Chaosium Suspends NFT Plans

After widespread backlash across social media, Chaosium has announced that it has suspended its plans for future NFT releases.

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All of us at Chaosium are deeply concerned by the issues raised around the VeVe digital collectable releases from last July. We take these concerns very seriously—our fans and the communities built around Chaosium are our lifeblood. We go back a long way, and that means a lot to us. We want to make sure you are comfortable with the way we do business.

While we address the concerns of the tabletop gaming community we have halted our plans for future NFT releases.

Let’s go through what’s happened to date:

  • In early 2019 we began discussions with VeVe. At the time NFTs and digital collectables were relatively unknown tech (at least in the TTRPG sphere).
  • VeVe is managed by long-time fans and collectors, and we completed multiple rounds of due diligence before deciding to move forward and granting VeVe a license to sell digital collectables based on our IP. It is notable that VeVe’s other NFT licensors include Disney, Marvel, DC Comics, Warner Bros., Star Trek, Star Wars, Cartoon Network, Adventure Time, James Bond, GhostBusters, and many other leading popular culture brands. VeVe even has a license from the United States Postal Service.
  • The environmental impact of VeVe's NFTs was crucial in our decision making. VeVe operates on a blockchain platform, (Immutable X), that is carbon neutral. The creation of VeVe NFTs, and their trading takes place “off-chain,” reducing the environmental footprint of VeVe NFTs by 99.9% when compared to those minted on Ethereum.
  • Chaosium publicized VeVe’s initial offering (July 2021) across all of our social channels. Our announcements didn’t receive much attention from the gaming press or TTRPG community, but the release was successful and well received, demonstrating an enthusiastic and sizable community of Cthulhu fans on VeVe.
  • With our licensee TYPE40, we built an NFT creation model that is protective and respectful of the artists involved—the digital collectables created for VeVe are all entirely new and original. The artists involved share fully in the proceeds of their sale.
However, we understand that a lot has changed since we started down this road in 2019. The issues relating to NFTs are increasingly complex and controversial. In recent months, the debate has become prominent and contentious. Bad actors in this sphere have received widespread coverage. Many people are justifiably baffled, incredulous, and deeply skeptical.

Based on both our research and experience with them, we believe that VeVe is an ethical company, pioneering a new digital community for collectors which uses this distributed ledger technology in a legitimate, meaningful, and environmentally responsible way.

We appreciate that many of our fans are angry and disappointed. We hear you. Your concerns must be listened to and addressed. That is why, in cooperation with TYPE40 and VeVe, we have made the decision outlined above. We do not have another scheduled release on VeVe or any other NFT marketplace. We will never require anyone to own an NFT/digital collectible to enjoy any Chaosium product or game.

Thank you for sharing your feedback. Thank you for patiently waiting for our reply. So much passion for what we do is a good thing. It’s been that way since 1975, and in this digital age we remain The Chaosium.
 

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

I get folks viewing NFTs as foolish, dangerous tech, unregulated, environmentally unsustainable, bad investments, and bad ideas. I agree with all of that. There are definitely a lot of bad actors in the NFT space, and a lot of foolish actors as well. But the step further than the entire NFT space is nothing but scams . . . that everyone involved is either the scammers or the scammed

The problem isn;t that it's all scams, the problem is that it's all nonsense, whether it's meant to decieve or said in good faith.

Don Quixote was honest, but Sancho Panza was still decieved by him. Do not be Sancho Panza.
 

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macd21

Adventurer
It's weird. Since this Chaosium thing hit the web I've read up on NFTs and I have a much better understanding of what they are and how they work. But I still don't understand why anyone would spend serious money on an NFT. And this isn't just me being old fashioned, I understand why people spend money on all sorts of things that I wouldn't spend my money on. I honestly don't get how anyone could look at an NFT and think, "Yeah, that's a good place to spend my $600." But then I would have felt the same way about tulips in the 17th century.

I'm glad Chaosium decided to drop their NFT project (for now at least). The venerable company has been around for more than 40 years and during that time I haven't really seen a lot of negativity thrown their way until the last few days. It kind of sucked seeing them dragged through the mud like that. Though I gotta hold them responsible for getting on their bellies themselves.
The answer to “why would anyone spend money on NFTs” is “because they were scammed”.

It’s basically a variation on the “pump and dump”, as someone mentioned above, combined with a pyramid scheme. You hype up a worthless product, sell it at an inflated price, then get out before the market crashes.
 


Jer

Legend
Supporter
Heh . . . I like Funko Pops about as much as I like NFTs . . .

If I purchased a digital Cthulhu statue from the Chaosium/VeVe partnership (I think they did sell some before pulling the plug?) . . . I would be purchasing a license, a token, for a digital statue of Cthulhu that I can display through the VeVe app. There were some augmented reality capabilities of the app as well, so I could display my statue on my front lawn . . . digitally . . .
Here's the thing that makes this a scam rather than an actual product - you can do the above without an NFT. There's a centralized authority that is in control of the digital trophy - VeVe. There is no technical reason that they can't just have a database of people who own the rights to have that image through their app. In fact they DO have a database of people who have the rights to own that image through their app because they have to have some method of connecting your login on their app to your tokens that are on the blockchain.

The value you are getting is NOT coming from the NFT - it's coming from the VeVe app setup. Which has to be able to be independent of the blockchain because blockchain only stores token information. So you are getting no value from the fact that this is an NFT in your formulation.

So why put it out as an NFT? Because being an NFT allows you to RESELL your trophy to other people. With the promise/assumption/wink-wink that these "limited edition trophies" will rise in value from what you paid for them originally. That's the only thing that can't be done with the app setup off the blockchain. And they could set up a shop to do that in their app BUT crucially it would flop hard because it doesn't have the hype of being an "NFT" around it.

ALL of these NFTs are the same "limited edition collector's edition" scam. But when they're done you don't even have the Funko pop to put on your desk anymore because the company will have packed up their money and left so you won't even have your virtual trophy to enjoy anymore.
 


MGibster

Legend
Remember those commercials in the 1980s for collector plates from the Franklin Mint? You could get plates depicting scenes from Gone with the Wind, Star Trek, John Wayne, Princess Di, the Three Stooges, etc., etc. I saw some old Trek plates for sale at a flea market the other week. NFTs remind me of those. Except, you know, you actually own something if you have the plate.
 

Jer

Legend
Supporter
Remember those commercials in the 1980s for collector plates from the Franklin Mint? You could get plates depicting scenes from Gone with the Wind, Star Trek, John Wayne, Princess Di, the Three Stooges, etc., etc. I saw some old Trek plates for sale at a flea market the other week. NFTs remind me of those. Except, you know, you actually own something if you have the plate.
I often refer to NFTs as "digital pogs" to my friends. Has the Simpson's done an "Alf is back in NFT form" joke yet?

But yes - NFTs are 100% an attempt to create a digital collectible market. And the Franklin Mint stuff was an attempt to create a collectible market from scratch as well it's a pretty good analogy in my mind.

True collectible markets depend on having a group of people who want the collectible for its own sake - the fact that a Beanie Baby or a Funko Pop has intrinsic value for a group of people and they want to own multiples of them creates the market for them and opens up space for speculators who want to profit from being the middleman in those purchases. That's why the NFTs are being pushed so hard in fan spaces - in the hopes that they can get enough fans who have to have everything from their favorite fandom to create a pool of collectors that speculators can profit off of.
 

Cordwainer Fish

Imp. Int. Scout Svc. (Dishon. Ret.)
Remember those commercials in the 1980s for collector plates from the Franklin Mint? You could get plates depicting scenes from Gone with the Wind, Star Trek, John Wayne, Princess Di, the Three Stooges, etc., etc. I saw some old Trek plates for sale at a flea market the other week. NFTs remind me of those. Except, you know, you actually own something if you have the plate.
The Franklin Mint was neat. You could get the Civil War chess set and the Star Trek chess set and have the South fight the Klingons.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I didn't dodge the question. I don't care.

The platform is crappy. The product is crappy. Okay. Doesn't make it a scam. Makes it a bad idea.

Hell, I'm beginning to think I'm operating on a different definition of "scam" then a lot of folks here.

Why would they choose that platform? Because they like the art? Because they want to be on the "cutting edge" and think NFTs are nifty? They are impulsive? They are Call of Cthulhu completists? These VeVe products have no appeal for me, but they do for others. As long as no one's being, well, scammed, I don't care why they would choose a VeVe NFT product.

I hesitate to engage in this, given the multiple, "I don't care, but I'm going to keep insisting that I don't care" comments, but this is something I addressed in my first post in the other thread. In essence, whether you want to say NFTs are a "scam," or a "terrible idea," or a "blight to modern society" becomes a fool's errand, because you end up engaging in pedantic disputes over the exact definition of, for example, what exactly constitutes a pyramid scheme, or when an MLM is or isn't "legal" in the U.S., or the finer distinctions between people engaging is a knowing fraud and asset bubbles. In other words, I'm not sure it's productive to debate the distinction between a "scam" and a "terrible idea that takes advantage of people that we should try and make sure reputable companies aren't involved with."

But I think it might help to concentrate on the following- there are people that are very, very invested in the idea of "disclosure." Right? In other words, these might be a terrible Idea (and investment), but since you can find out it's a terrible idea, it can't be a "scam," (which isn't really a defined term, but whatever). But think of some of the following scenarios-
A. Someone cold calls your elderly mom and convinces her to sign paperwork they send her. Now, the call is recorded, and the documents disclose what she did, but she didn't actually understand that she engaged in a process that would mortgage her paid-for house in exchange for needless renovations and, because of her income, would lose the house. Scam?
B. You click through on a shrink-wrap agreement. Buried somewhere in that agreement over 70 pages of legal-ese is a clause that does something you don't like. Maybe it compels arbitration in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Maybe it offers up your first born. At some point, even though it was disclosed, you'd probably feel that you were "scammed" because that's not something you expect, right?
C. A casino in a remote location identifies problem gamblers. Once it identifies these gamblers, and they are on a losing streak, it stops them from playing the regular games and tell them that they can leave, or they can play separate games that allow them higher payoffs, but worse odds of winning. They disclose the odds (which are much worse). Scam?
D. A person sells you property in a state you haven't visited. While the documents disclose the actual property details, the seller relies on the fact that your knowledge of the state is limited. (This was the primary basis of the great Florida real estate scams of the '20s, where sellers assumed they were getting beach-front property, but were in fact buying swampland in the middle of the state).

There are a multitude of examples like this, but the point should be clear. We have long recognized that while disclosure and transparency are incredibly important, they are not the be-all, end-all of want constitutes a "scam," or, at a minimum, conduct that we should not approve of.

There is an inherent tension in a civil society between allowing people to ruin their lives if they so choose, and understanding that some things are frauds, schemes, deceptive, unconscionable, wrong, need to be regulated, or just "scams." The boundaries are not always easy to see.

So let's turn to the instant product (NFTs). As has been repeatedly pointed out, this is not a solution for a problem that is not already solved in a better (and much more environmentally-friendly) way. Any claims of "decentralization," when it comes to NFTs are demonstrably false- the actual "products" are located elsewhere, and could simply disappear (which is likely a feature, not a bug, for scammers). Any real use of the product requires multiple third parties (aka, centralization). They don't have any inherent protection for artists and creatives- in fact, it is incredibly common for the people trying to make money off of these to have absolutely no knowledge of the relevant copyright laws and to simply be using other people's work in order to make themselves money. The people that are pushing this repeatedly refer to this as an asset- in other words, not really a cool object that you enjoy, but more an investment, like a stock or a bond (but not subject to the regulations that most real investments would have).

Now, before getting into the real nitty gritty, let's address the point you raised. "What about that one example of the artist who made money?" Yes, there will be people who make money. But ... there are already a lot of artists who pay the mint fee and don't make any money. What about the artists whose work is bring ripped off because most of the people involved in this don't understand copyright? I am happy for the very people (like those early ones who made memes and got paid out ... in questionable circumstances) who made a little bank, but that pales in comparison to the people who lose money. Which ... you know, that's pretty much how a lot of "scams" works; you trumpet the winners in order to bring in the suckers.

Jump down to here for the "Big Deal."
What is the big deal, anyway? Well, think about why people are pushing these NFTs. If you follow the news at all (or looked at the links provided) you are more than aware that NFTs are rife with outright scams already (not just lack of disclosure, but pump and dumps, outright fraud, malware, theft, etc.). But theoretically, if you have "trusted central authorities" then maybe it will work. But.... you don't need NFTs if you have those trusted central authorities dealing with digital collectibles, do you? What does it do, then? Well, it does make more common people "get into" NFTs, and "get into" crypto ... which, as we have repeatedly seen, is rife with hacks and scams, and has no real consumer protection or recourse. It's almost as if there is a drive to get people to pump more money into this so that current large stakeholders can cash out leaving the new entrants holding the bag.

But I know you don't care. So I will say that you are right, in a way. NFTs are not necessarily a scam, in the same way that Napster (the original) was not necessarily about sharing music unlawfully- after all, you could have a distributed copy of a cookie recipe, amirite? Instead, it might be better to say, "If you truly don't care about the underlying e-waste and power problems, and you have a real understanding of the technology (such that you aren't a victim of hacks, etc.), and you've done real due diligence on the product, and you want to get involved in this either because you have the disposable money that you're willing to lose, or because you think it's an asset bubble and you intend to flip it to a bigger fool, knock yourself out. Just be aware that if it goes south, no one is going to be looking out for you, no consumer watchdog is going to help you, and your money is gone, likely so someone in Russia can enjoy their mini-giraffes. :) "

Personally, I feel strongly that I don't want reputable companies being involved with this and encouraging this, in the same way I don't want them involved in other activities I find harmful. YMMV.
 



What always amazes me is how many of them either don't understand the tech they're boosting or are just outright lying about how it works. Fighting with NFT/crypto boosters online is like punching air sometimes.
Yeah this is very true. I didn’t think I could find a group of people less educated on a topic/more dishonest about what they were trying to push than GamerGaters back circa 2014-2016 or so, but I was proven wrong. Plus ça change, I guess…
 




In todays social media landscape, if you condone, you endorse. There is no neutral position. If you do not resist, it means you permit.

It's my personal policy to oppose anyone who says "If you're not with us, you're against us"

But I know you don't care. So I will say that you are right, in a way. NFTs are not necessarily a scam, in the same way that Napster (the original) was not necessarily about sharing music unlawfully- after all, you could have a distributed copy of a cookie recipe, amirite?

That's probably a bad analogy. The NFT thing is wrong but potentially not illegal, whereas the Napster thing was illegal but not morally wrong. Ultimately there is no difference between sharing a recipe and sharing a music file - not even authorship in most cases - you probably got that recipe from someone else too and probably don't have their explicit consent to share it. The only difference is the presence of big greedy corporations abusing a law that was meant to protect starving artists from big greedy corporations
 
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NFTs are as pure form of speculation as you can see; the value of them is tied only very lightly to any real-world effects; as far as I can see the only thing that might affect their value is the perception of the popularity of their creator. When you are buying one you are risking money in the hopes that the future perception of the creator, and of NFTs in general, will rise, resulting in a profit for you.

As historians shown us, any time there is speculation, there is strong potential for scamming. If a company actively hides the knowledge that there is a strong risk of loss in the speculation, that is when it becomes evil.

Their value as a non-investment is essentially in the eye of the purchaser. You buy a small piece of uniqueness that can be independently verified. It's much like buying an autograph -- the value to you is really in your own reaction to it.

As far as the environmental cost is concerned, NFTs are awful. Each NFT requires about the same amount of energy as the average European uses in a month. But carbon offsetting is not a form of scam, as several people seem to be indicating. For example, using carbon offsets to protect forests directly leads to carbon reductions that balance out the cost. It is a tricky business to evaluate, but simply writing off carbon offsetting as as scam is a bit extreme.

Are NFTs good for the environment? Nope, but then neither are cows and we're not seeing all the people complaining about NFTs becoming vegans. Are NFTs a good investment? I guess it depends if your definite of good is "massively speculative with high potential fro complete loss." Are they fun to own? That totally depends on you.
 

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