Google Plays Nice With NFTs, Starbucks Puts Ex-MLB Star’s NFT Project on Deck

Google is allowing NFTs in games in its play store, while Starbucks recruits Micah Johnson’s Aku character for its next at-bat with NFTs.

AccessTimeIconJul 14, 2023 at 4:05 p.m. UTC
Updated Jul 18, 2023 at 2:56 p.m. UTC

This week, Google made a big shift in their policy towards NFTs, allowing apps in the Google Play store to include the ability to buy, sell or earn tokenized assets. Meanwhile, Starbucks Odyssey, the brand’s Web3 loyalty program, announced their next Stamp would be "designed by Aku," the NFT character launched by former LA Dodgers player-turned-artist Micah Johnson.

In other news, Snoop Doog and a16z-backed decentralized music venture Sound announced a $20 million funding round and we got another “phygital” sneaker drop.

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This Week's Alpha

Google will let you play with Web3: Google made a big announcement this week, doing a 180 on in-game tokenized assets such as NFTs and allowing Play Store apps to include the ability to buy, sell and earn digital assets. Developers who incorporate blockchain-based elements are required make it clear on their Play Store page and make sure they don’t run afoul of Google’s gambling and contests policies.

  • Good game: Immutable Labs’ co-founder Robbie Ferguson declared it an “enormous step for clarity for mobile devs, and mainstream adoption,” in a Twitter thread.
  • Mining apps still a no-go: In a less shiny note, crypto mining apps will remain banned for the foreseeable future.

Starbucks brews up next NFT journey: The coffee giant’s Web3 loyalty program Odyssey revealed its next digital collectible would be “designed by Aku,” a character created by former Major League Baseball player Micah Johnson. The Aku collection centers around empowering young kids to dream big. As part of the release, Starbucks will donate $100,000 to Blessings in a Backpack, a non-profit tackling food insecurity among children.

  • Turning up the volume: In June, tweets from Beats by Dre and AkuDreams teased a collab with Aku-themed headphones but no details have been revealed about when those Beats are dropping.
  • From home plate to outer space: Micah Johnson spoke to CoinDesk last year about his journey from the LA Dodgers to a successful career as an NFT artist and creator and how he is trying to “blend the physical and digital world” with Aku.

$20M sounds good: Can creators make a sustainable living by selling their creations to fans through decentralized platforms? Snoop Dogg and a16z are betting yes, backing a $20 million funding round for Sound, a platform that allows artists to mint their songs on-chain as NFTs and has already helped music creators generate $5.5 million.

Hip-hop drops make noise: Celebrations of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop are picking up, with a collab between Puma, Roc Nation and Legitimate to release a “Mixtape” of “Phygital” sneakers today that unlock exclusive digital music content.

Project in the news

Chromie Squiggle NFTs on OpenSea
Chromie Squiggle NFTs on OpenSea (OpenSea)

Who: Snowfro aka Erick Calderon

What: The iconic, colorful Chromie Squiggle NFTs were the genesis collection for generative art NFT platform Art Blocks in November 2020. The initial mint of the NFTs that resemble rainbow doodles were priced at just 0.035 ETH (about $23 at the time) and as of writing have a floor price of just over 10 ETH, or nearly $20,000. After the initial mint of 9,040 NFTs, the remaining NFTs in the 10,000 collection are minted by Calderon at his discretion.

Why: This week, Calderon revealed he would be minting 81 additional NFTs on Twitter, but then disappointed hopeful buyers by informing readers that none would be for sale. Instead, Calderon explained he had earmarked every one of the valuable NFTs for people and organizations that had supported him and Art Blocks over the years. We talked with Calderon to learn more about the reasons behind his latest mint and who was getting a Squiggle.

In Other News

Enter the Slurpeeverse: Convenience store 7-Eleven extended their annual celebration of the date that shares its name to Web3 with free Slurpee NFTs. Now fans of the super-sweet frozen drink can get brain freeze in the metaverse, I guess?

Seedphrase signs with WME: The self-described “No. 1 CryptoPunk” announced he was going to be repped by powerhouse talent agency WME to “expand the Seedphrase brand through partnerships in luxury fashion, music and digital art.”

Get a Banksy loan: NFT project Particle, which fractionalizes art in the form of NFTs, is loaning out its Banksy painting, “Love is in the Air,” to museums all over the world. The co-owners of the piece voted to approve the move.

Non-Fungible Toolkit

On July 6, Meta released their Twitter-alternative, Threads, and it’s already handily passed 100 million downloads. One of the interesting promises of the new app is that it will support ActivityPub, a decentralized social media protocol, which means users will be able to interact with other platforms in the so-called fediverse like Mastodon and vice versa.

So what is the ActivityPub Protocol and what is the fediverse? Here’s what you need to know.

Edited by Pete Pachal.


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Toby Bochan

Toby Leah Bochan was the Managing Editor of Web3 and Learn at CoinDesk. Toby holds BTC.