actual owner of Part 22, your enjoyment of it is completely illicit.
There were a few issues with the Bloomberg Wealth article.
First was the handmaiden work Bloomberg was doing for “Meta,” the rebranded whitewash of perpetual bad actor Facebook. When not allegedly busy propagating Russian agitprop, allegedly promoting conspiracy theories, allegedly knowingly undermining the self-worth of teens, allegedly providing venues for all the things that are too hot for Nextdoor, and other worthwhile business ventures; Facebook is also interested in throwing up smokescreens to distract from Congressional testimony. The rebrand’s timing was so obvious that it should have led the piece. On the bright side, it did give us this Meta ad, which is so horrendously awful that one of the actors literally could not hide their contempt.
Second is the real problem with describing “Metaverse,” which is that it can mean whatever the hell you want it to mean. It’s a word made up by marketers and their ilk to rebrand existing technologies as something new and revolutionary, which is of course just a way of getting money for existing ideas. VR Chat is the ultimate expression of Metaverse by Bloomberg Wealth’s definition. Except, it lacks the necessary implementation of NFT technology. Without it, how can you get people to give you real currency in exchange for fake currency that you created literally from thin air so that they can buy “content” that you let the audience create for you?
But most pointedly, the biggest failure of Bloomberg Wealth isn’t their thin grasp of why Facebook is doing this now, or the inherent pyramidal shape of the Metaverse business model as described in their article. The true failure was the selection of Mario Kart as the example. It was inherently so ghastly to fans of Nintendo games—and more largely to the gaming community—that it poisoned any potential conversation they could have about NFT in games.
This is where the NFT-supporting commentariat will jump all over me and accuse me of not seeing the revolutionary value of truly owning your “content” in games. They ignore that for this to actually do more than existing “inventory” models do in online games, it would require the NFT—which ultimately is just a pointer saying who owns a URL—be implemented in other products. Great, your super cool gun is backed by NFT instead of just being inventory on a game server, but you aren’t going to be able to use the gun in another game unless the developers implement it. This is where the commentariat calls me dumb, but they’re the ones claiming automatically generated jpegs of sub-Garbage Pail Kids quality art are "worth" $300k, so I feel like I’m pre-vindicated.
Bloomberg’s example of Mario and his Kart Friend being only accessible to the single owner of the related NFT would render Mario Kart unplayable almost instantly. Unless Nintendo wanted to get into the business of automatically creating kart+driver combinations, they’d never be able to feed the grift mill enough content that everyone could have a kart, let alone a desirable one.
I’m being informed that it is entirely possible that Nintendo is already automatically generating Mario Kart characters.
Be that as it may… if Bloomberg Wealth wanted to better illustrate their point, what game should they have chosen? We need something that justifies the limitation of a single owner having access, that has “user generated content” where playing the game increases the perceived value of the in-game asset, where there’s enough supply to keep the wheels of the game lubricated, and where it is reasonable to assume that the asset will be valuable in other games in the future.
To revisit the words of America’s greatest slab of human granite: you know what it is, give me what I want! I want to own Pikachu. I’ve been asking for it for years, you’re going to give me what I want or I’m going to continue to hurt you by writing this article.
Pokémon is the answer to the NFT/Metaverse/investor-bait question that no one needed to ask, and yet I will answer. Let’s take it point by point. I identified four key criteria we have to meet: justified scarcity, sufficient supply to make the game playable for a broad audience, potential for “play to earn” to increase the value of the asset, and expectation that the asset will be valuable in future games.
To start with, I’m going to stop calling it “the asset.” This is entirely too boring, and as was Bloomberg Wealth’s intent in choosing Mario Kart, I need a beloved property that will generate rage clicks. From this point forward “the asset” is “Vulpix.” Sorry everyone else, I own Vulpix. If you want to see him you’ll have to pony up. Please spread the word that NWR is saying Vulpix should be an NFT, the clicks give me strength.
How can I justify the scarcity of Vulpix? As we covered in the most recent Indie World Showcase, all foxes are dead. But even in the context of Pokémon, I can justify the limited supply of Vulpixes: when you play Pokémon or watch Pokémon or… sleep Pokémon you don’t see a ground teeming with Vulpix. If you’re lucky, you might see a single Vulpix in an hour. They’re not especially common. But there is more than one, you cry out—afraid that you’ll never get to own Alolan Vulpix. And indeed there is, which takes me to the second point…
“Limited” does not mean “singular.” The game can still be playable, even if NFT ownership of specific Pokémon is implemented. Pokémon as NFTs can be “minted” at a frequency commensurate with their in-universe rarity. The GTS marketplace would be awash in Rattata and Zubat NFTs, but my Vulpix is a much more valuable commodity. It is possible you could “mint” one by crawling around in the grasses, much like one would mint any other cryptocurrency, but it isn’t especially likely. You can still beat the Elite Four, or fight online, or do other Pokémon gameplay without a Vulpix, but if you must have one, the GTS Marketplace will always be able to provide—for a price.
Now just apply this scarcity to Legendary, true one-of-a-kind, Pokémon. They’ll be unfathomably valuable. People will pay a lot of virtual currency to be the sole owner of Mewtwo. It’s not just a lucrative way to collect a percentage of the sale price as a “service fee,” or a way to gin-up free PR with each wild sale price, it’s also a way to bring currency speculation to the world of Pokémon; something we’ve always known it was lacking.
In the canon, "Mewtwo is a Pokémon that was created by genetic manipulation. However, even though the scientific power of humans created this Pokémon's body, they failed to endow Mewtwo with a compassionate heart." This might actually be too on the nose.
If I don’t own the only Vulpix, how do I “play to earn” my way into a more valuable Vulpix? Well, what if I “minted”— a.k.a. “caught”—a shiny Vulpix? That would certainly be more valuable than a generic one on the GTS. But, even if my Vulpix wasn’t shiny, or Alolan, or special at time of capture, I could play to make it more special. EV training, leveling up, teaching it movies via TM/TR/HM/Move Trainer, or by doing that weird Pokémon pageant stuff. All these changes to the composition of my Vulpix potentially make it more marketable. It’s up to me to figure out how to maximize the value of my Vulpix, and make it stand out from the crowd. I’m doing Market Research, this is fun!
The last question: how do I know that my Vulpix will be useful in future Pokémon games? This is where NFT acolytes always claim “the future” rests, but they never have real examples. They assume, rather blithely, that of course developers will invest the time to support NFTs from other games, despite the fact it likely earns them nothing. But, with Pokémon that’s already here. You can already trade your Pokémon forward. In fact, it is possible to have taken a Pokémon all the way from the Game Boy Advance to the Switch. Even older generations are accessible via the Virtual Console. Concerned Game Freak is going to pull a Sword and Shield and cut another hundred Pokémon? Now they'd be illegally influencing a financial instrument. Who would have thought the Security and Exchange Commission would be a Pokémon Trainer's biggest ally?
In fact, moving Pokémon to NFTs cleans up the entire trading process! Forget Pokémon Home, now we have Pokémon NFT! Pokémon Company doesn’t even have to pay for the servers that run it, and now there’s no Pokémon duplication to worry about. I can take my Vulpix from Sword and Shield, to Legend Arceus, to the online Trading Card Game, to toothbrush incentivizer Pokémon Smile! Now Vulpix is always with me, in the Metaverse.
So, Pokémon Company, GIVE ME WHAT I WANT! I want to own Vulpix. Other people can own a Vulpix as well, but not my Vulpix.
Nintendo, you can keep your hands clean by blaming Game Freak and The Pokémon Company, while taking your fat cut of each transaction.
Facebook, if you want to smokescreen your malicious behaviors, this is how you do it.
And lastly, Bloomberg Wealth, if you want cheap heat, THIS is the internet equivalent of mugging Ric Flair backstage.
Thanks to Discord.RSS for the MK8 image.