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How Digital Horse Racing Became an NFT Favorite

Chris Laurent, co-founder of Zed Run, tells how their virtual horse-racing game has swept the crypto world.

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It all started with a poster in Chinese restaurant in Australia.

Chris Laurent, co-founder of Virtually Human Studio in Sydney and inventor of the NFT horse-racing game Zed Run, was picking up his dinner one night in late 2017 when he noticed an advertisement on the wall for a local stud farm. It provided a stallion for breeding for a cost of $15,000 Australian dollars.

Laurent, a horse-racing fan who was working as a consultant for an Australian bookmaker at the time, examined the poster more closely and found a caption beneath it that said that this specific horse might reproduce up to 200 times each year.

Laurent had dismissed CryptoKitties, a Pokémon-style digital trading game based on the Ethereum blockchain, as “kind of silly” at the time, but seeing this poster made him realize that a version of CryptoKitties’ breeding system could be used to democratize racehorse ownership and share more of the money made with the average punter.

A few months later, Zed Run was born.

Zed Run co-creator Chris Laurent. Image: Virtually Human

The non-fungible token, a provably unique crypto asset that may be connected to digital content, lies at the heart of Zed Run. Images, video, music, or, in the instance of Zed Run, a digital horse can all be used as material.

Laurent and co-founder Rob Salha couldn’t think anyone would pay money for their non-fungible gee-gees at first, especially since the game’s racing and breeding components had yet to be released. Within a few weeks, horses purchased from Zed for $80 were selling for as much as $10,000 on secondary markets. That’s when the two recognized they’d hit upon something.

“The greatest method to bring in new consumers when it comes to blockchain adoption is to give them something they’re comfortable with,” Laurent says. “You don’t have to explain why Zed is doing well: you buy a horse, pay to join a race, and take home a share of the pot if you’re successful—simply that’s it.”

Zed Run races take place on a neon-tinged, futuristic course. Image: Virtually Human

Zed Run events take place on a floating track that slices across a Tron-style retro-futurist landscape, unlike the actual thing. Each race is decided purely by the inherent abilities of the dozen contending horses, with the outcome determined by an algorithm that considers thousands of conceivable outcomes.

Those abilities are based on the horse’s DNA, which is determined by three factors: the horse’s bloodline (Nakamoto, Szabo, Finney, or Buterin, each with its own set of characteristics), genotype (a number that indicates how far removed it is from its ancestors, with 1 being the minimum and 268 being the maximum), and breed (Genesis, Legendary, Exclusive, Elite, Cross, or Pacer).

Digital Thoroughbreds

Only 38,000 Genesis horses—the game’s quickest and purest digital nags—will ever be available, but breeding two of them together gives you one of the others. For example, given their combined genomes, the progeny of two Genesis Nakamotos will be Legendary, while a Genesis Nakamoto and Legendary Szabo coupling will produce an Exclusive Szabo, and so on.

The purer your horse, the better your chances of owning a winner, but entering the appropriate races is the key to Zed Run success. Each horse is given a rating based on its performance after their first benchmark event, which decides which class it belongs to. You can enter races above but not below your horse’s class, with points earned or deducted based on performance in subsequent races. The higher your horse’s victory rate, the higher its secondary market value will be, and the more you may charge other owners to breed with it.

And that’s where Zed Run stands apart from most other NFTs: it genuinely provides investors something to do with their money. Owners of NFT art can hold on to their investment and hope for a price increase over time, but they can’t compete with a JPEG. “We’re one of the first NFTs to provide a positive user experience,” Laurent claims. “Not only can you use your NFT as a store of value, but you can also play with it and earn a profit without losing ownership of it.”

Races in the Zed Run are notoriously tight, with apparently ‘lesser’ horses regularly defeating those with purer bloodlines. Watching one presently has limited appeal for those without a stake in the game—but betting is only one of many things in the Zed pipeline. “We’ve spoken to the bulk of large wagering operators throughout the world,” Laurent says, “and we’ll collaborate with them in the future once we have the framework and regulations in place to be able to do that.” “We don’t want to hurry into it.”

Skins In The Game

Skins are a more recent addition to the Zed Run stable. Horses are presently available in a variety of colors, including black, pink, and green, but Zed will soon begin auctioning skins in conjunction with “some of the best companies in the world,” according to Laurent. These will be delivered via collectible NFT cartridges in line with the ’80s style, with the first ones coming as part of a cooperation with Atari.

These skins will initially be purely decorative, but you’ll eventually be able to limit races to only those who own a specific type of skin, as part of a larger effort to give the Zed community more control over how everything works, beginning with a ‘party mode’ that allows users to create private events that only their friends can attend. Laurent explains, “We want the timetable to be more organic and user-driven.” “That, we believe, is the first step towards handing the torch to our community.”

Staying On Track

Zed will also add track conditions, weather, gate preference, weariness, tiers within classes, and possibly avatars in the coming years, though Laurent thinks the latter would likely necessitate a new game mode. “We had jockeys in our first mock-ups, and then we put the game together, and the horses looked fantastic by themselves,” he explains, before detailing how owners will be able to hire specific jockeys to help their horses win. “Another reason we left it out was because cross-pollinating two NFTs that are based on performance is difficult,” he continues. “It may come in the future, I’m not too sure just yet, but it certainly sounds like a really interesting area to explore.”

Laurent has a lot of additional ideas that he wants to try out, including fences and jumping, racetrack ownership, and even 1,000-horse races, but it’s a long-term goal. Laurent has even greater ideas for the future than Zed, who recently purchased a plot of land in the crypto-based virtual world Decentraland, where users will be able to socialize with other owners, find new horses, and watch races. “We’ve been talking about AR and VR since the beginning,” he explains. “You could put on a headset and watch some horses galloping across the Las Vegas strip, or you could take out your phone and simulate them galloping through the real world in front of you.”

While limited public acceptance of that technology means that those kinds of executions remain niche, Laurent is confident that we’ll get there eventually, which is why a Zed Run horse has a jaw, teeth, and tongue, as well as blinking and moving its lips and nostrils. He describes his idea of a Zed Run horse being passed down through families like an antique watch or cherished ring, eventually emerging in a Ready Player One-style metaverse. “Thinking about that is mind-boggling, and a lot of people won’t get it, but things will proceed in that direction.”

Meanwhile, Laurent wants to reassure anyone who thinks they’ve already missed the Zed train that it’s still early days. Only around half of the 38,000 Genesis horses have been released so far, and there’s a reason why the game is still in beta.

“There are a lot of factors in the coding that haven’t been activated yet,” he explains. “One of the most crucial aspects of the ecosystem is guaranteeing that every racehorse has a home, and that if you enter the game in five years, you will still have a shot. If you’re here right now, you’re not too late, in our opinion.”

NFT

OpenSea and Kakao’s Klaytn collaborate to expand NFT across Asia

Klaytn, a Singapore-based public blockchain platform, and OpenSea, a non-fungible token (NFT) market, established a cooperation on Friday to support the Asian NFT ecosystem.

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  • In order to showcase Asian NFT initiatives to a worldwide audience, the alliance involves conference collaborations and ecosystem awards.
  • The largest NFT marketplace in the world supports four blockchains: Klaytn, Polygon, Solana, and Ethereum.
  • The blockchain subsidiary of South Korean internet behemoth Kakao, Ground X, founded the Klaytn Foundation.
  • On its central bank digital currency (CBDC) pilot project, the Bank of Korea collaborates with Ground X.

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Shopify Expands Online Retailers’ NFT-Gated Options

Brands are able to increase the exclusivity of their shops thanks to the e-commerce platform.

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The future of e-commerce, according to Shopify, is in NFTs.

As a new option for brands wishing to make their stores more exclusive, the online retail behemoth, which enables small businesses to construct customized e-commerce shops, is providing NFT-gated storefronts, Shopify announced on Wednesday.

In the Shopify introduction video, which includes a skating woman who passes through a pastel portal and transforms into a Doodles NFT, a voiceover urges viewers to “invite their communities into a world that acknowledges and rewards devotion.”

The video explains that token holders can access special shopping opportunities by connecting a cryptocurrency wallet, including early access to drops and limited collections as well as one-of-a-kind experiences and other surprises.

Only individuals with existing NFT collections are able to apply for early access to Shopify’s “gm” shop, which is a gated merchandise store and a play on the Crypto Twitter acronym for “good morning.”

However, those that haven’t received approval yet can still integrate NFT token-gating apps like Shopthru or Single into their Shopify sites.

Shopify announced that it has already collaborated with the Adam Bomb Squad, Doodles, World of Women, Invisible Friends, Superplastic, Stapleverse, and Cool Cats NFT collections to develop token-gated shops as part of its token-gated business launch.

Shopify is introducing “IRL” token-gating in brick-and-mortar stores in addition to online token-gating, which restricts access to certain merchandise to authorized NFT holders exclusively.

Why is this important? The future of Web3 commerce will focus on exclusivity, for one thing. NFTs, which are distinctive blockchain tokens that denote ownership over an asset, are increasingly employed as membership cards, tickets to events, and “keys” to open benefits, despite the fact that they are frequently oversimplified as digital art or “jpgs.”

Additionally, this isn’t Shopify’s first venture into NFTs: The business has been involved with Web3 since last year, when it announced the launch of NFT sales on its platform. Brands can mine and sell NFTs on Shopify to clients using the Ethereum, Polygon, Solana, or Flow platforms.

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OpenSea, beware—Uniswap is pushing into NFTs

The NFT aggregation platform Genie is being purchased by Uniswap Labs, the organization that created the Ethereum-based decentralized exchange Uniswap.

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In a Bankless interview on Tuesday, Uniswap founder and CEO Hayden Adams said, “We’re attempting to transfer what we brought to the ERC-20 market to the NFT sector.”

You can buy NFTs—individual blockchain tokens that represent ownership—on a variety of different marketplaces, such as OpenSea, LooksRare, or Coinbase NFT. However, few allow consumers to buy many things at once, and none provide aggregation tools that let traders view listings on competing marketplaces.

According to Uniswap Labs on Twitter, “We see NFTs as another form of value in the burgeoning digital economy, and it’s a no-brainer for us to integrate them.”

The NFT aggregator Gem, which also enables customers to acquire numerous NFTs in a single transaction, was purchased by OpenSea just two months prior to the announcement of its acquisition by Genie. OpenSea intends to incorporate NFT aggregation functions into its primary platform, just like Uniswap.

A new tab dedicated to NFTs will be added to Uniswap’s main website later this year as part of the company’s push into NFTs, according to a statement from the company. Additionally, NFTs will be included in its developers’ APIs and widgets.

Uniswap Labs intends to airdrop an unspecified quantity of the stablecoin USDC to Genie’s early backers as a way to commemorate its acquisition. By April 15th, USDC will be given to everybody who had utilized the platform at least once or owned a Genie Genesis NFT. (The business had earlier tweeted that Genie Gem owners were eligible for the airdrop.)

Uniswap entered the NFT market for the first time in 2019 with Unisocks, an NFT that granted holders access to a real pair of socks.

The largest NFT market, OpenSea, has a floor price for Unisocks of 13 ETH (about $15,300) at the time of writing.

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