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Jadu announces that it will launch thousands of avatars built on non-fungible tokens (NFTs) as it prepares for the augmented reality metaverse.
By the end of August, the Los Angeles-based company plans to sell 11,111 avatars, or AVAs, that could be uniquely owned thanks to blockchain authentication, Jadu CEO Asad J. Malik said in an interview with GamesBeat.
The NFT sale is part of a larger ambition to create a real-world AR gaming experience and ecosystem with a continuous story that will keep players coming back to a place where animation and physical reality are combined in kind of mixed reality stories.
Jadu has raised a lot of money to date – $45 million so far, including a $36 million round led by Bain Capital Crypto – and it has also sold a variety of AR items in the past, such as virtual hoverboards and jetbacks. . The new avatars can use those items to maneuver through the game world.
The 3D playable avatars are called Jadu AVAs and are the centerpiece of the gameplay. In the story, the avatars are robots that have crashed to Earth through a mysterious portal from another world. Each AVA belongs to one of the 5 types Blink, Rukus, Disc, Yve & Aura.
When minting the NFTs, partners provide collections. Those partners include FLUFs, Meebits, VOIDs, Chibi Apes, CyberKongz and CryptoWalkers. Such partners have helped the company gain momentum for its AR assets in the past.
In the past, the company partnered with Elton John to auction a unique Rocket Man Jadu Hoverboard NFT for 75 ETH (Ethereum’s cryptocurrency), the largest NFT hoverboard sale to date, with all proceeds donated to the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF). It also partnered with seven-time Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton; filthy; Snoop Dogg; visual artist, Mimi Onuoha and NFT curator, Trippy on his NFT hoverboards.
Malik said the company will use the proceeds from the NFT sale later this month to create the AVA Community Treasury, which will use the money on behalf of the community.
The avatars are designed to work with augmented reality, as they are built for AR. The game has several chapters in a story. Avatars can perform parkour maneuvers. And so, little by little, the company will launch its ecosystem.
“The community element is really key,” Malik said. “It’s like treating our members and our players as citizens.”
About $5 million could come in from NFT avatar sales, and the company will use that to set up a community treasury, where the community can talk about how to spend the funds. Instead of focusing on a game with millions of people, the company is now focusing on getting 10,000 or 20,000 hardcore players in the beginning.
Malik immigrated to the US at age 18 to study, and he debuted an AR project at the Tribeca Film Festival and founded Jadu about seven years ago. Malik’s mission is to reverse the trend of digital experiences dismantling our connection to the physical world.
The company has a full team of people in Pakistan (they are paid in US dollars and so they are doing well despite the instability in that country) working on blockchain technology. Jadu has also hired a number of people who have been laid off from other tech companies in the current recession. The company employs about 50 people.
“We attract people who want to build good AR gameplay,” Malik says. “The main type of AR we do is focused on gameplay. AR has always been a first-person medium where you play with things. What we’re doing is making it a third-person game. So instead of you being the player, you have an avatar and you see that avatar in your room and control it with a joystick on the screen.
He added: “And avatar goes and does all interactions on your behalf. The avatar can control a hoverboard and control a jetpack and do a wall flip. Many of the forms of AR we build focus on the avatar going through various interactions. And our first step in this is to launch a lot of gameplay ourselves, so we’re building season one of our world right now.”
In the beginning Malik worked on AR experiences for film festivals and some of his work is taught in AR and hologram courses at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California at Berkeley. It released a project for Magic Leap in 2019 and built holograms for musicians.
“We played with AR storytelling,” Malik says.
And now it is building an AR gaming platform. Over the past 2.5 years, the team has founded Jadu with the intention of bringing a richer form of AR technology and narrative storytelling to gaming on mobile.
“Last year we moved to Web 3,” he said. “We released our own collection of jetpacks in AR and then we released these hoverboards that worked in AR. Nothing ever made sense. When we started seeing NFTshappen, we thought this was a new way to capture value.”
When NFTs took off last year, the company started focusing on AR gaming in the Web3 space. Players can play in AR as their own 3D avatars. Jadu raised about $5 million from NFT sales and also saw about $30 million in secondary trading for his jump bikes and hoverboards.
“We’ve been working on this for the past six months,” Malik said. “We have a lot of resources behind this.”
Prepared for difficult times
I asked if the company had encountered resistance to its NFT sales. Malik said he agreed with criticism from NFT firms that have misbehaved, launch poor quality products or engage in scams.
“I fully agree with the gamer community’s criticism of NFTs,” he said. “We are not a traditional gaming company. We are essentially an AR company and our mission is always to bring new forms of AR to the people in a way that is highly experiential and immersive. We’re about building forms of AR that didn’t exist before.”
As for the crypto winter, Malik said the company has a runway for the next three years. That gives the company solace in the knowledge that it has time to properly develop its products and wait for players to embrace the AR multiplayer market.
For the most part, the company’s target audience consists of people who are already part of the crypto and NFT ecosystem. They are familiar with crypto wallets and are early adopters of technology.
“We’re going to reach a turning point where this is going to feel really good, it’s going to be ready for a bigger mainstream audience. And we’ll move on to them at that point,” Malik said.
Over the next 30 days, the company will roll out tools that players can use to submit proposals for others to vote on and the like. And once the NFT avatars are released, the company will launch new chapters of its stories for players.
Malik said he hopes the movement to create interoperable NFTs and an open metaverse will progress, and the company’s own avatars could potentially be used on more platforms and applications. But that could be even further away in the future.
“In theory, that’s what we’re aiming for,” he said. “At the same time, I want to say that it is not a huge priority. It is something we are ideologically connected to. But if another virtual world has 600 users, we’re not going to spend our time building assets for that world now.”
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