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The Matrix universe is expanding to the blockchain, the latest example in a series of efforts by traditional Hollywood power players to break into the non-fungible token (NFT) space.
Later this month Warner Bros. will release non-fungible tokens inspired by The Matrix franchise and the upcoming film The Matrix: Resurrections.
Unlike other NFT projects based on Hollywood intellectual property, the Matrix project is instead taking its inspiration from some of the red-hot NFT “avatar” art projects, like CryptoPunks and Bored Ape Yacht Club, where the buyers are buying a unique avatar from those worlds.
The Matrix NFTs will be released in partnership with the social NFT platform Nifty’s, which will create 100,000 avatars, and will sell them for $50 each starting Nov. 30. The avatars will represent characters living in the Matrix. On Dec. 16, all buyers will be able to choose to take a “Blue Pill,” which will keep their avatar in the Matrix, or a “Red Pill,” which will transform it into a resistance fighter. In coming months there will be other challenges and options, letting users upgrade their avatars, or earn new NFTs.
The choice for users mirrors that of the characters in the franchise, who take the red pill to escape the Matrix.
“We really think that theme, of digital identity, and choice, and owning that identity, resonates with the themes in The Matrix franchise,” says Jeff Marsilio, CEO and co-founder of Nifty’s. “It was an opportunity to take what was already a grassroots movement with the NFT avatar, and take it further mainstream.”
Warners has been experimenting with NFTs since early this year, and previously partnered with Nifty’s on a set of Space Jam digital collectibles. Pam Lifford, president of WarnerMedia Global Brands and Experiences, says that NFTs “[have] potential to be a long-running part of our global portfolio of products and experiences for fans.
“If you think about all the ways fans of content can interact with their favorite characters and stories in 2021 — retail stores, theme parks, social media, collectibles, online shops — digital art and collectibles are certainly on that list now,” she says. “It’s another touchpoint for fans to engage, and another way we can entertain and provide great content.”
NFTs have become a popular experiment for IP owners, with Fox Corp., Lionsgate and ViacomCBS among the companies signing on to NFT projects.
In October, Lionsgate released NFTs based on the killer traps from the Saw franchise, while ViacomCBS says it is planning to release NFTs based on its film and TV IP. Fox, meanwhile, has already released its first FNT project tied to The Masked Singer, and is planning an animated series, Krapopolis, that will be “curated on the blockchain,” according to the company.
However, the avatar-centric theme of the Matrix project is a differentiator, as the characters consumers will buy aren’t from the movies at all, but rather live in that universe.
Some of the NFT avatar projects, like CryptoPunks, are seeing examples sold on the open market for the equivalent of millions of dollars, with owners using their avatars across social media platforms and elsewhere.
Larva Labs, the creator of CryptoPunks and other projects like Meebits, have signed with UTA for film, TV, and gaming representation, while some high-profile NFT owners, like the pseudonymous “0xb1,” have signed with agencies to represent some of their acquisitions.
“Given that enthusiasm [for the franchise], and the very nature of what the Matrix story and settings are about, an NFT program seemed perfect,” Lifford adds.
Marsilio says that entertainment companies have slightly different needs when it comes to exploring the space than, say, digital artists. Particularly around royalty payments, brand safety and clear ownership of the IP, as well around how NFTs fit into the overall digital strategy.
“A million fans is worth more than a million dollars, and that engagement drives activity, drives revenue, and drives your business goals,” he says.
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