China NFT Weekly: Railway Journeys in Web3

Digestible news on the latest developments across the fields of NFTs, blockchain, and metaverse in Greater China, compiled for you every week by Pandaily.

This week: Rail operator MTR Corporation enters Web3 era by partnering with The Sandbox, Tsinghua University establishes China’s first metaverse lab, Animoca Brands buys Australian digital marketing firm Be Media to level up NFT plans, and more.

Animoca Brands Buys Australian Digital Marketing Firm Be Media to Level Up NFT Plans

Animoca Brands, a Hong Kong-based gaming software and venture capital company, announced Tuesday the acquisition of Be Media, an Australian digital strategy and social advertising firm, for an undisclosed amount, in order to double down on its push into the Australian NFT and blockchain space, according to reporting by Business News Australia.

  • Following the acquisition, Be Media will spearhead its parent company’s partnerships with major Australian brands by leveraging Animoca Brands’ existing IP and new decentralised products.
  • Be Media founder Jordan Fogarty will retain a “significant minority ownership” of the marketing agency and continue in his role as CEO, with responsibility for all business operations.
  • Fogarty is also an early investor in Animoca Brands and has previously served on the board of OliveX Holdings, a fitness metaverse company created and spun out by Animoca.
  • The acquisition follows Animoca’s aggressive push into the metaverse space, with the company so far having invested in more than 170 NFT-related companies and decentralized projects including Immutable, The Sandbox, Axie Infinity, OpenSea, Dapper Labs and more.
  • In January this year, Animoca brands raised roughly $360 million in fresh funding, giving the company an overall valuation of more than $5 billion. Animoca Brands also acquired racing video game developer Eden Games earlier this month. (Business News Australia)

READ MORE: The Sandbox Developer Animoca Brands Sees Private Valuation Surge to USD 5 Billion amid Metaverse Frenzy

MTR Corporation Enters Web3 by Partnering with The Sandbox

Hong Kong rail operator MTR Corporation is making its foray into the world of Web3 via a partnership with The Sandbox, a gaming metaverse owned by Hong Kong-based Animoca Brands, The Sandbox announced Thursday.

  • As the first global rail operator to partner up with The Sandbox, MTR will build a virtual station in the metaverse in order to bring about a gamified customer experience.
  • “By mimicking and gamifying the physical railway environment, players will be able to enjoy an MTR journey on many levels that stretch the imagination beyond taking a train ride. There will be endless new possibilities including driving a train or even operating a railway station and unlocking exciting adventures in this constantly evolving space.”
  • There may also be a railway museum to showcase the ways that MTR intersects with the communities and cultures of Hong Kong. Meanwhile, the Corporation will explore making use of the virtual environment to facilitate STEM education.
  • The virtual space will also incorporate social and creative elements based on The Sandbox’s built-in tools such as VoxEdit and GameMaker. (The Sandbox)

Tsinghua University Establishes China’s First Metaverse Culture Lab

China’s top academic institution, Tsinghua University, on Friday established China’s first metaverse culture laboratory to promote the study and development of the country’s growing metaverse space, reported Forkast last Sunday.

  • Tsinghua’s School of Journalism and Communications and Chinese Online (COL), a digital publishing company, jointly founded the lab, which will be used for research in new media technology and other metaverse-related fields, according to an official press release.
  • As metaverse and related technologies became more mainstream and rules around the industry became more defined, Tsinghua University also began its research in the field, debuting its first Metaverse Robot System last year.
  • Xiang Botao, deputy secretary of the party committee of Tsinghua University, and Tong Zhilei, chairman and president of Chinese Online Group, hosted a press conference, alongside a few virtual news anchors. (Forkast)

SCMP New NFT Collection Sold Out in Two Hours

A new collection of NFTs that feature front pages of South China Morning Post in the second half of 1997 sold out in just over two hours on Thursday, reported SCMP.

  • The NFTs, part of the “1997 Series,” include 1,303 “mystery boxes,” each containing a randomized bundle of five NFTs. They contain the newspaper’s coverage of historical events, including the handover of Hong Kong from British to Chinese rule and the Asian financial crisis.
  • The first part of the series, released last month, also sold out in two hours. Collectors of all except one of the 180 front pages agreed last week to show their NFTs, known as ARTIFACTs, on the project’s “community wall.”
  • SCMP’s NFTs are built on the Flow blockchain, developed by Canadian blockchain game and NFT developer Dapper Labs, creator of Cryptokitties.
  • Each “box” in the latest collection was priced at 97 FUSD, a US dollar-backed stablecoin issued on the Flow network. The sales brought in around $120,000, according to SCMP.
  • SCMP, Hong Kong’s oldest English newspaper, made its foray into blockchain last July with the announcement of an NFT project and launch of a blockchain metadata standard for historical and archival NFTs. (SCMP)

READ MORE: South China Morning Post Releases White Paper for NFT Standard ARTIFACT

Coinbase Launches New NFT Marketplace to Appeal to Mainstream Users

Crypto exchange Coinbase launched the beta version of its NFT marketplace on Wednesday, allowing a small group of users from a waitlist of 3 million to use the platform for the first time, according to reports by TechCrunch and Coindesk.

  • During the beta launch, Coinbase will curate a number of NFT collections like Doodles, World of Women and Azuki. Any Ethereum-based collection will be accessible on Coinbase NFT, with “more [blockchains] available soon,” Alex Plutzer, NFT product lead at Coinbase NFT, said during a press conference.
  • There will also be no transaction fees on NFTs on its marketplace “for a limited time,” but the fee will increase over time, not exceeding a “low single-digit fee,” according to Sanchan Saxena, vice president of product at Coinbase. Users can either use a Coinbase wallet or any self-custody wallet they own to trade NFTs on the platform.
  • The platform will allow users to showcase their personal profile and follow accounts whose content will appear in a “For You” feed, which is visually similar to social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok. Users will also be able to “like” and comment on each other’s posts, according to a Coinbase representative.
  • Coinbase has a plan for what it calls “progressive decentralization” within the marketplace, whereby certain features will begin as centralized but eventually move on-chain. One of these features is user comments, where threads will initially be stored on Coinbase servers but eventually moved to the blockchain.
  • Separately, the platform does not plan to moderate any NFTs uploaded to the marketplace unless it is illegal in the country that the NFTs are being offered.
  • Coinbase is a publicly traded cryptocurrency exchange platform that has about 89 million users, $278 billion in crypto assets and $547 billion in quarterly volume traded, according to TechCrunch, citing Coinbase’s website. (TechCrunch, Coindesk)

Fidelity Launches Crypto and Metaverse-Themed ETFs in Search of Young Investors

Fidelity Investments has launched four new exchange traded funds (ETFs) that focus on three growing investment trends: cryptocurrencies, the metaverse, and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria, according to reports by Investopedia and Reuters.

  • These funds are the Fidelity Crypto Industry and Digital Payments ETF, the Fidelity Metaverse ETF, the Fidelity Sustainable Core Plus Bond ETF, and the Fidelity Sustainable Low Duration Bond ETF.
  • The crypto ETF will not offer direct exposure to cryptocurrencies but will invest in companies that support the broader digital assets ecosystem. Typically, the fund will invest at least 80% of its assets in securities included in the index.
  • The metaverse ETF gives investors the opportunity to invest in businesses involved in the metaverse industry. It seeks to track the performance of the Fidelity Metaverse Index, normally by investing at least 80% of its assets in securities included in the index.
  • On Thursday, the retail brokerage also announced that it opened a virtual eight-story building in the metaverse that offers financial education.
  • The Fidelity Stack was built in Decentraland, a web platform that mimics a metropolitan area, with commerce districts, offices and event spaces. The Fidelity Stack is open to all but is largely aimed at 18-35 year-olds, said David Dintenfass, chief marketing officer and head of emerging customers at Fidelity.
  • In 2021, 3.8 million new Fidelity brokerage accounts were opened up by investors aged 18 to 35. The brokerage has since made a push with these young investors through its own Reddit sub-thread and TikTok account.
  • Users in the Fidelity Stack can explore the building’s interior, which includes a dance floor and rooftop sky garden. (Investoepdia, Reuters)

That’s it for this week’s newsletter – thanks for reading! As always, I welcome any feedback on how to make this newsletter better. My email is See you again next week!