Rumbling Into Kongs And The Play To Earn Future Of NFTs

I usually stick to legal topics for this blog, but people seemed to appreciate my post on Illuvium so I figured with the announcement of the Steph Curry X Under Armour partnership it was time to post about another favorite project: Rumble Kong League (“RKL”). Full disclosure: I currently own 2 RKL players, so similar to Illuvium, I have a financial interest in the project and you should DYOR and take everything I say with a grain of salt.

This article will cover the project background, why I am bullish on its future, and where it sits in the overarching NFT play-to-earn landscape.

Project Background

RKL is a play-to-earn 3v3 basketball game, and is the brainchild of Marcus Bläsche (Marketing Director for The Sandbox), Naz Vavryk (co-founder of reNFT), Nick Vale (also co-founder of reNFT), and SickPencil (artist extraordinaire). The team’s background is a solid mix of marketing, artistic ability, and technical ability. Marcus and Nick have experience working in the traditional gaming industry, which is nice for what is ultimately a gaming NFT project.

I was one of the first few thousand to mint a Kong back in August, and got lucky to mint this 100 vision Kong. Kongs have a mix of attributes from visually rare (which make them excellent profile pictures) to rare abilities (called “Boosts” which come into play in the gaming aspect of the project). The minting did not immediately sell out, and during that extended sales period a community grew in the discord. The developers remained active during those sales (and still do to this day) in explaining their vision. The only way to describe the final night of minting is “euphoric” as sales jumped. Celebrities like Ja Rule and Tyrese Haliburton stopped in to say hi, and there was a sell-out celebration around 1 AM CST. The night of sell-out was one of the most fun times I have had in NFTs. Many of the original minters are still around today, in large part due to the community which was built that night.

From an intellectual property (“IP”) perspective, important to me as an IP attorney, RKL grants a complete commercial license to Kong holders (similar to BAYC). The developers have been clear that they want individual Kongs to create their own brands (like NBA players) along with individually owned and branded teams (AKA, “Clubs” to be discussed below).

The Rosetta Stone of RKL information is found in the KongPaper. If you would like to learn about the vision for the game, how the play-to-earn and staking dynamics are envisioned to be run, and what the planned tokenomics are, then that is your one stop shop for information. This is a great place to start that DYOR I mentioned at the top of the article.

Continued Growth And Development By The Team

During the minting process, the team announced they would be airdropping sneakers to all the people who minted Kongs. These were intended to be a simple gift to early supporters, but the team has since announced these sneakers will have visual utility as well. Owners will be able to equip their Kongs with those sneakers in the game. As seen in the aforementioned Curry announcement, and from hints dropped by the team, these do not appear to be the only airdropped or usable in-game items. This makes for an interesting secondary market for things akin to skins in Fortnite (which is a multi-billion dollar business).

The team has partnered with iLogos Game Studios for game development. iLogos has developed games for EA, Ubisoft, Disney, and others in the past. Teaming with a triple-A studio while retaining complete creative control seems like a smart move, rather than handing off gameplay control. iLogos knows what Web2 gameplay quality is needed for mainstream adoption, while the team knows what Web3 dynamics are needed as far as play-to-earn, tokenomics, and individual branding are concerned. This is the perfect combination to merge the old school with the new school.

RKL also recently took on $4.5 million in seed funding from partners such as CAA Sports and Paul George. Obviously, the monetary funding is great as a way to deliver value to holders, but a massive agency like CAA Sports and others having a vested interest in RKL’s success and branding initiatives was the bigger win in this deal. The team has also worked out a deal with Coinbase to be one of the few initial NFTs offered on the highly anticipated Coinbase NFT marketplace.

Finally, RKL announced a “Club” feature, where people will be able to own RKL Clubs similar to owning an NBA team. These Clubs will be a way to organize large scale seasons and tournaments. It is envisioned that Clubs will act like NBA/G-League teams, with free agency signings, fan bases, and broadcasted games. These Clubs will be auctioned off, with some Clubs reserved for early supporters/adopters.

Developments by Community

What got me so hooked on Web3 gaming was Zed.run and, specifically, Zed’s third party content creators like Know Your Horses, Hawku, and Zed Gazette. Without those and other community resources, it would have been impossible for a new person to come into the game and have an enjoyable experience.

I see the community around RKL creating similar resources. Whether it be the marketplace aggregator known as KongStats or the weekly All Things Courtside podcast/stream, there are tools being developed by the community to help new adopters understand the game. There are also talented artists in the community (similar to BAYC) like Mike Fogg and King Stace who are putting out projects which have gained success and serve to bring new eyes to RKL. As mentioned above, people started forming RKL Clubs prior to there even being an announcement on how those Clubs would work, and RKL has rewarded those early content creators/organizers by entering them in a raffle to get one of those first Club tokens.

The overwhelming support of current NBA players, who can continue to help grow the RKL brand outside of traditional NFT investors, has been the icing on the cake. Steph Curry owns 6 Kongs, and is partnering with RKL for his NFT sneaker drop. Paul George was a part of the seed funding group. The list of NBA players that own Kongs is growing every day, but already includes Paul George, Steph Curry, Damion Lee, Malik Beasley, Josh Hart, Cole Anthony, Andrew Wiggins, Tyrese Haliburton, Hassan Whiteside, and many others. For a 3-on-3 basketball game, it is hard to get better brand ambassadors than current NBA stars.

Where RKL Sits in Play-To-Earn Landscape

As stated in my article on Illuvium, I see play-to-earn as the next big thing in NFTs. People certainly still appreciate art NFTs and pure profile picture projects with their associated community benefits, but the way to get mainstream adoption is through gamification. When people ask about NFTs, I almost always use Zed.run as an onboarding project. As stated by Jay from the Zed team: “We want to onboard new users to crypto/NFTs and there is no project better for that than ZED RUN. It’s not a debate. Outsiders are looking for a USE CASE and we have the best one.”

So far, a vast majority of NFT games require active participation to enjoy or maximize profit from them. Axie is a relatively simple game, but the gameplay itself is fairly static and most owners form “scholarships” where they essentially pay people in third-world countries to farm assets and split revenue rather than playing the game itself. Zed requires active stable management to reach its full potential (although I would be shocked if the team isn’t working on some form of trustless lending similar to Axie). For its part, RKL includes a staking and loaning function which will allow even inactive owners economic incentives for continued ownership.

RKL has a unique gameplay environment where content creators can formulate content from viewing the gameplay alone. In a world where Twitch streams get more views than some MLB games, there is a demand for games which are both fun to watch and play. Add in the ownership of Web3 and ability to take profits from in-game items like Fortnite, and you have created an experience that resonates with Millennials and Gen-Z alike. This is the demographic every major brand is seeking to capture and which naturally fits in RKL’s planned play-to-earn model.

While Illuvium and Zed offer entry points for virtually any financial situation, I see RKL as being the thing players of other play-to-earn games work to eventually afford. Owning an RKL Kong will be similar to being a member of Faze clan or some other prestigious gaming group. With NFT integration expected for Instagram and Twitter in the near future, those types of sought-after game assets will be more valuable than blue verification checkmarks. Unlike assets in Zed.run, Illuvium, Chicken Derby, Axie Infinity, or The Red Village, the assets in RKL serve as visually distinct profile pictures and usable gaming assets.

Conclusion

RKL is still in its infancy as a project, and until there is actual gameplay released it is hard to put a realistic prediction on its potential within the NFT and play-to-earn landscape. However, the initial indicators discussed above give plenty of reasons to be bullish on its future. I certainly plan to be an RKL holder for the foreseeable future, and if you have the available capital it is worth you looking into it as well (not financial advice, DYOR, etc.).

If you need any legal support in regards to forming a partnership or group to buy an RKL asset or club (or anything else NFT and law related), please reach out to me and I would be happy to discuss how I could assist in such a venture. If you have any other questions, or would like me to cover anything in particular, reach out to me on either of my twitter pages. As always, I am an attorney, I am not your attorney. For legal advice, you should always consult (and pay for) an attorney.

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