Unofficial Minecraft NFT game 'Blockverse' disappears with more than $1M

(Image credit: Blockverse)

Another day, another NFT rug pull, this one purportedly perpetrated earlier this week by Blockverse, "an on-chain Ethereum NFT that enables a unique P2E on Minecraft like no other"—essentially a play-to-earn PvP Minecraft server, with access restricted to those who owned a relevant token. Enthusiasm for Blockverse was high—the initial supply of 10,000 NFTs, priced at 0.05ETH (currently $124) each, reportedly sold out in less than eight minutes—but just a couple days later, the project's creators deleted their website, Discord server, and game server, and disappeared with the money.

It's a substantial sum of cash: The initial supply sale notched up 500ETH, which works out to more than $1.2 million. According to NFT Ethics, which tracks blockchain-related malfeasance on Twitter, there have also been 792ETH in "secondary sales"—that is, sales made by the purchasers of the original 10,000 Blockverse NFTs to other people. The Blockverse owners earn a percentage on each of those sales as well. (OpenSea now shows secondary sales at 794ETH.)

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After three days of silence, the Blockverse founders resurfaced on Twitter, to apologize and explain their actions. They claimed that everything was legitimate and going well, and that after the launch of their NFTs they returned to work developing and expanding Blockverse. But shortly after the first round of NFTs sold out, they began receiving complaints about "gas fees"—a service charge for generating, buying, or selling NFTs—being too high, inadequate player capacity on the Minecraft server, and a lack of utility for the $DIAMOND tokens generated by the game.

"The FUD [fear, uncertainty, and doubt] quickly descended into harassment, threats, and doxxing," the creators wrote. "The team noticed all this and panicked, deleting the discord server on impulse. Everything else was closed to prevent the continuation of harassment that had occurred so far. Even then, the plan was to reopen once everyone had time to calm down."

"There is absolutely no reason for us to leave permanently, as all the technical work and infrastructure for the project thus far has already been put in place. It was actually more work to take things down than to leave it up, but again, everything was done in the interest of protecting personal safety."

The planned return to action hasn't happened yet, however, "because it seems the situation has only worsened" since they disappeared. I feel like that would've been a predictable outcome in the wake of more than a million dollars—possibly quite a lot more—suddenly vanishing along with the people it was entrusted to, but regardless of that they say that the Discord and Minecraft servers will be restored in the next few days, and development will continue.

"We are disappointed that the community jumped to false accusations so quickly, but we still believe in our project, and in order for everyone else to regain that faith, we are in talks with professionals in the space about how we may proceed," the Blockverse team wrote. "Our intention is to work with other trusted developers and community members, granting them access to our website, servers, and all of the backend infrastructure so that there is no risk in people’s minds of the project going offline. We're aware of how much damage we've caused already, but we hope that this gesture towards the community can help us get back on track."

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The message doesn't appear to have convinced many followers. Some expressed relief that they haven't been completely hung out to dry, but there's plenty of doubt that the project will actually carry forward. Several replies also express the belief that the Blockverse developers only resurfaced because they'd been tracked down, and are now trying to extricate themselves from potential legal trouble. Members of the Blockverse community that I spoke to on a Discord support server said the same thing.

"We have a bit of a paper trail. We have a Coinbase address that funded a lot of stuff, and a Cloudflare IP," they said. "They thought they got away and now they know we have that trail they left."

That community is now negotiating with the original Blockverse developers for control of the project. A big sticking point, however, is that while the project creators agreed to hand over all relevant contracts and code, they want to keep the 500ETH raised by the initial token sale. They've also apparently made a similar offer to ArkDev, the founder of NFT Worlds, with the same conditions attached. The status of that offer isn't clear.

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The Blockverse community leaders attempting to assume control of the project are actually willing to let the creators keep a substantial share of that money in exchange for handing over the keys and going away. 

"What we really want are the assets and 200-400ETH to hire people to run the project," they said. That's still a significant loss—100ETH is roughly $250,000—but it's purely a matter of practicality.

"Most rug pulls recover little of anything, so the community is realistic in terms of a settlement," they said. "We are in agreement to letting them keep some. We just want enough to run the project."

As rug pulls go, it is definitely unusual for a team to resurface and attempt to get things back on track in one way or another. The community on Discord has clear thoughts about their motive—"They want to avoid prosecution"—but regardless of the reason, at least they've got a chance to recover some of what they've lost. That puts them ahead of a lot of other NFT scams.

Update: More than three weeks later, the promise to "get back on track" has not materialized. There have been no further updates on the Blockverse Twitter account, its website remains offline, and its Medium account, where the Blockverse white paper was hosted, is gone as well. 

The members of the Blockverse community who were attempting to recover the assets and continue work on the game also confirmed that they have had no contact with the original developers, and despite early hopes were unable to track them down. 

"They basically got away with it," one told me. "They covered their tracks too well." 

One community member I spoke to said that most of the people who were attempting to revive Blockverse have already made up their losses in other projects, although that's impossible to verify. Another is heading up work on a database of NFT rug pulls, "so that new people coming into the space have a place to research and potentially document bad actors." Blockverse itself, however, appears to be a dead end.

"They were able to hide behind anonymity. There's nothing for law enforcement [to do], really," one community member said. "Classic rug pull."


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Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.