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The Bored Apes Get Richer—And More Cringey

It pays to be a Bored Ape—with free APE tokens and more rewards to come. But the Ape universe is also a little embarrassing, and has fueled NFT hate.

4 min read
A scene from the Yuga Labs "Otherside" promo video.

Have you heard? NFTs are dead—again. "Interest in NFTs and the Metaverse Is Falling Fast," reported Forbes last week, citing Google search trends. Coin Telegraph said the NFT market "died" in September, and before that, a slew of sites declared NFTs dead last June. But they're still here, alive and well.

And that was all before ApeCoin (APE), the ERC-20 token that launched this week as the latest financial reward for members of the Bored Ape Yacht Club.

The token bears the Bored Ape logo, owners of a Bored Ape NFT or Mutant Ape NFT were able to claim thousands of free APE, and Yuga Labs, creator of the Bored Ape Yacht Club, says it will “adopt ApeCoin as the primary token for all new products and services." Yet the P.R. team behind the token took great pains to say that ApeCoin was launched by the ApeCoin DAO, not by Yuga Labs or Bored Ape Yacht Club, even warning, "It’s probably tempting to write that ApeCoin is from the Bored Ape Yacht Club to simplify things, but it’s not accurate."

It's more "decentralization theater," but for members of the Bored Ape Yacht Club, it's all gravy. The Bored Ape benefits keep coming: exclusive merchandise sales, airdrops of "serum" that created another instantly valuable NFT, access to chat rooms and in-person events, and now free ApeCoin, which boasts a market cap of $3.7 billion just two days after it started trading. More benefits are on the way: Late on Friday night, Yuga Labs dropped a 90-second animated teaser video for Otherside, a virtual realm (likely a game) that shows Bored Apes, Mutant Apes, CryptoPunks, Cool Cats, Meebits, Nouns, CrypToads, and World of Women NFTs hanging out in space. All of this is sure to make the prices of those NFTs go up even more. Whether anyone will want to play such a game, or hang out in such a realm, is beside the point; the NFT holders want to see "number go up."

But all of this is also a little embarrassing, isn't it?

There's only so much time you can spend trying to explain to NFT skeptics that it's not just a status symbol for the internet rich, that NFTs can function as membership passes to an online community. The explanation falls short for many reasonable people when they see headlines that Justin Bieber paid $1.3 million for a JPEG of a crying cartoon ape. Or when they watch the cringeworthy clip of Jimmy Fallon and Paris Hilton holding up cardboard printouts of their apes and suggesting that their apes would be friends. As Stacks founder Muneeb Ali, very much a believer in NFTs, put it recently on our gm podcast, "If you want to cherry-pick examples that really look dumb on paper, you’d be like, ‘Hey, this guy bought a monkey for $300,000—a picture of a monkey. And I have saved it on my desktop.’”

To be clear: I think NFTs are fascinating and will have myriad use cases, including uses we can't yet foresee.

But I also blame Bored Apes for most of the NFT vitriol out there, and I don't fault people who point to Bored Apes and conclude that NFTs are stupid. Those people aren't reading about Art Blocks and the rise of generative art, or Axies and how they function as game pieces in an elaborate digital game, or essays sold as NFTs through Mirror, or songs as NFTs via Royal. They see a cartoon ape with its tongue out that is fetching $1 million, and they roll their eyes. When I watch that animated video of Bored Apes in space, I cringe just a little.

There is no doubt that Bored Apes have become the poster child for all NFTs. Is that good for the space?

I expect what might come next is a split between different camps of crypto. Putting aside Bitcoin maximalists, right now everything happening in crypto falls under the banner of crypto: coin investing, NFT collecting, DAOs, blockchain-powered applications, metaverse real estate. As the NFT space gets bigger and louder and more impossible to ignore, the people turned off by some of it are going to get even more turned off, and that group might expand to include people who were early to crypto and believe in the tech, but want nothing to do with the Ape takeover.

This is Roberts on Crypto, a weekend column from Decrypt Editor-in-Chief Daniel Roberts and Decrypt Executive Editor Jeff John Roberts. Sign up for the Decrypt Debrief email newsletter to receive it in your inbox every Saturday. And read last weekend's column: Biden's Crypto Executive Order: Big Deal or Big Nothing?

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