Bored Apes + CryptoPunks: the big ideas

Making sense of the biggest deal in NFT history!
Mar 15, 20225 min read

Dear Bankless Nation,

In April 2021, Yuga Labs launched Bored Ape Yacht Club, a 10k NFT profile picture (PFP) collection inspired by CryptoPunk apes, for 0.08 ETH per mint.

Since then, BAYC’s meteoric rise has allowed “the student to become the master,” as last week Yuga Labs announced its stunning acquisition of the intellectual property (IP) of Larva Labs’s iconic CryptoPunks and Meebits collections.

Below I’ll briefly cover the basics of the acquisitions for anyone who needs to catch up, and after that I’ll go deeper and explore some of the biggest ideas and biggest questions we’ll all be chewing on in the wake of this major deal.

Let’s dive in, shall we?


Breaking down Yuga’s yuge NFT news

What happened

  • On Friday, March 11th, BAYC creators Yuga Labs announced their acquisitions of the CryptoPunks and Meebits collections from Larva Labs.

  • À la BAYC holders, Yuga Labs immediately revealed plans to grant holders of CryptoPunks and Meebits full commercial rights to their NFTs.

  • Yuga Labs said

    • To be clear: the BAYC ecosystem will remain the center of our universe. We believe that what's good for Punks is good for Apes and the rest of the space. Likewise, what's good for Apes is good for Punks. We want to grow the pie, not fight over slices.”

    • We're not in a rush to do anything but give people full commercial rights, see what they build, and listen.”

Terms of the acquisition

  • “This means that we now own the brands, copyright in the art, and other IP rights for both collections, along with 423 CryptoPunks and 1711 Meebits,” the Yuga Labs team explained in a Mirror announcement post.
  • The financial terms of the deal remain undisclosed at this time, though it’s safe to say the agreed-upon compensation to Larva Labs was substantial.

Vibe check

  • The 2020-’21 Great NFT Awakening cemented the legendary, even mythical status of the CryptoPunks within and beyond the NFT ecosystem. The Punks started from the underground and went on to become something akin to the “Immaculate Collection.”
  • BAYC’s astounding surge of success since Apr. 2021 has been something of a mythical feat too, not just for an NFT project but for a media enterprise in general. In the process, BAYC has made unprecedented inroads into the mainstream consciousness.
  • As such, Yuga Labs bringing these two powerhouse collections together plus Meebits was inconceivable not long ago, yet with all the synergies possible the move definitively positions the company to transform into an NFT media empire for decades to come.

Key takeaways and questions

1) Yuga Labs now has five NFT projects in the top 20

When it comes to all-time NFT trading volume, Yuga Labs now steers the three top-grossing projects in CryptoPunks, BAYC, and the Mutant Ape Yacht Club. Throw in Meebits (9th all-time) and Bored Ape Kennel Club (16th all-time), and it’s clear that Yuga Labs now has unparalleled reach in the NFT ecosystem.

All-time NFT trading volume to date - image via OpenSea

2) Larva Labs’s next Web3 project

Matt Hall and John Watkinson are the co-founders of Larva Labs and the creators of CryptoPunks and Meebits. As Yuga Labs noted of the duo in their Mirror announcement, “They’re going to continue running Larva Labs and will keep doing what they do best: creating awesome projects that help shape the future of web3.” This suggests Larva Labs (which retained the Autoglyphs IP) isn’t going to sail off into the sunset, so keep an eye on future projects from the team.

3) A Yuga NFT marketplace could become dominant

Now that Yuga Labs oversees so many top NFT collections, the company may end up choosing to launch its own NFT marketplace to open up an additional revenue stream and compete with market incumbents like OpenSea and LooksRare. Maybe this idea never pans out, but for now it’s something to keep tabs on going forward.

4) Acquisition chatter at ATH

Unsurprisingly, excitement around Yuga Labs’s acquisitions of Punks and Meebits has kicked off waves of speculation around the ecosystem regarding similar big moves. On the one hand, the Bored Ape + Punk merger will definitely inspire projects and companies to look closer at the available possibilities, while on the other hand baseless acquisition rumors are acutely surging.

5) Insider trading or loose lips

One thing that’s raised eyebrows is how Meebits trade volume boomed in the lead up to Yuga Labs’s acquisition news. I had personally heard and seen rumors of the deal beforehand, so in retrospect the news was definitely out there, though the extent of which remains unclear.

Yuge open secret? Chatting with my colleague Lucas in the hours before Yuga Labs’s acquisition news. 

6) Wen token?

Last year Yuga Labs announced plans to launch a “legally compliant” native token for BAYC holders. It will be interesting to watch how the Punks/Meebits acquisitions affect this token launch, if at all. We may see Yuga Labs take a “siloed” approach and keep the tokenomics distinct to the BAYC ecosystem (with Punks later getting their own token), or the company may expand one token’s utility across all of its NFT collections.

7) What about the BAYC play-to-earn game?

Last year Yuga labs also teamed up with Animoca Brands, the publisher of The Sandbox, to co-develop a BAYC play-to-earn (P2E) game. Accordingly, another interesting angle will be to watch and see if Yuga Labs features Punks and Meebits in this game or in later games alongside characters from BAYC, MAYC, etc. A riff on a Smash Bros-esque brawler could be a lot of fun, for example.

8) What about the Phunks and Punks V1?

CryptoPunk derivative collections like Phunks (flipped Punks) and Punks V1 (the original bugged collection deployment) seemed to have gained a counter-cultural, oppositional strength from the mistakes of Larva Labs. What happens to these derivatives now that Larva Labs is no longer in the picture? Do their oppositions morph and take on new dimensions, or do the collections take on lives of their own or die out from here? Only time will tell for now.

Action steps

Not financial or tax advice. This newsletter is strictly educational and is not investment advice or a solicitation to buy or sell any assets or to make any financial decisions. This newsletter is not tax advice. Talk to your accountant. Do your own research.

Disclosure. From time-to-time I may add links in this newsletter to products I use. I may receive commission if you make a purchase through one of these links. Additionally, the Bankless writers hold crypto assets. See our investment disclosures here.

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