What is Memeland? Is it a set of clever pixel-art NFT collections? Is it the $MEME token that took over our timelines in the lead-up to its November launch? What about its GM Show or its upcoming Treasure Islandz pixel metaverse?
As hope—and liquidity—return to the NFT markets, nft now spoke to Chan and dove deep into Memeland’s sprawling ecosystem to get a sense of where the project comes from and where it’s going.
Memeland’s origin story started 15 years ago with 9GAG. “We founded 9GAG in 2008, joined 500 Startups in 2011, raised seed funding, and joined Y Combinator in 2012,” Chan told nft now. “We kept hustling for 15 years—9GAG’s Instagram handle is the top entertainment account, and 9GAG has a monthly audience of 200 million people,” he said.
In 2021, Chan and his team launched Memeland. To Chan, Memeland is best described as “a community for communities” and “a web3 SocialFi ecosystem”—and he’s always had a clear, expansive vision for its progress.
“We are building and investing in social products for community, with community—connecting creators and communities together through NFTs, tokens, and products. Our thesis is simple: NFTs for building community; $MEME for decentralizing value; products for reaching the world,” he said.
Since its founding in 2021, Chan’s clarity and commitment to quality have paid off for Memeland, whose NFT collections now rank in the top 10 worldwide and are Asia’s number one NFT brand. Web3 enthusiasts have flocked to the project, which boasts over 20,000 holders for its NFTs, 245,000 Discord members, and 7 million combined followers across the X accounts for Memeland, Memecoin, and Chan.
We’ve covered Memeland before, including a writeup of $MEME’s launch (over 40,000 signed up to the token’s presale waitlist), an in-depth look at the studio itself, the July reveal of their Captainz collection, (now sitting at a 4 ETH floor, minted at 1.069 ETH), and a wide-ranging Gateway Korea interview with Chan on Asia’s pivotal role in driving the next NFT bull. Memeland promises many new offerings in 2024, from owning your own Treasure Islandz to building community with their upcoming SoFi project.
You The Real MVP
In keeping with a company that wants to build social media for web3 where the creators can own what they create, Memeland’s first offering was You The Real MVP—a membership club that you can access by owning one of 420 (ha!) sparkling, golden pixel-art trophies.
Created in June 2022, these rare sparkling trophies—which carry pirate-treasure themes like parrots, krakens, and chests of gold—regularly sell for upwards of 60ETH. Alongside bragging rights, they offer exclusive access to “an exceptional network of collectors, builders, creators, makers, entrepreneurs, professionals, and degens who share advice, information, knowledge, and skills openly to help each other win,” according to Memeland’s website.
They also offer real benefits to holders, like allowlist spots, free NFTs, and a boost to the utility of other Memeland products you own—like increased yields for $MEME staking. So, even though one of these little pixel trophies can cost as much as a Punk, it could pay off if you’re smart and have some capital to spend. The collection, released in a blind auction that resulted in an initial price of 5.5 ETH, has had over 7,000 ETH in trading volume.
MVPs are one of the very small handful of digital collectibles that function as a Veblen good—meaning, when the price increases for these little trophies, demand for them also increases. Punks and fine art like Fidenzas work this way, and it’s a powerful thing for what amounts to an access and utility token to be so valuable; this is the market’s clearest way to signal confidence in Chan and Memeland as a whole.
In July 2022, Memeland quickly followed up the success of the MVP collection with a second NFT drop—the Potatoz. The 9,999 free-mint pixel-art tubers drew their inspiration from the heart of 9GAG’s meme culture: at the end of a long thread, posters on the site often reward the reader with an image of a potato. (Reflecting on the power of 9GAG, the potato meme has spread widely across the Internet, and is found regularly on sites like Quora.)
Memeland’s Potatoz shares the same pixel-art aesthetic as the MVP trophies, and their traits reference Internet and web3 culture, from Super Mario Brothers to Nouns. With a current floor price of over 1.5 ETH, a steady recent rise along with the markets, and nearly 50,000 ETH in volume, the subtly animated pixel tubers have a huge following, especially in Asian NFT communities.
A large free mint in the middle of a dispiriting crypto winter was a major test for Memeland, but being so deeply embedded in the communities of the Internet has helped the company sprint to cultural—and financial dominance. Their ongoing connection to Internet culture is by design, according to Chan.
“Memes are the heartbeat of Memeland. They’re how we communicate, connect, and oftentimes, how we make sense of the world. As we grow, our memes will evolve – they’ll be more than just funny images; they’ll be statements, conversations, even movements. We’re committed to keeping our meme game strong and relevant, ensuring they resonate with our global community. Memes are our universal language, and we plan to keep speaking it fluently,” he told us.
The Potatoz were airdropped to everyone on the whitelist (MVP owners got three each for free), and their reveal happened in five stages, starting with a plant sprouting out of the ground and ending up as a fully realized pixel potato complete with clothes and accessories. But the main draw for Potatoz was access to the memelist—meaning a guaranteed mint for the Captainz collection.
The Captainz are Memeland’s latest NFT collection, and they advance the story and utility of the company’s ecosystem. These 9,999 PFPs, created as anime-style cartoons that can evolve over time, represent a premier level of membership in Memeland’s community. In terms of lore, they’re pirate captains “exploring the Broken Seas in search of the legendary treasure known as ‘Memeland,’” according to the project website. This hints, of course, at the opportunities available with the upcoming “Treasure Islandz” collection. With a floor of 4ETH, they’ve enjoyed over 75,000 ETH in trading volume since their January 2023 launch.
The Captainz, like the Potatoz before them, had a dramatic reveal process. They started out as a covered box, then the image metadata changed to a box showing the species of the being inside, with Potatoz running around trying to get the box open. Then, they revealed in their “baby” stage—and, finally, the full adult Captainz revealed at the end of June 2023.
When you look through the traits of the Captainz collection, there’s an apparent mismatch between the profusion of beautifully drawn outfits and appearances and the actual metadata. That’s because the collection is designed to be customizable and upgradeable! Memeland calls this feature “traitablez”—you can connect your wallet to the Memeland site and customize the clothes, hairstyle, and accessories of your Captainz NFT, and it will update the image everywhere, including marketplaces like OpenSea. Memeland has a “trait store” in the works, enabling brands and creators to design custom traits for Captainz. The trait store is still in its infancy, but Captainz holders can now customize their NFTs in an easy-to-use page on the Memeland website.
When Captainz revealed at the end of June in 2023, there was a mixed reaction from the NFT community— a number of people were concerned that the NFTs were quite similar in their out-of-the-box, pre-customization forms, and didn’t see the value in an NFT that the holder can customize themselves. Several X posts criticized the artwork and claimed they’d revealed a lot of duplicates.
But Ray Chan defended the innovative model in a series of posts on Memeland’s Discord server, writing: “The reality is, art is subjective. It’s hard to convince people your PFP artwork is great so they are worth the value. The true art collectors will just buy art, not your 10K PFP. Not to mention the taste changes, the trend changes, the holder demographic changes. How does a collection continue to attract and adapt to an ever-changing market when the artwork is static? The solution is simple: the artwork needs to be “fluid.” So if you like One Piece, you get OP trait; if you like Squid Game, you get Squid Game trait; if you like Minecraft, you get the Minecraft trait. Whatever the latest trend, there is a trait for that. That’s how you can make a PFP last long. Be water, my friend.”
Even though there are only a few customizable traits at the moment, one in particular has become a focus for Memeland culture—the “McDonald’s shirt.” “One of the Captainz traits is a ‘Your Future’ t-shirt with the logo upside down. We made that into caps to distribute in our IRL events. There are also many Captainz memes created around it,” Karen Cheng, 9GAG’s Director of Social and co-host of the GM Show, told nft now. While the full marketplace for traits is still under development, there are already creators making unique traits and individually selling them for $MEME—like this Detective Pack.
The creation of Captainz marked a period of important transitions for the Memeland ecosystem. In February 2023, the company slashed royalties for Captainz and Potatoz from 6.9% to 3.3%, and in March, staking of Captainz, Potatoz, and MVPs started (see the $MEME section for more). With an all-time high of 9.7 ETH in June—during the height of questing—and a low of 2.9 ETH in September, just as the questing phase for $MEME wrapped up, demand for this flagship collection was closely linked to utility.
Hosted by Karen Cheng and Casey Lau, the GM Show began in May. With its focus on Asia, builders, and good vibes, it, along with regular town halls by founder Ray Chan, became a place where Captainz holders could discuss concerns and strengthen their community.
While the questing period for $MEME is over, and the community still awaits the full trait store, Captainz promises other utilities in the future. Each Captainz token will have its own wallet that stores its customizable, tradeable traits, and each Captainz will be able to issue PFP-only versions of itself for sale in $MEME, with all profits going to the OG token holder. This will be an inexpensive entry into the Memeland ecosystem, particularly aimed at people new to NFTs. While these features are still under development, there’s a lot of potential in Chan’s vision of an NFT that changes to reflect its holder’s vision, vibe, and style. With Memeland’s long-term goal of creating a metaverse where people want to spend time, holding a Captainz NFT could be strategic, especially for brands and creators that want a strong metaverse presence.
Captainz holders are also members of the upcoming Memeland DAO, which will have the power to vote on deploying funds for community initiatives to further Memeland’s mission.
One reason these collections are so incredibly popular is $MEME, the unignorable community token that Memeland launched at the beginning of December 2023. Calling itself “literally a meme coin, no utility,” according to its website—$MEME did offer utility for NFT holders, with the MVP, Potatoz, and Captainz communities getting priority access to the token’s presale and farming opportunities. Like everything they do, Memeland made a game of it: Potatoz, Captainz, and MVPs could be sent on “quests” (staked) and would come back with valuable items and (in the case of Captainz) rare Mapz. All of these things can be exchanged for $MEME, and people who assembled and staked “crews”—special combinations of NFTs from the collections—received multipliers and extra resources.
After a weeks-long farming campaign that took over X, and an October listing on Binance Launchpool that allowed users to farm $MEME by staking other tokens on Binance Smart Chain, the much-anticipated token formally launched on Nov. 3. Since then, it has enjoyed a roaring success, with a market cap, at today’s writing, of around $200 million. Although the coin has cooled off from its Dec. 6 high of over $.046, the token is very actively traded, with a price of $.022 and a 24-hour trading volume of over $36 million at this writing.
$MEME catapulted Memeland into even greater public awareness than it enjoyed already—and holders who staked their tokens received a big payoff, with many netting $10-20k or more in $MEME. Holders of big Memeland NFT bags, like dingaling and Bitrox, netted hundreds of thousands of dollars from questing. But at the time of this writing, participants in the public farming program are still waiting for their harvest.
Despite the team’s assertions that $MEME has no utility, Chan has big plans for the token. “We are very grateful that the community was as excited as we were when we launched $MEME. We’re exploring partnerships that will take $MEME beyond just a transactional token and will increase its presence and usability in various digital ecosystems. $MEME is the de facto currency for all 9GAG and Memeland projects, merch, and events, and a means to support the creator economy,” says Chan.
As the importance of the attention economy grows, community-focused projects like Memeland and $MEME gain broader interest. At the beginning of 2024—indeed, on founder Ray Chan’s birthday—Binance Labs announced that it was investing in $MEME, which quickly led to a sweep of 25 Captainz. This play isn’t in isolation: Avax Labs has also announced its intention to invest in meme tokens, and this area of the space is very likely to grow as the bull market takes off.
Asia’s No. 1 NFT Brand
Despite its incredible volume and fanatical community, Memeland’s collections haven’t always gotten as much attention in the English-speaking NFT world as in Asian communities. To connect with Asian communities, Memeland keeps everything they do, from its products to its communication, engaging Asian audiences, while maintaining global cultural relevance. To do this, they’re collaborating with artists, creators, and influencers across Asia, tailoring content to local languages and ensuring everything they do, even down to community management norms, reflects local cultures and preferences.
“Our approach is to infuse Memeland with cultural nuances that resonate with our Asian audience while also keeping it universally appealing. At Memeland, we’re not just observing the rise of NFTs in Asia but we’re actively shaping it. Our vision is to create a cultural bridge that connects the East and West through the power of NFTs and crypto,” Chan said.
Region-based stats are challenging to come by in NFTs, but in 2022, the project called itself the number one NFT project from Asia. An NFT analyst had reached out to them and said that only two projects met the following criteria:
- Top 200 on OpenSea
- 10,000 collection
- Floor price of 1 ETH or above
- Less than 2% listed
- … and it’s free to mint
These projects were CryptoPunks and Memeland’s Potatoz.
In October 2023, at nft now’s Gateway Korea event, Chan made it clear that the catalysts for the next NFT bull run—and the audiences most open to the adoption of web3 technologies—are in Asia. As Chan said in his fireside chat, “one of the things that is beautiful about web3 is that people don’t care where you come from.”
In the past, this sort of statement has come with the default assumption that everyone in the community that’s being discussed is from the Western world—but in an era when a Korean band or Japanese anime can top the popularity rankings, this is no longer the case. Calling web3 a “fair ground,” Chan noted that the world of crypto is a space where Asian projects are often leading and that Asia is at the center of culture—but is also the hub of hard work, where many people, including from the West, are showing up to build the next version of the “American Dream” of prosperity.
Treasure Islandz–And More
What next for Memeland? After $MEME’s big splash, all eyes are on Treasure Islandz, which will form a stepping stone to the venture studio’s metaverse plans. Chan hinted at a chance for fans to become creators. “
Treasure Islandz is just the beginning. We’re crafting worlds where pixel art isn’t just seen; it’s experienced. Imagine interactive stories where you’re not just a spectator but a part of the narrative. We’re pushing the boundaries of what pixel art can be, and I can’t wait to share more. Keep an eye out—the next chapter in our metaverse is going to be a game-changer,” he said.
The team will also keep showing up at NFT conferences and producing content about the space, including its well-attended GM Show, which just had its 31st weekly episode. With a focus on Asian builders and creators, the show most recently featured Animoca CEO Robby Yung.
As NFT holders and $MEME farmers unite under one banner, SocialFi plans are also on the horizon, says Chan.
“It’s fascinating to see our community’s evolution. The newcomers, drawn by the allure of $MEME, are blending seamlessly with our seasoned members. What I think is really bridging our community is a shared vision for financial opportunities within the SocialFi realm. It’s not just about earning; there’s a genuine excitement about the potential of SocialFi products (stay tuned for Memeland’s newest product in Q1 of 2024). This mix of fresh energy and seasoned wisdom is creating a dynamic community, all eager to build alongside Memeland. Brick by brick (or should I say block by block), we’re fostering a community where ideas and creativity transcend borders,” he said.