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AI-Riddled Card Game With NFTs Raises $1.5 Million On Kickstarter Before Getting Binned

My "this is not an NFT scam" T-shirt has people asking a lot of questions already answered by my shirt

Wonders of the First

ZipZip NugNug

Last week a card game that it feels like nobody had ever even heard of--and which featured card art created by machines and an NFT grift on the side--turned up on Kickstarter and promptly raised almost $1.5 million. Suspicious!

The game is called Wonders of The First, and to be fair, it did not try to hide its use of machine-generated imagery. Posting on the game's campaign page, the creators say:

We have used major software and services from MidJourney and the Adobe Suite of products as tools in conjunction with our illustrators, graphic designers, and marketers to generate ideas, concepts, illustrations, and marketing materials for Wonders CCG. Cutting edge technology is woven into the very fabric of our DNA and, while all the components of this game have a mix of human and AI-generated content, nothing presented is solely generated by AI. It's worth noting that we fully acknowledge and accept the Creative Commons licensing of AI-generated image components on which certain elements of our project are built. However, it is equally important to understand that everything we present in its whole and final form (including the game cards, packaging, marketing materials, etc.) are the legal copyright of Wonders of The First, LLC.

Two things here. Firstly, the game's art looks like shit! And secondly, that stuff about "everything we present in its whole and final form" being "the legal copyright of Wonders of The First" is, uh, not true? Or at least not legally clear at time of publishing. You can't own images made by machines that have stolen the work of human artists, and both Midjourney and Adobe are currently facing (or are about to face) lawsuits over that very issue.

While Kickstarter has an AI policy that allows machine-generated content to be included in campaigns so long as it meets certain criteria, only a few days after launching their campaign--and making that $1.5 million from just over 2200 backers--Wonders of the First has since had its campaign shut down.

But not for the AI images. As BoardGameWire report, Kickstarter told Wonders to cancel the launch over its use of NFTs as campaign bonuses (the CEO of Wonders had "previously created NFT-based digital collectible trading card company Blokpax"), because these NFTs in particular would give purchasers a percentage of the game's IP ownership, a form of equity that Kickstarter doesn't allow.

The art and NFTs aren't the only problem with the campaign, though. For a game nobody had ever heard of, from a team nobody had ever heard of, to raise that much money that quickly sure didn't seem right (1000 of its 2200 backers had never backed a single Kickstarter project before!), and the fact the project had so much overlap with crypto/NFT communities and speculators also raised several red flags.

As TableTopGamingNews summarise:

The Kickstarter campaign itself, which was funded in a mere 26 seconds, saw an unusually high number of backers opting for the most expensive tiers, which contributed suspiciously large amounts. 25 backers have so far pledged the second highest tier of $4350, while 48 backers has so far pledged at the highest tier at $8250, many coming in at the beginning of the campaign. This pattern is atypical for a brand-new game without an established fanbase and suggests pre-arranged backing to stimulate demand.

Wonders' CEO Jeff French has taken to the game's Discord to address all the criticism of the project, saying:

A very vocal angry mob doesn’t want Wonders to exist. Primarily because of AI-assisted art and secondarily that they believe these are just game pieces and should be reprinted into oblivion.

We don’t have to guess at this, they have made it quite public. You all have likely seen them. We have seen similar mobs bring many big companies to their knees. This is nothing new.

Very normal! With the Kickstarter cancelled the team say they are going to try to resubmit it--presumably without the blockchain stuff--but if that's unsuccessful they say they'll just move the whole thing to their own website. Where I'm sure all those backers will one day get a fantastic card game with NFTs that are definitely worth something.

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