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Yuga Labs, which owns three of the most well-known NFT brands, revealed today that it has raised $450 million in fundraising at a valuation of $4 billion. The company behind Bored Ape Yacht Club intends to use the funds to establish a media empire centered on NFTs, beginning with games and its own metaverse project.
Otherside, the team's metaverse project, is described as an MMORPG that connects the larger NFT universe. According to Wylie Aronow, a co-founder of Bored Ape Yacht Club who goes by the moniker Gordon Goner, they want to create "an interoperable universe" that is "gamified" and "totally decentralized."
"We believe that the true Ready Player One experience will be driven by the players."
The announcement comes only weeks after Yuga Labs acquired CryptoPunks and Meebits from Larva Labs in a big drive to consolidate the NFT industry. Yuga Labs now has a larger portfolio of IP to draw from when developing its game and metaverse plans, thanks to the acquisition of three of the most lucrative NFT collections. Last week, Yuga Labs also introduced ApeCoin, a cryptocurrency that would be controlled autonomously and utilized as the principal money in Yuga Labs’ sites.
Yuga Labs is partnering with “a few different game studios” to bring Otherside to life, says CEO Nicole Muniz. The game won’t be limited to Bored Ape holders, and the company plans to create development tools that allow NFTs from other projects to work inside their world. “We’re opening the door to effectively a walled garden and saying ‘Everybody’s welcome.’”
Metaverse projects are all the rage right now — see Facebook’s rebranding as Meta — but Yuga Labs believes that other companies are approaching metaverse ideas incorrectly, allowing the startup to stand out. According to Greg Solano, a Yuga Labs co-founder who goes by the nickname Gargamel, people will not bond by spending time together in a shared virtual world with nothing going on. Instead, he claims, people form bonds as a result of being forced to work together.
Solano explains, “You only play with people and become friends when you’re getting your ass kicked.” “Basically, we don’t believe that having a Zoom chat and going around saying ‘hello’ provides a deep social experience.” Yuga Labs has refused to give a release date for Otherside. Later this year, a play-to-earn game is also in the works.
Andreessen Horowitz, which has been investing aggressively in the Web3 field, led the funding round, which was one of the largest for an NFT company to date. It has previously invested in companies such as OpenSea, Dapper Labs, and Coinbase. Animoca Brands, as well as cryptocurrency startups Coinbase and MoonPay, are among those who have invested in the round. Yuga Labs will welcome Chris Lyons, a general partner at Andreessen Horowitz, to its board of directors. The Financial Times broke the news of the funding talks last month.
“To me, Yuga Labs, together with these other new [Web3] firms, are a vital counterpoint to companies like Meta,” says Chris Dixon, head of Andreessen Horowitz’s crypto arm. “In a dystopian future, Meta will be the dominant digital experience provider, with all of the money and control going to it.” (Interestingly, Marc Andreessen, the co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz, is on Meta’s board of directors and was an early investor in Facebook.)
To date, Yuga Labs has been financially successful. According to a leaked pitch deck, the company made $137 million last year, mostly by taking a cut of transactions connected to its NFT brands, with a profit margin of 95 percent. (Yuga Labs declined to comment on the deck’s stats.)
However, the company has only built a few things so far. According to OpenSea’s data, its NFT collections have a total of 40,000 players, yet the company has only released one game for a limited time. That implies Yuga Labs will be handed hundreds of millions of dollars to start a gaming firm — or at least a Web3-ified 2022 version of one — from the ground up, based on the success of a highly profitable art endeavor.
When it comes to supporting Yuga Labs, investors are thinking about its success. “They created this energizing community and a cultural phenomenon,” Dixon adds. But, in the end, the company is betting on the same huge wager that so many others are: that some type of metaverse initiative will become the next big thing. Now all they have to do is construct it.