Bored Apes Yacht Club (BAYC) took the NFT market by storm. So much so that BAYC even popularized a competitive blockchain to Ethereum. Solana’s own ape NFT collection, Degenerate Ape Academy, sold out in 8 minutes while spiking SOL token over 36% last August. This just goes to show BAYC’s power to create imitations.
In fact, if you were to go to any NFT platform and type ape, you would get dozens and dozens of ape derivatives. As they say, imitation is the highest form of flattery. The question is, what did BAYC do to deserve such a high level of influence among NFT enthusiasts?
First, let’s take a look at what BAYC actually is, followed by its financial breakdown.
Released on April 23 via Discord channel, Bored Ape Yacht Club is an avatar-oriented NFT collection. These portrait avatars of apes are not only suited for social media profiles, mirroring the holder’s personality, but each one serves as a membership token. When BAYC came out, people were used to low-resolution, pixelated, nostalgia-laded NFT collections like CryptoPunks.
In contrast, BAYC pleasantly surprised the NFT market with high-fidelity cartoon apes. Moreover, the 10,000-strong collection was algorithmically generated based on 170 possible traits. These range from clothing and headgear, to expressions, background, and clothes. When there is a trait combo with multiple rare traits, it is considered rare, usually under 1%.
Hosted on Ethereum, the largest smart contract platform with over $109 billion total value locked (TVL), BAYC became popular on the back of its comprehensive roadmap. Each BAYC NFT gives the holder an access to an online social club in which apes can network. Any business person knows how important it is to nurture such connections.
Moreover, original Ape holders get access to future drops. Such was the case with a surprise Bored Ape Kennel Club launch on June 18, consisting of 9,602 NFTs, available only to BAYC members. The only cost associated was the minting gas fee. Needless to say, the fact that original holders received another round of high-quality NFTs for free, which could then be sold for hefty profits, boosted BAYC’s popularity further.
Likewise, the second drop was even more successful, with the launch of the Mutant Ape Yacht Club (MAYC) on August 28. Numbering 20,000 Mutant Apes, Yuga Labs introduced a creative NFT novelty. Also dropped as a reward to BAYC members, Mutant Apes are either minted by exposing the original Bored Ape to the Mutant Serum, or with the usual minting during the public sale.
The Mutant Serum itself, as a smart contract, has a 3-tiered effect. Bored apes infused with M1 or M2 serum receive tweaked mutations based on the original ape traits. However, the M3 tier changes the ape fundamentally with extra unusual traits. In no time, such rare mutants started to sell for millions of dollars. Here are just the top 3 Mutant Apes by price:
Effectively, mutants lowered the entry into the BAYC membership, while allowing original BAYC VIPs to spice things up, ending the BAYC 1.0 roadmap. For the next phase 2.0, Yuga Labs focused on giving more benefits to BAYC members, having started with the NYC Bored Ape Festival on October 31.
For the second phase, Yuga Labs upped the game, literally. The shift will be from static, social-clubbing apes to a BAYC-themed blockchain game. When it is ready for a release sometime in Q2 2022, the play-to-earn (P2E) game will be celebrated by another festival, this time in Miami, Florida.
Lastly, the Bored Apes Yacht Club is itself a meta-self-fulfilling prophecy, perfectly fitting into a modern irony culture. Yuga Labs created a lore in which future millionaires and billionaires lounge in a swamp club, owing their wealth to NFT trading by hiring a freelance artist.
Now that it is becoming clearer how Bored Apes became popular, let’s take a look at the raw numbers.
BAYC’s Impressive Stats
BAYC didn’t receive much traction at first until the next month after its release, in May 2021. Then, the number of unique buyers went up astronomically, never matched until now. Specifically, from 24 in April to 3,269 unique buyers in May. However, it was in August 2021 when BAYC sales hit the year’s peak at $297 million, but at only 1,830 unique buyers due to significant appreciation in the meantime.
In 2022, January saw BAYC NFTs sell for $311.1 million. In total, BAYC has remained one of the top NFT collections throughout the last two years, currently ranked at third place at $1.37 billion or Ξ422,557.2. CryptoPunks is above it at $2 billion, and Axie Infinity firmly holds the first place at double that — $4 billion.
BAYC’s current floor price is Ξ88 ($255.6k). At a longer, all-time scale, the average price of each NFT is Ξ16.52 ($47.9k) with Ξ409,258 total volume. Presently, out of 10k available Bored Apes, there are 6.3k owners.
Of more interest is how exactly was Bored Apes Yacht Club was boosted so rapidly. Although its roadmap and free Kennel/Mutant drops certainly helped, it could be said that star power helped down the line. First minted for now laughable Ξ0.08 on April 30, billionaire Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks and co-host of Shark Tank, received his Ape in May.
At the year’s peak in August, Stephen Curry, a three-time NBA champion, bought one for $180k. The Subway spokesman even participated in the official Discord channel. In the same month, rapper and YouTube celebrity KSI got his ape for $100k.
A month later, in September, another NBA championship, Shaquille O’Neal got a Mutant Ape for the low price of $14k. In the same month, producer and DJ The Chainsmokers bought a Bored Ape for $210k. However, it was on November 8 that Jimmy Fallon of The Tonight Show showcased his $224k Ape to his 50-million-strong audience on Twitter.
There are many other celebrities who rolled out the snowballing effect almost every month since launch. We may never truly know, but it could be that BAYC’s exclusive online social club angle was the key element to the self-fulfilling prophecy. After all, high-net value celebrities tend to hang out with each other, so it wouldn’t take much for there to be word-of-mouth transmission.
Then, as celebrities boost each other and give Bored Apes higher appreciation, the retailers respond in kind. Speaking of which, who created BAYC?
Behind Yuga Labs
As already mentioned a couple of times, Yuga Labs LLC is the studio behind Bored Apes Yacht Club. On the official site, the team presented themselves in the ape-style:
- GARGAMEL. STARCRAFT OBSESSED. EATS SMURFS.
- GORDON GONER. REFORMED LEVERAGE ADDICT.
- EMPEROR TOMATO KETCHUP. SPENT ALL THEIR MONEY ON FIRST PRESSES AND PET-NAT.
- NO SASS. HERE FOR THE APES. NOT FOR THE SASS.
One could draw little from that info except that Yuga Labs consists of four creative and innovative members. Like many DeFi and NFT creators, they don’t want to distract the public with their real identity. Rather, they prefer pseudo-anonymity.
However, BuzzFeed News did report on February 4, 2022 the real identities behind at least two members:
- Greg Solano, 32, as Gordon Goner, the writer and editor. With an education from the University of Virginia, he worked on a couple of literary websites in addition to co-writing a World of Warcraft book together with the game’s designer.
- Wylie Aronow, 35, as Gargamel, also with a literary background, having had an interview with the Chicago Tribune in their Readers of the Week section. Interestingly, Aronow had a legal scuffle with Bitmex trading platform over name domain bitmex.guru in 2018. Without appearing for arbitration, the domain name was defaulted to Bitmex.
For better or worse, by tracking down the public record of Yuga Labs, BuzzFeed forced them out of pseudonymity. After Yuga Labs CEO, Nicole Muniz, confirmed the report, they had no other choice but to come out of the ape closet. Here is how Gordon Goner responded on Twitter.
Likewise for Gargamel.
It appears they both grew up in Florida, which explains why Miami is the set location for the next big festival when the BAYC blockchain game launches this year.