Would You Like Fries With That NFT? 🍟

More NFT cyber-cultural action this week, and my thoughts on Microsoft’s massive $69 billion acquisition of video game publishers Activision Blizzard. Let’s get to it…

Notes from the Present 📱

Twitter Launches NFT Profiles

More big news in the crypto/Web3 space, as Twitter launches NFT profile pictures for its premium members (Twitter Blue). You will need to either buy an NFT or create your own NFT (e.g. using your current profile photo — it doesn’t need to be a cartoon) on a service like OpenSea. Indeed, Twitter is using OpenSea’s API to run this feature. But be warned, it’ll likely cost you over $100 in “gas fees” to do this over the most popular Web3 blockchain, Ethereum.

The OpenSea integration led to some “fail whale” moments for the suddenly popular NFT marketplace:

Facebook Announces NFT Integration

Of course, Meta/Facebook’s NFTs are merely “plans” at the moment, much like its metaverse. But it’s another sign of the mainstreaming of NFTs.

Some concerns I have about this news:

Microsoft Buys Activision Blizzard for $69B

The biggest tech news of the week was Microsoft buying the maker of Call of Duty and Candy Crush, Activision Blizzard, for about $69 billion. It’s their largest ever acquisition — but in an era of insane tech company valuations, does the dollar amount really matter? Culturally, this is another example of big tech taking over the entertainment industry. There’s talk this might be a metaverse play, but there are no virtual world or VR aspects to what Activision does — so that’s meaningless futurism. Ultimately, this is pretty similar in my mind to Microsoft building Xbox and buying Minecraft — it’s a good content business in a market where the technology platform really matters (video game consoles, powerful PCs, mobile devices, etc). Microsoft has always had a 360 approach to tech devices, covering all bases; including gaming consoles, with the Xbox. But this cyber-cultural era is as much about the content as the devices, and Activision gives Microsoft a lot more cool content for their gaming users. The head of Xbox, Phil Spencer, will be in charge of Activision once the deal finalizes (which isn’t for another 12-18 months).

A gem of a tweet here from a video games market analyst:

Web3 Developer Ecosystem

My column this week is about the small, but fast growing, Web3 developer ecosystem. There are at least 18,000 active developers in Web3, according to a report from crypto VC firm Electric Capital. But to put that into perspective, JavaScript — the world’s most popular web programming language — adds about 18,000 new developers per week. So it really is early days for Web3.

The Onion’s Guide To Web3

You know you’ve made it when The Onion lampooons you: “The next iteration of the internet, Web3 will decentralize power from big tech companies and give it to individual big tech billionaires.”

When Tech Bros Think Out Loud

“Synthetic wombs”?! Perhaps Vitalik Buterin, the founder of Ethereum, should stick to blockchain development. (screenshot via tech historian Margaret O’Mara)

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Notes from the Past ☎️

The History of Activision Blizzard

1980 Activision titles; Image via chinavision

Not being a gamer, I wasn’t au fait with the history of Activision Blizzard. But its origins date right back to Atari in the late 70s. According to Brittanica:

“The company was formed in 2008 by the merger of Activision, an entertainment software publisher that traced its roots to the original Atari game console, and Vivendi Games, the parent company of Blizzard Entertainment, a PC software publisher best known for the Diablo, Warcraft, and StarCraft franchises and for the massively multiplayer role-playing game World of Warcraft.”

Activision were the first successful third-party video game platform (i.e. the games weren’t designed by Atari for Atari), while Blizzard created some stellar video game franchises in the 1990s (particularly multiplayer games). In a nutshell, the two companies were both innovative video game publishers who managed to create a corporate behemoth, which the giant that is Microsoft just slurped up.

If you’re interested in learning more about the 2008 merger of Blizzard and Activision, the Acquired podcast had an episode on it.

Fail Whale

While Twitter’s new NFT partner Opensea is having technical issues, did you know that Twitter itself used to crash regularly in its early days? Older webheads will remember this:

That image is from Yiying Lu, who created it around 2008. She tells the story on her website and also has a fun tweet about its history:

One More Thing 📞

Ok, so the #McRibNFT was from back in November. But it seems to sum up where we are right now from a cultural point of view with NFTs.

See you next week! Do reach out by email (just hit reply) or on Twitter (@ricmac) if you have any content suggestions, or just want to touch base.