With plans to sell thousands of NFT avatars, augmented reality (AR) startup Jadu is betting gamers will want to own and invest in personal video game characters.
At the end of August, the Los Angeles-based company will sell 11,111 robot avatars, called AVAs, which can be used as playable characters on Jadu’s upcoming mobile app. The NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, will also come with commercial rights, meaning holders could—hypothetically—slap a character’s likeness on a t-shirt and sell it.
The avatar sale is the latest step in Jadu’s quest to build an AR gaming platform that lets players roam the real world with their NFT avatars. The startup raised a $36 million Series A round in May to work on the concept.
NFTs are digital assets that can have their ownership and authenticity verified using blockchain technology. The much-hyped tech has been most commonly applied to digital art and collectibles, but gaming companies have also tried integrating NFTs into their virtual worlds. That has given gamers unique digital items to play with, while giving gaming companies a new revenue stream. In the future, avatar accessories could potentially be transferred from one game to another, too.
This idea has faced significant backlash. Some gamers and developers call NFTs in gaming exploitative and unfair, and Microsoft’s “Minecraft” recently announced it would no longer allow NFTs to integrate with the game. Microsoft subsidiary Mojang described NFTs as “digital ownership based on scarcity and exclusion.”
In an interview with Venture Beat, Jadu founder and CEO Asad J. Malik said he “completely agree[s] with the gamer community’s critique of NFTs.”
“We are not a traditional gaming company,” Malik told the news outlet. “We are fundamentally an AR company and our mission is always to bring new forms of AR to the people in ways that are very experiential and immersive. We are about building forms of AR that haven’t existed before.”
Jadu has been developing an AR mobile app that connects to players’ Ethereum (ETH) wallets, letting them turn 3D animated NFTs into playable avatars. The app can integrate avatars from NFT collections such as CyberKongz and FLUFs.
Jadu has also sold avatar accessories like jetpacks and hoverboards as NFTs. The startup earned more than $5 million from initial NFT sales, Malik previously told dot.LA, and collects a 5% commission on the roughly $25 million in secondary sales those NFTs have done to date on platforms like OpenSea.
The company’s own avatars will be up for sale on Aug. 30, for 0.222 ETH, or about $365 at press time. All of the proceeds will go toward a “community treasury” aimed at expanding Jadu’s IP. The treasury, governed by Jadu AVA holders, will fund member events and projects, such as movies or music videos using their NFT characters.
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