Everybody is getting in on the NFT craze. Are we anybody? We sure are, and we’re getting into it too! But, as always, no matter how exciting the tech may be, we always start by asking the same two questions:
- How can this enhance the stories we’re trying to tell?
- How does this help us connect with audiences?
The most widespread use of NFTs is as collectibles: Topshot basketball cards, Cryptokitties, 69 million dollar digital collages. Last week, the theatre industry jumped on board with the folks behind the Tonys announcing Third Act, an NFT platform aiming to create virtual memorabilia for Broadway shows. The ever inflating value of these crypto-tokens has led many to believe that this whole NFT thing is a bubble and that those putting loads of money into it (see: 69 million dollar digital collage) are set to lose it all when it inevitably bursts. They very well may be right. Still, the 90s dot-com bubble burst and while many fortunes were lost, the internet didn’t turn out to be a fad. Since then e-commerce has exploded and has become a fundamental part of our daily lives and the economy at large. The underlying technology was there but people bet on the wrong things. I believe the same is happening with NFTs.
These smart contracts impute value onto virtual goods, something desperately needed in a world where we spend more and more of our time and money online. The advantage when it comes to storytelling and audience connection is that virtual goods can be far more flexible and versatile than their physical counterparts. An NFT painting can morph every time it gets sold, giving each owner a unique and ephemeral piece of art. An NFT ticket can not only provide entry to an event but can also include a virtual swag that can be personalized and even gain value on its own. Similar to our main mission — exploring AR theatre and virtual experiences — the future of how NFTs can be used in entertainment is as unclear as it is bright, giving us the opportunity to write the rules as we figure them out.
We’re particularly excited about how NFTs can be gamified or used in transmedia storytelling. Purchasing a token can unlock exclusive content that reveals new characters or plot secrets or can open up access to experiences like side quests that build a more vivid and immersive storyworld. These features create innate entertainment value in the tokens beyond their monetary worth, incentivizing fans to share, trade and even sell these virtual collectibles in the service of richer stories and a deeper senses community. Imagine owning an NFT that unveils your favorite character’s untold backstory or gives you a code to a vault where you can listen to an artist’s songs that are otherwise lost to history. These NFTs then become more than memorabila sitting in a digital shoe box, they add directly to the experience of the works to which they are connected. As the world gets more digital and distant, NFTs offer a way for audiences and fans to get closer to the artists and storytellers they love. The narrative and immersive possibilities are endless.
The blockchain based smart contracts behind NFTs also provide financial and legal opportunities for artists to take control of how their work is compensated and distributed, which in itself may provide long-term value for theater-makers. I’m not saying we’re fully boarding the the crypto-ship to the moon but we’ve got a few satelites to shoot into orbit with some upcoming projects that combine NFTs and immersive storytelling. I can’t provide details yet but if you’re a careful observer of our instagram account (who isn’t ;) you may get a peak into our first launch.
So to sum it up, when it comes to NFTs, don’t trust the hype, unless it comes from us, in which case, the hype is very real and we’re all going to be gazillionaires by Thanksgiving.