More than two decades ago, the Matrix film franchise pioneered the idea of virtual worlds in the minds of mainstream audiences. Now ahead of the December release of The Matrix: Resurrections sequel, the studio behind the films is allowing fans to own a piece of that tech-infused sci-fi fantasy.
Warner Bros. has teamed up with startup Nifty’s to offer 100,000 unique non-fungible tokens (NFTs) representing characters “living” in the Matrix for sale Nov. 30. Each NFT will cost $50 and be embedded, via blockchain smart contracts, with the ability to let the owner of the NFT choose the red pill or blue pill, in keeping with the franchise’s central premise, a couple of weeks later. The same dynamic will also allow owners of the NFTs to participate in other, unannounced functions related to their virtual asset in the following months.
So far, most of the biggest releases in the NFT space have revolved around digital artists and, increasingly, traditional artists creating new work expressly to be distributed as NFTs. But Hollywood has begun to recognize the additional profit and engagement opportunity inherent in NFTs. Some other recent Hollywood projects harnessing the power of iconic films in the NFT space include Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, whose NFTs will also include bonus content, and Marvel, which launched a set of Spider-Man NFTs a few months ago.
The Matrix NFTs not only create content from an existing franchise, but use that content to keep dedicated fans engaged in ways not possible through traditional fan memorabilia like posters, t-shirts, and hats. Fans who purchase NFTs are literally invested in the franchise’s success. The evergreen interactivity in these smart contract-based NFTs also means fans could continue experiencing updates and value-added features for decades to come.
The Matrix NFT drop follows Warner Bros.’ previous foray into the NFT space with Nifty’s earlier this year via its Space Jam franchise. That offering also allowed fans to buy their way into the blockchain version of the franchise but started with an initial free promotion that gave away a batch of NFTs related to the movie series.
“As NFTs continue to grow in popularity, projects like this will usher in a new era of fandom, empowering those who love film and art to not only engage in a new way, but to also own a piece of these franchises they love,” Jeff Marsilio, CEO and co-founder of Nifty’s, said in an email.
The key feature in the Matrix NFT series is that the characters from the films will not be included. Like the spin-off Animatrix animated series in 2003, released as a complement to the live-action films, the Matrix NFTs will stand on their own as separate original content from the same universe.
For the Matrix NFTs, if the work sells out, the studio only stands to generate $5 million from the sale, but for fans holding the unique digital assets, the value could increase over time. And for Hollywood studios, this new stream of profit and engagement could become as important as franchise-based games and toys as the concept of the metaverse, which includes NFTs and blockchain technology, continues to gain traction with mainstream movie lovers.