Robert has reported for a variety of international publications including the Associated Press, The Guardian, Vice, and Decrypt. Current areas of interest include the political economy of technology, cryptocurrencies, and privacy. Robert has a Bachelor of Science from UCL, and a Master's degree from the University of Oxford's Internet Institute.
At first glance, it might be easy to dismiss Blitmaps. The collection of pixelated crypto art, each of which sells for a minimum of about $28,000 as of late September 2021, is little more than a collection of vaguely recognizable pictures of everyday objects, including hands, roast chickens, and boomboxes.
But peek deeper behind the covers and Blitmap reveals itself to be a rich and vibrant community put together by some of the sharpest minds in crypto. It’s an expanding one, too. It’s home to a growing collection of user-generated material around a “community crafted sci-fantasy universe.”
Each Blitmap is stored, together with its metadata, on the Ethereum blockchain. The format of each Blitmap must be 32x32 images with up to four colors, and the whole thing must be smaller than 268 bytes.Buy and Sell Bitcoin, Ethereum, and over a dozen other cryptocurrencies with Wealthsimple. Sign up and Trade here.
This restriction is a feature, not a bug. Small transaction sizes prevent the Ethereum blockchain from becoming bloated. And, in the project’s own words: “Having data and logic exist in the same place means interesting things can be done inside the smart contract itself. Combining Blitmaps, extracting properties (like “Fire III” or the slab pattern), and even converting to SVG all happen on the contract.”
Keeping things on-chain also makes things permanent. While other NFT projects—non-fungible crypto tokens—sometimes merely contain URLs that redirect to pictures hosted on websites, which could be taken down at a moment’s notice, Blitmaps will persist forever. Or, “as long as Ethereum does—hopefully for a very long time,” writes Blitmap.
What are NFTs?
NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are cryptocurrency tokens that represent ownership over a scarce digital item. This digital asset, in turn, can represent anything at all. It could show that someone owns a deed to a house or a car, or it could represent a piece of digital art, like a .JPEG or a .GIF file.
While critics argue that this scarcity is artificial and speculative, and that an image can simply be downloaded to one’s computer for free, advocates of NFTs would argue that this misses the point: The buyer gets the rights to a unique token. This right can be valuable, because you can prove that, say, when a digital artist sold a token, you’re buying that very specific token that was sold at that moment in time by that person.
What is Blitmap about?
The project was started and written by Dom Hofmann, the creator of the Vine app and other NFT projects, including Loot and Blitnaut. Seventeen artists contributed to the 100 Original Blitmaps.
The community has subsequently mixed these Blitmaps together to spawn 1,600 siblings—“unique pieces that combine the composition of one original with the palette of another.” A single NFT that compiles all of the sibling NFTs sold for $99,712 on August 5.
Next came an expansion to the collection called “Blitanuts.” Free to all owners of a Blitmap NFT, the Blitnauts are “a faction of sentient robots sworn to locate and protect the Blitmaps, and the heroes of our world.” There are ten types of Blitnauts.
These Blitnauts work well as profile pictures on sites like Discord and Twitter, fitting into the wider trend of NFT fans showcasing their assets as a form of digital status, or membership of a virtual community. Some people call this kind of thing the “metaverse” and consider blockchain technology to be key to any decentralized, user-owned virtual world.
A critical part of the metaverse is derivative projects: fan-made projects that riff off the original NFT collection, or include the NFTs are part of another game. Among Blitmap’s many derivative projects is BLITBIT, a fungible ERC-20 token created by a community member called 0xBB and gifted to Blitmap holders on July 31, 2021. It represents a fractionalized version of the first Blitmap.
When Blitmaps became too expensive to buy, a community member called “itzler” created BLITSQUAD, a way of pooling together funds to buy Blitmaps. The fund pooled together community funds to buy the commemorative piece of sibling NFTs on NFT marketplace Foundation, and deposited proceeds into the Blitmap Lore Chest.
Anyone who participated in the bid received a proportional amount of an ERC-20 token called BLITSQUAD, which is listed on a decentralized exchange called Uniswap. As of this writing, a single BLITSQUAD ERC-20 token is worth $15.25.
The universe continues to grow, and future expansions plan to reveal more information about the Blitnauts and the universe they inhabit: “Who are the rivals of the Blitnauts? Why are the Blitmaps important? And most importantly: Where and how will we see these stories unfold?”
All of this will be decided by the community. The community will also vote on the rivals of the Blitmaps, which will eventually result in another expansion, also to be given to holders for free. Then the community will vote on merchandise that holders can buy.
The Blitmap smart contract—the bit of code on the Ethereum blockchain that houses all of these applications—was deployed on May 15, 2021. Sales were pretty dry until August. Just a few thousand dollars worth of original Blitmaps sold each day until July 27, when sales amounted to about $10,000 per day. Then, on August 7, sales blew up to $1 million. On September 1, sales rose to their all-time high of $4.5 million. After that, sales declined to about $40,000 per day.
The size of the community remains small as of this writing. Just 572 accounts own the 100 original Blitmaps and their 1,600 siblings. It’s not unusual to see only one or two Blitmaps change hands each day. That’s perhaps unsurprising: Blitmaps are expensive, and the most expensive one, “Night Moon”—a pixelated moon draped in a body of water—sold for 250 ETH, or about $760,000 at the time of writing.
But the culture is rich. Here are some of the “Blitkus”—Blitmap haikus—crafted by the community. Attached to each are emojis of the Blitmaps.
We Like The Blitmaps Say It Again Louder Gang! We Love the Blitmaps!!
Melty summertime A liquid, melty melt melts He’s the perfect man
Back in my city Mountains, hillsides were explored Snapshot is taken
Blitmap isn’t Dom Hofmann’s only NFT project—nor is it his most successful. While Blitmap has amassed $28 million in sales, Loot (for Adventurers), a fantasy RPG “game,” is the seventh most popular NFT project of all time, as of this writing, with a quarter of a billion dollars in sales. Loot is a series of 8,000 character sheets for a videogame that hasn’t been created yet.
Hofmann hoped that these character sheets, which are nothing more than a few lines of text on black background but now sell for a minimum of 6 ETH ($18,122 as of late September 2021), would inspire developers to cobble together any kind of video game they liked. Loot holders would dictate the future of the game’s development. So far, it’s worked: developers have released plenty of derivatives to turn that character sheet into a game, including quests, maps, and even religions.
How to buy a Blitmap or a Blitnaut
Blitmaps could be minted for free when the Blitmap contract was deployed back in May 2021, but they were all snapped up within a few days. Blitnauts could only be minted for free by holders of Original Blitmaps, meaning that everyone else has to buy them on secondary markets. Each Blitmap has a different “Affinity.” Some prefer fire, while others prefer earth or water. Some Blitmaps have already redeemed the Blitnauts attached to them, while others have not.
The most popular market for Blitmaps is OpenSea, a non-fungible marketplace. They are stored in a collection here and sell for one of four different currencies: Ethereum, the native currency of the blockchain by the same name, Wrapped Ethereum, an ERC-20 version of ETH, and then DAI and USDC, stablecoins pegged to the value of the US dollar.
The terms of the sale are completely up to the sellers. Sellers can list their NFTs in a currency of their choosing, and can either choose to list tokens for an auction or as a direct sale. To bid or buy a Blitmap or Blitnaut, you’ll have to first connect a cryptocurrency wallet to OpenSea. The most popular one is called MetaMask.
You can buy cryptocurrencies on exchanges like Binance or Coinbase for fiat (regular) money like US or Canadian dollars. Then, you’ll have to buy the relevant cryptocurrency and withdraw it to MetaMask. Note that all of these cryptocurrencies are based on Ethereum, and if you want to buy your Blitmap with USDC, you’ll have to withdraw the Ethereum-based version of the coin (USDC runs on several blockchains, including Solana and Tezos).
Once you’ve sent your funds to MetaMask and connected your wallet to the website, you can bid on a token or buy it outright. If you’re bidding, the auction may run on a timer, which may extend every time someone places a high bid. Alternatively, the seller could list the token without a timer and simply accept a bid whenever they like at a time convenient to them.
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