One of the most stubborn cryptocurrency ideas I’ve come across from crypto Supporters like Chris Dixon is that people can tell stories together using non-fungible tokens (or NFTs) and then benefit from their creative work. Actual attempts to do so have often been unconvincing NFTs don’t really seem to be required or collapse because the operator didn’t think through the details. So I was intrigued by a new plan by Archie Comics to create an NFT-based Writer’s Room on the Blockchain. But after reading the details, I hope so not what the publisher actually does.
Archieversum: Eclipse is a comic liaison billed as “a near-never-ending storyline created with fans”. Based on a press release and the announcement pageStarting May 16, Archie fans can purchase one of 66,666 pre-generated NFT characters at $66.66 each. You can then take part in a series of role-playing games and puzzle-solving challenges centered around an “ominous prophecy” that appears to have been inspired by her Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
So what is the writing part? Well, sometime in 2022, NFT owners will have access to a “Transformative Works Submission Portal” where they can submit stories and artwork about their characters. Some of this work is featured in a crossover comic called ” Archieverse Collides #1, where fans who participate receive “credit and royalties” for their contributions.
Archieversum: Eclipse sounds like a version of the puzzle and role-playing oriented alternate reality games (resp ARG’s) that media companies have launched – often free of charge – in recent years. Put aside awkward crypto-lingo like “roleplay-to-mint” and you’re essentially buying a pass to a gated community where you can mingle with other comic book fans and participate in activities over a period of months. With enough support from Archie Comics, this is a cool idea!
But Archie Comics also refers to this as a plan to “build the largest writing room on the blockchain,” which is a much more problematic claim. This is how the press release from Archie Comics and its partner Palm NFT Studio explains it:
“Archie Comics uses blockchain to empower fans to write future series; Integrate fan-made art and stories into the Archieverse and directly reward contributors for their creativity. Archieversum: Eclipse Collectors can create and submit new storylines for their characters; with a chance to see their work becoming canon. Creators of select submissions will receive story credits and more from future comic series integration.”
This description makes the project sound like a crypto profile picture series that includes a fan art contest, a situation that lends itself to one-sided deals that result in cheap or free labor from fans — except there are fans here in addition Pay $66 (or more on a secondary NFT market) to submit their work.
Archie Comics points out that it rewards fans with recognition and royalties if their work is featured, which is certainly better than some level playing field. However, it declined to give further information on the terms that will be given to artists and writers, saying details would be revealed to fans at a later date. So it’s not exactly clear what participants might expect or how the compensation relates to the NFTs. If an artist sells their NFT character and loses access to the submission portal, for example, can they still be compensated?
This all underscores a key point of confusion about crypto projects: the idea that they are simultaneously entertainment services and investment or revenue opportunities. (Besides, it is quiet not clear if many of them need blockchain technology.) I like the idea of buying into an ARG where the designers are actively promoting a healthy community and providing an interesting interactive narrative, and some fans giving credit and money for their contribution get sounds like a nice bonus thing. It’s a lot less fun when Archie Comics expects fans to spend a lot of money and then produce most of the content themselves – even though some of them could be rewarded for the work. And the cryptic starting strategy favored by NFT lineups makes it hard to tell which experience Archie get fans.
https://www.theverge.com/2022/4/15/23026657/archieverse-eclipse-comics-sabrina-nft-collection-fan-art-competition Archie Comics launches Sabrina-inspired Archieverse NFTs