A new NFT collection called Goblintown has flashed onto the scene with striking success, and the NFT community has been trying to figure out who's behind it.
Why it matters
It's an unprecedented rise that's confused even hardened NFT traders. While many in the community have become enamored with the collection, others see it as everything wrong with NFTs.
After a frosty month of trading, almost the entirety of NFT Twitter found itself virtually huddled around a Twitter Space on Thursday, May 26. Deep into the first "NFT Winter" -- a month of trading activity that was consistently lower than anything seen before the NFT boom of August 2021 -- the live-audio Twitter Space had a big audience. It included thousands of everyday traders, as well as influencers and prominent investors. What brought the whole NFT world to this one digital spot?
It was a group of about a dozen grown men making barely comprehensible goblin noises. For three hours. They spoke unintelligibly and at length about serving burgers to people in the audience with "Gary Pee sauce," a reference to NFT influencer Gary "Vee" Vaynerchuk.
The hosts were the anonymous creators of Goblintown.wtf, a collection of 10,000 NFTs that has become an unprecedented success since launching on May 19. Each NFT features a grotesque goblin, to be used as a profile picture on Twitter, Discord or Instagram, each with different attributes and accessories. (You can see three in the photo above.)
Goblintown was a free mint, meaning those who caught the public sale only had to pay the transaction fee. Only a small fraction of free mints go on to become worth anything. In the 12 days since the launch, Goblintown's entry price on the NFT marketplace OpenSea has gone from $0 to $11,500 (6 ether). Rare ones go for as much as triple that amount.
It's an unprecedented rise that's confused even hardened NFT traders, who are at this point accustomed to seeing the most random projects find success. NFT trading at times resembles a stock market for memes, so seeing lots of people dropping a few hundred bucks on irreverent art isn't too extraordinary. Most meme collections, however, disappear after about a day or two. Goblintown somehow managed to hook the NFT community, which has been relatively idle in May following 2022's frantic opening months.
Since its launch, punters have been convinced that Goblintown's anonymous team is filled with prominent names. As such, they've gone about uncovering clues in the NFT art and decoding messages sent out on Goblintown's Twitter, which are all written in stylized goblin speak.
Here's what they've figured out so far. "Goblintown" is a term to describe a crypto bear market, apparently taken from a song in the novel The Hobbit. Several goblins in the collection have traits that mock NFT culture. Many goblins have tattoos of the luna cryptocurrency that crashed in early May, while another is a direct reference to "Kevin," the mascot that embodied the Pixelmon NFT collection flop. The team communicates on Twitter exclusively via stylized goblin talk, and people are still trying to figure out these goblins' obsession with burgers.
The biggest mystery of all is over who's behind the collection. Initially, rumors that it was backed by King of the Hill creator Mike Judge or the team behind Bored Ape Yacht Club abounded. Around 2,000 people joined the May 26 Twitter Space to try to figure out what the project was all about. Instead, they got Gary Pee burgers.
"The Goblintown space is either an absolute new low or brilliance,' tweeted Kristy Tillman, Netflix's director of product design. "The line is very very thin here."
As enamored as many have become with the collection, others see it as everything wrong with NFTs. That includes Michael "Beeple" Winkelmann, the artist behind the NFT collage that famously sold for $69 million, who was at first rumored to be on the Goblintown team. "Insane I have to say this, but I have not joined any shockingly low effort pump and dump projects that will remain nameless,' he tweeted. "Look at the charts of similar projects, you know in your heart how this story ends."
Beeple's point is that meme collections that rocket quickly tend to crater just as fast. Even if that happened, Goblintown's creators, whoever they are, would be left grinning. The anonymous team gets 7.5% from each sale on OpenSea and LooksRare, the two biggest NFT marketplaces. So far $37 million worth of Goblintown NFTs have been traded, meaning about $2.75 million has gone to the team.
Despite criticisms, Goblintown has provided energy to an NFT market that's lost momentum over the past month. With the Federal Reserve raising interest rates in the face of troublesome inflation, markets have pulled away from speculative assets. Tech stocks that previously traded on the premise of future profits have been hit hard: Netflix, Uber and Tesla are down 68%, 35% and 30%, respectively, from six months ago. Crypt with six months ago, bitcoin is down 45% and ether down 58% .
That's bled into the NFT market. Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs that were being snapped up for $400,000 in April now go for slightly under half that. That's a good encapsulation of the NFT market at large, which has seen almost every collection lose a chunk of value since the beginning of May.
While each month usually sees about a dozen high-profile collections launch, Goblintown has been one of the only new NFT sets to command attention in May. When I asked Goblintown's creators what the purpose of the project was, they said: "gₒbₗᵢₙₜₒwₙ ₑₑₛ dₐ ₚₗₐₑc wₑᵣ ₐₗₗ dₐ gₒbₗₒₙᵢ ₗᵢᵥₑ. dₑy ₗᵢₑₖ ₜₒ bₑ dₑₘₛₑₗᵥₑₛ ₐₙ ₛₑₗₗₑbᵣₐₜₑ dₑᵣ ₜₐₗₙₜₛ. dₑy ₐₗₛₒ ₗₑᵢₖ ₜᵤ ₑₐₜ dₐ bᵤᵣgᵤᵣ ₐₙ yₑₗₗ. ₑᵥₑᵣyᵤₙ ₕₐₛ ₐ ₗᵢₜₜₑₗ gₒbₗₒₙᵢ ₑₙₛᵢd dₑₘ, dₑy ⱼᵤₛ gₒₜₜₐ ₗₑₜ dₑₘ ₒᵤₜ."
Translation: "Goblintown is a place where all the goblins live. They like to be themselves and celebrate their talents. They also like to eat the burger and yell. Everyone has a little goblin inside them, they just gotta let them out."