NFT projects have increasingly latched on to the nebulous concept of the metaverse to justify expansive token monetization efforts. But what exactly is the metaverse? Vice described it as a 3D model of the internet — a virtual reality powered digital world operating in parallel to the physical one. The Facebook metaverse project, Horizon Worlds, is billed as a social VR Platform where players can meet, interact, and play in Horizon’s Virtual world.
These centralized platforms don’t give players actual ownership of goods purchased in their simulated worlds. Metaverse citizens are at the mercy of the companies that develop and power their digital ecosystems. Game items can be seized and virtual property taken if developers ban a user for violating their terms of service — which frequently occurs in traditional gaming ecosystems. Developers have even incorrectly banned users for cheating, and while these bans are often reversed, it is naive to assume that there aren’t users who have slipped through the cracks and had their accounts banned and the collectibles tied to them permanently lost.
Blockchain-powered NFT economies offer metaverse citizens more robust ownership protections than their more centralized competitors. This is the space that xSPECTAR is trying to occupy — an XRPL-powered metaverse project that bridges “…physical and virtual worlds making it possible to shift real-world business opportunities to operate via an open-source on the blockchain.”
xSPECTAR advertises upcoming virtual NFT-powered art galleries, a functional game world, and a casino to allow holders to play and earn money in their metaverse. Their release timeline also lists the creation of a metaverse “Real Estate Agency” titled realestate.xSpectar in Q1 2023, which would facilitate the purchase of property in xSPECTAR’s virtual real estate environment.
The only catch is navigating their convoluted membership requirements. To purchase NFTs, prospective holders must have an xSPECTAR token balance of eight thousand eight hundred and eighty-eight (8888). This specific token balance allows users to purchase NFTs on their platform. Instead of a membership fee (which I don’t think is unreasonable for a curated NFT store), they’ve decided to mint their own token on the XRPL — the stated utility of which is to access their storefront. From there, holders can purchase property, art, and any other NFT offered by their platform and resell these to users. xSPECTAR holders can also participate in the myriad of planned play-to-earn activities.
The token requirements are balanced against the xSPECTAR circulating supply to create a peculiar system of exclusivity:
If you know that less than or about 50% — can be 45 or 55% depends a little bit — but if you know that that’s the supply that’s already circulating on the market if everybody has 8888 tokens in their wallet, there can be only 5000 people who are able to buy the 8888 NFT.”-source
If I understand this correctly, holding the right amount of tokens provides exclusive access to their NFT platform, which is an extremely confusing way of handling what is essentially a limited run of NFT minting. Holders then have the ability to resell the NFTs, game goods, etc., creating the blockchain equivalent of a multi-level marketing scheme, except instead of attractive socialites trying to sell you facial cleansers and perfume, it’s a hodgepodge of poorly groomed nerds pushing exclusive metaverse merch.
But why create such a complicated system? Holding the tokens is essentially a membership fee (though they refuse to call it that in documentation and interviews). There’s also confusing terminology referring to an NFT ticket which would allow users to access an xSPECTAR virtual art gallery.
The first picture above indicates that you need an xSPECTAR NFT to purchase art from the gallery, but the image below states that holding the native token also allows a user to purchase art. So do you need both? Or just one? Streamlining the process and allowing users to purchase exclusive membership slots using the XRPL’s native currency (instead of creating a token explicitly for this purpose) would have made xSPECTAR’s marketplace much easier to navigate. But then, they wouldn’t be able to crowdfund their project with confusing token sales and convoluted membership requirements.
The other thing that stood out was the list of notable companies at the bottom of their whitepaper. Coca-Cola is present, as is Disney, Marvel, and National Geographic.
These logos are apparently referencing one of their artists, who has worked with these companies before. But to an end user, this seems like an explicit endorsement of the project by these companies. I haven’t seen anything that indicates that Coke, Disney, Marvel, etc., are formally affiliated with xSPECTAR. The listing of endorsements like this happened a lot during the ICO craze. Company logos were plastered on the websites of almost every major blockchain project despite concrete use-cases never materializing. And the crypto industry is still regularly swindled by fake partnership announcements, so these should be taken with a grain of salt.
In an interview with King Solomon, xSPECTAR’s founder indicated that the current white paper is a work in progress but combing through the various interviews with prominent XRP community influencers didn’t make the project any easier to understand. As was typical of projects minting their own tokens during the ICO craze, their reasons for creating a native token weren’t straightforward:
“I think it’s more a decision of engaging. You can engage people better when they hold something, and I think they feel a part of it when they have something and are more committed as well.”
Minting a native token seems like a crowdfunding effort (which is fine). Kickstarter-funded gaming projects are fairly common, but when players fund a Kickstarter project, they’re donating money to a game concept they find interesting while typically receiving a unique in-game item, recognition, or other collectibles. They’re not promised the ability to earn money through game activities. The advertisement of a metaverse gaming ecosystem as an investment vehicle seems predatory, especially when the creation of a token precedes a functional VR world.