MLB’s Defunct ‘Champions’ Draft NFTs See Secondary Market Resurgence as League Prepares Next Crypto Move

MLB has confirmed that it has ended its licensing partnership with Los Angeles-based game developer Lucid Sight Inc., the company behind the first known collection of licensed non-fungible sports tokens, MLB Champions, and the accompanying mobile game. But the trade in NFT Champions among collectors has picked up in recent weeks, with some believing their value is about to increase with the discontinuation of production and baseball season around the corner.

“We don’t do that anymore,” MLB chief operations and strategy officer Chris Marinak said of Champions during a preseason media call Wednesday. “It was a partnership with a third party that ended up being discontinued.”

Amid the recent spike in popularity of blockchain-backed digital collectibles like NBA Top Shot, Marinak said the baseball league is nearing the announcement of a new initiative in the NFT space, which may come in the next few weeks or months. Front Office Sports recently reported the league is in talks with Top Shot developer Dapper Labs.

While the Champions NFT market was all but dead throughout 2020, a handful of digital collectors are now picking up NFTs from the series, which Lucid Sight launched on the Ethereum blockchain in 2018 as MLB Crypto Baseball.

According to Etherscan.io, a website that lists Ethereum blockchain transactions, more than 1,800 users currently own MLB Champions NFTs, and there have been more than 477,000 transactions involving the digital baseball collectibles since their launch. in 2018.

On OpenSea, the premier NFT marketplace, MLB Champions accounted for over 2,780 ether, the name of Ethereum’s native cryptocurrency, worth transactions, which currently stands at over $5 million. . Champions ranks third all-time among NFT sports collections by sales volume on OpenSea (which does not include Top Shot) behind fantasy football game Sorare and licensed F1 game Delta Time, and 33rd among all NFT on the site.

In the past 14 days alone, there have been about 30 ethers in sales, nearly $55,000, or about half of the total sales for the past year. Over the past week, volume is up more than 100% from the previous week, totaling 20 ethers, or almost $37,000.

Patrick Toner, software developer and avid collector, speculated that Champions’ status as the first-ever NFT program licensed by a major US sports property could make them attractive to the growing digital collectibles market. .

“These are permanent relics of a failed project in much the same way as the Honus Wagner card,” Toner said, comparing NFTs to the holy grail of traditional baseball cards, the T206 Honus Wagner card produced by the American Tobacco Company. in 1909.

Production of new digital collectibles and promotion of the game lay dormant at the start of the 2020 season without any formal explanation from Lucid Sight or MLB.

MLB declined to comment on why they are leaving MLB Champions, while Lucid Sight did not respond to multiple requests for comment. While Dapper Labs and the NBA have reportedly received a reduction in peer-to-peer sales of Top Shot moments, it’s unclear whether Lucid Sight or MLB will continue to profit from deals involving MLB Champions NFT on sites like OpenSea and CryptoSlam.

After releasing full collections in 2018 and 2019, Lucid Sight only hit a few MLB Champions figures in 2020 before going silent without an explanation. The company kept users updated on new developments via a Discord server, but hasn’t made any announcements since June. Just this week, loyal fans of the game and collectibles took to the developer on social media to ask what the future holds for MLB champions.

Allen Hena, a healthcare software engineer who moonlights as a blockchain technology consultant and was an early collector of MLB Champions, said the project has gained traction with a community of collectors despite Lucid Sight’s mismanagement, which failed to roll out new features on time and align its NFT releases with the MLB schedule.

“They were involved in too many other projects,” Hena said. “They just didn’t understand baseball, they didn’t understand NFTs, they didn’t understand fantasy baseball.”

Toner said there was considerable “community buy-in” and users offered Lucid Sight many suggestions on how to produce a better game and grow the community of champions.

Hena and Toner, however, praised Lucid Sight for designing the NFT Champions MLB to work within the larger NFT ecosystem. MLB Champions NFT exist on the decentralized Ethereum blockchain, which means collectors can buy, sell, and trade the numbers outside of the project’s now-defunct native market and store them in their own cryptocurrency wallets at alongside other NFTs.

This setup gives users far more freedom than Top Shot, which is built on Dapper Labs’ Flow blockchain and does not allow collectors to trade their “moments” on outside markets or view them outside of the ecosystem. Topshot.

It also means that the MLB Champions NFT will live on long after the program is gone.

“The beautiful part about it, in a way, is that the company going bankrupt becomes social proof that these things can survive,” Toner said.

Neal T. Doss