The bizarre death of the Creator League

On Sept. 2, the world was introduced to the Creator League, a flashy e-sports platform featuring some of the top internet stars and video game streamers, and promotion by none other than MrBeast.

Five days later, the Creator League was dead.

The league’s fiery crash is something that will likely be the subject of much analysis in the coming weeks and months, but the story that’s emerged already shows a bizarre launch strategy involving NFTs, and a fierce backlash by creators who say they were duped. And it paints a bleak picture for the struggling crypto industry. 

What happened: The Creator League was going to be a monthlong live-streamed game tournament with $250,000 up for grabs. The teams in the league were captained by elite creators, such as Bella Poarch, Clix, Sapnap, CdawgVA, OpTic, and more, who would promote the tournament to their combined 226 million followers on socials and convince them to purchase a $20 pass to watch the games.

The problem is that these $20 passes were nonfungible tokens (NFTs) whose information was stored on a blockchain, and it appears that the league’s organizer, eFuse, never disclosed this fact to anyone. It turns out that many of the participating creators have a deep antipathy towards NFTs and crypto technology, which they consider to be an inherently scammy business. 

When they found out, they went ballistic. 

“I accepted to join the creator league not fully understanding the tech behind it,” tweeted YouTuber Connor Colquhoun (known as CDawgVA) on Sept. 3, announcing that he was withdrawing from the league. “I was given assurances that it had nothing to do with NFT’s. Given my vocal hatred of such tech, I would never agree to join had I known that.” 

There was no mention of the underlying NFT technology in the press packet sent to Fortune ahead of the launch. Reached on Friday, a spokesperson for the company said that eFuse did not inform him that “passes” were NFTs. It seems the only people who knew were the users who learned they were buying NFTs at the Creator League online purchase checkout—and those customers quickly jumped ship, with 95% abandoning their carts at the checkout page when it became clear creators were quitting, according to a source.

A spokesperson for the company told Fortune that it was wrong for the company not to explain the blockchain technology to the press, public, and creators involved. This person also said the company thought it was merely an accounting process and did not need to explain it.

“We used the blockchain to power transparency and create a public ledger so the community knew we weren’t overselling passes,” a company representative told DeCrypt

The Fallout: Now eFuse has laid off 30% of its workforce as it abandons the Creator League. A company spokesperson said that this is because the staff that built and supported the Creator League is no longer needed. 

And the death of the Creator League can be viewed as a barometer for public opinion on NFTs. The industry once defined by a Bored Ape Yacht Club has transformed into more of a singular sinking dinghy. This happened after the Securities and Exchange Commission cracked down on NFTs, calling Impact Theory’s offerings unlicensed securities.  


Separately, Fortune is compiling its next Impact 20 list, which showcases startups that are trying to solve the world’s biggest problems in a profitable fashion. We’ll publish it in December. You can nominate a startup (your own or someone else’s) by using this Google form—the deadline is Oct. 23—and if you have any questions about the process, just pop an email to impact20@fortune.com.

Alexandra Sternlicht

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NEWSWORTHY

Apple’s China slump continues. Apple lost around 6.4% of its value in the last couple days, thanks to a report about Chinese government workers no longer being allowed to use their iPhones at work. Reuters reports that key suppliers like Qualcomm and Texas Instruments got caught up in the slump, and that surprise new phone launches by Chinese champion Huawei have also contributed.

AI chip crunch. TSMC, the Taiwanese chip-producing powerhouse contracted by Nvidia, AMD, Apple, and others, has warned that current constraints in producing Nvidia’s sought-after top-end GPUs will continue for well over a year. As The Register reports, Mark Liu blamed the bottleneck on TSMC’s current shortage of “advanced packaging” capacity, which is essential for making the latest AI silicon.

Microsoft’s AI copyright promise. Microsoft is trying to pitch generative AI “copilots” to enterprise customers, but many are expressing concerns about the technology’s copyright implications. Not to worry, Microsoft vice chair Brad Smith said in a blog post: “If you are challenged on copyright grounds, we will assume responsibility for the potential legal risks involved.”

ON OUR FEED

“I say this realizing it’s going to come across as arrogant, and I don’t mean it that way… There used to be great research that happened in companies in Silicon Valley… There [has] not been for a long time.”

OpenAI CEO Sam Altman risks annoying quite a few people, in a Wednesday podcast interview

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

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Exclusive: Elon Musk has just 40,000 paying subscribers on X, a fraction of his 155 million followers, by Kylie Robison

TikTok might have accidentally revealed the new features it’s working on thanks to a hiring spree with one particular focus, by Eleanor Pringle

Grindr told staff to be in the office 2 days per week after they unionized. Nearly half of them refused and have now been fired, by Bloomberg

Charter’s CEO isn’t flinching in the $2.2 billion rumble with Disney and ESPN: ‘We had to say enough is enough, or else we’re gonna have to move on to a different model’, by Paolo Confino

Billionaire VC Marc Andreessen welcomes the symbiotic AI future: ‘It’s going to be a much better way to live’, by Paige Hagy

BEFORE YOU GO

Update your iDevice. If you’re an Apple customer who someone might plausibly want to spy on, you’ll want to immediately update your iPhone, iPad, Mac and/or Apple Watch. The latest versions of the company’s operating systems fix what researchers at Citizen Lab called “an actively exploited zero-click vulnerability being used to deliver NSO Group’s Pegasus mercenary spyware.”

As described in a Citizen Lab blogpost, the vulnerability is known as BLASTPASS and was first spotted on the device of someone working for a D.C.-based civil society organization. It was apparently possible to thwart it by activating Apple’s Lockdown Mode, which launched just over a year ago to protect customers dealing with sensitive data.

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