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MetaVault #8: The Five Stories
How I think about the PUNKS Comic #2 release through five key PV stories
This is MetaVault, a weekly-ish newsletter that makes sense of the Pixel Vault universe: PUNKS Comic, MetaHero, United Planets, $PUNKS, $POW, and lots of DAOs.
This is a completely unexpected post. After posting the first Community Roundtable on Wednesday and the Town Hall Recap on Thursday, I thought I could rest my weary fingers until sometime next week when Comic #2 finally sold out and the Adidas Merch NFT launched and the Elite Apes were going bananas. Alas, here I am on a Friday night pecking at the keyboard.
In order to put the success and failure of PUNKS Comic #2 in to context, I’m going to introduce a key concept that I’ve thought a lot about over the past three months — and I’ll run today’s events through this idea.
But before I do that I want to commend GFunk and the team on an outstanding show of humility today. I thought about doing a Town Hall Recap-style post where I grab quotes from GFunk and VGF, highlight pissed off community members, the PV responses, and kind of run back the emotion of the moment. But that’s not what today is about. Instead I’ll post a single quote that came from GFunk within 10 minutes of their Twitter Space today that sums up where the team’s head and heart was:
Yeah, I mean, this is family. So give [the criticism] to me, and I'm happy to listen and chat with everybody. You know, not everything we do is going to be perfect. But certainly we're open to criticism and want every drop to go as seamlessly as possible. So we're going to take the learnings from today and apply them to the future and just continue to get better. You know, this is a very young space, we're still experimenting ourselves with different drop mechanics, understanding market demand, etc. So, you know, we gave it our 100% effort, and I can be very proud of that. And our team really worked their ass off around the clock. So yeah. Work with us to make it better for the next time.
The Five Stories of Pixel Vault
Stories make the world go ‘round. Collective stories. Individual stories. Behind every iconic image, brand, company, leader, family, or relationship there’s a story. We vote for a politician because we believe in their story (or the stories they believe in). We wear Yeezys because we believe in the hypebeast culture or Ye’s genius. We cheer for the local basketball or football team because we believe in the tribe, the tradition, the community. We invest in certain crypto because we believe in the story of supply or utility or its meme-worthiness. And we participate in the PV community because we believe in five key stories:
Company: What’s the story of Pixel Vault? The art, IP, tech, media, partnerships
Individual IP: What’s the story of each vertical and how we engage with them? PUNKS Comic, MetaHero, Origin Stories via NFTs, video games, streaming series
Tokenomics / Game Theory: What’s the story of “choice”? Burn or stake? Comic #1 or Moon token? Mint Pass or MetaHero + $POW?
Moment: What’s the story of the moment? Alpha in Town Halls, teasers, mint days, the Moon exploit
Community: What’s the story of the community? PV Twitter, threads, Beanie hype machines, Discord craziness, Town Halls
Now let’s take them one-by-one, describe each a little more, and then run the release of Comic #2 through these story lines to see what comes out the other end.
The story of Pixel Vault is an amazing combination of media, art, IP, tech, and partnerships with a heavy dose of game theory. All of this rolls into a larger story of a flourishing start-up that is actively developing new IP and testing the bounds of Web3. This story is certainly important to the hardcore PV community, but it’s equally important to traditional media, financial parties, and potential industry partners who want to collaborate with leading innovators in this space — which PV is undoubtedly.
Comic #2, from a company perspective, was a massive success. Like, MJ crying meme levels of success. If you would’ve told GFunk on June 10th — four weeks after Comic #1 launched and it was still not sold out — that on December 10th he’d sell out Comic #2 in 15 minutes, he would’ve laughed in your face. Just not fathomable.
But Comic #2 executed this beautiful combination of story and art leveraging IP from PV + BAYC + Gmoney + Adidas with the continued technical excellence on the website and in the contract. I mean, these aspects of the release are why the community was so hyped to collect it. This kind of execution on all fronts is only possible by companies like PV — and they now have this success to hang their hat on when looking to collaborate with the next huge partner.
The primary verticals and their mediums will only continue to expand. PUNKS Comic is becoming this amazing cross-NFT community platform to bridge collectors and tell the stories of our little JPEGs. MetaHeroes is this ever expanding universe (multiverse? meta…verse?) of heroes, villains, mutants, cores, and sidekicks roaming the United Planets via NFTs, $POW tokens, gamification, long-term game development with the distinct possibility of a streaming series down the line. World building like this requires some corralling internally to help connect the dots externally — a challenge any company would want to have.
And again, Comic #2 was a huge success for the growth of their IP — and connected IP. I mean, the comic features an Adidas-owned Bored Ape named Indigo! Win. Features the most well-known CryptoPunk Ape, GMoney — win. Features all of the CryptoPunk derivatives owned and further fleshed out by PV fighting off several Bored Apes from their rabid community — win. The expansion of the PUNKS Comic world took a huge leap from Comic #1 to Comic #2.
Oh, and there’s this little merch tie-in that further expands that IP. People will soon be walking around wearing Adidas hoodies emblazoned with the PUNKS logo — win.
Tokenomics / Game Theory
Game theory was built into the earliest PV concept: burn or stake? The story of choice is at the core of PV’s lore. The choices evolve over time, becoming layered and nuanced. I’m currently holding a Mint Pass #1 as part of a genesis set in the hopes of winning a MetaHero core and reaping any sort of future PVDAO rewards. Yet, my decision means I’m bypassing the very valuable $POW staking rewards currently available to me. Choice. And in the future, when $POW Phase 2 kicks in, there will be more choices associated to minting, staking, and risks. Those 50/50 Wonka-like decisions are what captured the community’s attention and are baked into nearly every PV release.
This is where Comic #2 starts to turn. What are the inherent choices here? Where’s the game theory? With the declaration that there is no current utility for Comic #2, the message changed from game theory to collectability. Got it. PV can make product decisions like that without second guessing from the community. But in doing so, the drop became a cash grab. The same kind of mad dash to mint that happens with nearly all hyped drops.
The team’s thinking was Comic #2 wasn’t a generative project. Every comic was the same. There were no “luck of the draw” elements. But people don’t mint out mfers in under 10 minutes thinking about the possibility of pulling a rare stick drawing (I don’t mean to sound dismissive, I’m all about the mfer !vibe). They think about reselling.
And yes, PV tried to build in some protections against that kind of mad dash by using early access windows. But the PVFD has its share of degens — for good and bad. The same people who’ve helped our community flip minor NFTs into blue chips like BAYC and Cool Cats and Toadz are some of the same people who minted 100+ comics today. Degens be doing degen shit — when the rules allow it. And when there’s no game theory that requires a collector to weigh the cost of selling vs. the cost of future utility, we get flippers.
PV has these dynamic moments: big, small, good, bad, and ugly. Hear the one about the ser who had 15 Mint Passes and somehow won two cores?! Or what about the 10-year old kid who minted a pure Matta?! The Moon exploit?! The night staking went live?! Then there’s hearing GFunk get rugged in the big Adidas x BAYC x GMoney x PUNKS Twitter Space when the host asked for his first words on this epic collaboration that he’d worked his ass off to create — moment!
PV has effectively balanced maintaining the hype train that lives moment to moment while also building a highly successful startup with a long-term vision. Just think back to early November. Many in the PV community were grumpy about “roadmaps and floors and value.” Mind you that was just after a huge planet sale with several announced releases in the coming weeks and months. Cut forward just a few weeks and the moment is dominated by huge successes: Adidas partnership, planet and core giveaways, $PUNKS and $POW staking.
This AM, as those of us in the PVFD who were watching the remaining mints dwindle as our transactions processed recognized that this was a big moment in PV’s history. 15 minutes into one of their largest releases, most of the community was getting shut out. This would be a real test.
And the criticism started to fly! Discord. Twitter. A lot of grumpy people. What might’ve been a moment of pure joy and fun turned into frustration, anger, and rejection.
Facing this kind of heat, a lot of teams would get defensive or shut down. GFunk and the team didn’t. The shock in their voices as they stepped on the Twitter Space stage was obvious (by the way, hosting a space to reach out and hear what we had to say earned a ton of respect). It was crisis mode — but with the vulnerability to say, we got it wrong.
That’s a moment.
We rock our MetaHeroes on Twitter. We suit them up in Adidas hoodies and tracksuits. We share alpha. We get hyped when one of us wins a core or an awesome planet token. We build tools for each other. We write FAQs, explainers, newsletters. We sign-up to be mods. We engage with the PV team… and they engage back!
This community is unlike anything I've experienced. And I’m excited to be on this journey alongside all of you.
And yet, the release of Comic #2 absolutely hurt the community.
For days, both in the Pixel Vault and Founder’s DAO channels, people were convinced the full 10,000 would mint out during the PVFD access window. 20 transaction limit with no mint limit was unbelievable. Some frens said to me that they thought it was misdirection by the PV team, “No way they let us mint 20 at a time. Maybe 2 at a time, but not 20.” Other projects with way less hype had far lower transaction limits — some included wallet limits too. And GFunk and the team thought through those scenarios, but couldn't imagine a full sell out in 15 minutes.
I don’t know what the final holder count was after the initial mint, but it wasn’t pretty. With somewhere near 2,500 PVFD owners, most were locked out. Not to mention the 7,000+ PV NFT holders who never had the joy of initiating a transaction only to see it fail. That leaves a lot of salty community members. Some new, some old. Most salty.
We turned to Discord and Twitter and vented. It wasn’t pretty. But understandable.
In the PV Twitter Space, the story of our community shined brightest. There were hurt feelings. Aggrieved parties. Some wanted compensation. But mostly people wanted to be heard. And that’s what GFunk and the team did. There was very little tit for tat. No one was trying to win an argument. There were ideas about making future releases better, more fair. Ideas about bringing community insight to the PV team to help guide releases.
I’d like to think the PV team walks away from today thinking they’ve got to do better. And the community walks away thinking that the PV team will.
Some Disclaimers: None of this is financial advice. DYOR. And yes, I’m obviously a PV collector and long-term hodlr.