For the past year a company known as Irreverent Labs have been working on a game called MechaFightClub, which was to be driven by NFT sales and be based on the proud and ancient sport of cockfighting.
Not using actual chickens, mind, they were mech ones, but still.
Here is the game in action, which it was hoped would inspire the sale of a ton of mechabots, the NFTs that players were supposed to buy and then use to fight each other with:
You may be shocked to hear this after seeing such an accomplished demonstration, but it’s now May 2023 and the game—or collection of concept videos built around NFTs, however you want to describe it—has been essentially cancelled, with the developers announcing an “indefinite hibernation”:
While it would be easy to blame the cancellation on the fact it looked like shit and was built on a dead market, the developers have instead decided to blame the SEC’s recent crypto crackdown, saying “We are an American company, and a lack of clarity is making it difficult for blockchain companies to operate here. In the current regulatory confusion, we simply couldn’t create an in-game economy without concern about the regulatory ramifications.”
You may be equally shocked to hear that a bunch of people who were very into the whole NFT and crypto hustle have now, like the rest of Silicon Valley, lurched towards “AI” instead.
The game’s official YouTube account, which had stopped posting gameplay videos a long time ago (though its Twitter account had kept hyping the game until earlier this week, using mostly AI-generated images), has recently begun posting AI interviews instead, and Decrypt reports (via Web3IsGoingGreat) the company has now pivoted entirely away from games development and towards using machine learning to create “short-form videos from images” instead.
I’m not posting this here to point and laugh at one bad game that was probably never going to be a game and which you’d likely never heard of. I’m posting this because this company got $40 million in funding to make MechaFightClub, and only a year later can just cancel it, shift their entire focus onto a premise as flimsy and ethereal as crypto was and just carry on like nothing happened.
Linette Lopez’s excellent piece last week argued that “Silicon Valley has entered the Hail Mary phase of its business cycle — a desertic part of a tech-industry downturn where desperation can turn into recklessness”. Irreverent Labs going from “mech chicken fighting game” to “AI-driven video creator” in the space of a year is the perfect example of this desperation, a case study in everything wrong with so many companies working in these tech spaces and, even more damningly, the idiots who keep giving them all this money.