Logan Paul is one of the world's most popular and high-profile influencers, and has now apologised to one intrepid reporter as well as the fans who 'invested' in one of his projects: a crypto-based videogame called CryptoZoo. Paul claimed to have spent "about one million" dollars of his own money on the development of CryptoZoo and described it as "a really fun game that makes you money" but, after the website's launch in 2021, the promised game never arrived, and the items sold for it are worthless.
This is web3 of course, so the fact that CryptoZoo the game would never materialize didn't stop Paul and the developers selling NFTs of cartoon eggs and in-game cryptocurrency (called $ZOO) to his fanbase. Eggs could be bought with $ZOO or Ethereum and the promise was that, when the game came along, each of these eggs would hatch into a random animal with (Paul's term) "handcrafted" art.
These animals would, goes the pitch, passively earn $ZOO for the player, and could be combined to create new hybrid animals. Animals could also be 'burned' (charming) which would feed back $ZOO to the player.
In the first 24 hours of these eggs being on-sale, people spent $2.85 million on them. The 'hatch day' was announced as 3 November 2021. And on that day the eggs did begin to hatch, only instead of the in-game animal NFT models people were expecting, the animals were more… stock photographs. The hybrid animals were stock photographs merged.
Even more importantly, CryptoZoo as any kind of gaming ecosystem did not exist: there were no games to play, and no way in which these animal images could be used. At least there's the passive income, right?
"There was no way to claim your yield", said Rob, a victim of the scam who lost over $7,000. "There never was."
The project attracted the attention of Coffeezilla, a youtuber who undertook a lengthy investigation into Paul and CryptoZoo, uncovering a whole host of shady characters along the way and attracting some vague legal threats from Paul's manager for his trouble. The first part of his investigation is embedded below, and here's part two (opens in new tab) and part three (opens in new tab): it is exemplary work on pulling something like this apart.
Paul first spoke about the project on August 18 2021, during an episode of his podcast ImPaulsive, and many of the victims interviewed in Coffeezilla's videos say this show is where they first heard of CryptoZoo
"We have a massive team behind it and are probably out of pocket like a million," said Paul in 2021, "just because we believe in it's going to work."
Paul would repeat this claim several times but, when the project began to turn sour, he would later say that the lead developer of the project had absconded with the game's code and was demanding $1 million for its return. In Coffeezilla's video he tracks down this individual, referred to as Z, who says he did withhold code but for a very different reason.
"He literally never paid me anything at all, ever," said Z. "I never [got] paid. And you know got to a point when I was working on it and I just realised they're just going to try and steal all of my work and not pay me.
"So I took all the source code private, and I just spent like a month trying to negotiate and get something figured out where I would finally get paid. Because like on my end I have a team of 30 engineers, I'm burning $50,000 a week on building this thing, and the only thing they brought to the table were a bunch of photoshopped jpegs."
Z says they eventually worked out a settlement, while other developers who worked on the project also claim they weren't paid what was promised. This is at least partly their fault, however, as it turns out much work was done on the basis of verbal agreements that were never formalised.
The main thing, though, is that those who've invested in CryptoZoo have bought a pup. The product that was promised doesn't exist, and given that the NFT animals are currently altered photographs it's hard to see how they will ever exist in a game setting. No-one is going to make any money on this thing, except the people who sold the $ZOO and NFT eggs.
Coffeezilla's investigation leaves little doubt that something extremely dodgy went on here, and the inclusion of the words "scam" and "fraud" across the three video titles (which collectively have been viewed over 13 million times) seemed to finally spark Paul out of his quietude.
In a rebuttal video posted last Thursday, an angry Paul attempts to rebut the version of events given in Coffeezilla's video, and claims that the project fell apart because he hired "conmen" and "felons". But, Paul says, it wasn't his fault. He then says Coffeezilla is "a lopsided journalist with an agenda", has the facts wrong, and threatens to sue the reporter: always a good look. This video also includes a claim that the CryptoZoo project was somehow still alive.
At the weekend, this video was deleted (though Paul's tweet remains live (opens in new tab)), and Paul executed a complete U-turn.
Logan called me. He said he’s deleting the two responses, and is dropping the lawsuit threats.I believe he’s making a 3rd response, which I’ll be delaying my video to include. Hopefully this time he takes accountability and refunds the victims of CryptoZoo. That’s what matters. https://t.co/ElKX2d9mY0January 7, 2023
Paul called the reporter to apologise and withdraw his legal threats. On the CryptoZoo Discord he made this post:
"I deleted my initial response to Coffee’s series," said Paul. “It was rash and misaligned with the true issue at hand, so I called him today and apologized…I’m grateful he brought this to light. I will be taking accountability, apologizing, and coming forward with a plan in the near future".
This is far from the first brush with controversy for Paul. The influencer faced enormous pushback after posting a video in 2017 which showed the body of someone who had apparently committed suicide in Japan's Aokigahara forest, for which Paul later apologised. He was also involved pre-CryptoZoo in promoting a cryptocurrency called Dink Doink, which can now fairly be described as a shitcoin.
Nevertheless, Paul's career goes from strength-to-strength. He is the face and moneymaker for a whole host of projects, from the Prime drinks to high-profile boxing matches against the likes of Floyd Mayweather, and recently signed a contract with World Wrestling Entertainment.
Paul also continues to exhibit some truly deplorable behaviour, the latest example being a mini pig he'd bought in the mistaken belief it would stay the same size. It is not known what the chain of ownership was, but what was once his pig ended up abandoned and being rescued from appalling conditions by an animal sanctuary called The Gentle Barn.
Here’s video of Logan Paul’s pig Pearl being rescued pic.twitter.com/FxSB6B8uFWJanuary 9, 2023
The animal is now apparently thriving, but clearly it's onetime owner couldn't run a crypto zoo or a real one.
During Coffeezilla's investigation he speaks to many victims of CryptoZoo, who lost amounts ranging from the low thousands of dollars to, in one unfortunate individual's case, over half-a-million. As ever with crypto, the victims are normal people who believed the wrong person. And it might be easy to laugh at someone who'd buy into the Logan Paul brand, but don't kid yourself: when people see this guy as bankable, they're not wrong. He is box office and, for as long as we've had celebrities, we've had celebrity endorsements.
In this case, at least, it looks like the wider ecosystem and one dogged reporter's work will ensure Paul's feet are held to the fire. The influencer's Twitter feed is now back to shilling his hugely popular Prime beverages, so normal service has resumed there, but whether Paul (estimated net worth: $35-50 million) will indeed "make this right" for CryptoZoo's victims remains to be seen.