In the months following the announcement of my company’s first experimental title, Cyberstella, visits to my personal LinkedIn profile increased by an astonishing 300%. What does this tell us about the rising trend of anonymous developers popping up in every Web3 community to spam users with investment opportunities and then disappear from the face of the Earth?
Well, it spells out trouble for anonymous crypto developers who think they can get away with never putting their face where the money is, so to speak.
The fundamental principle behind crypto investing is a two-step process: Issue your project’s native token, leverage it for profit, and re-invest what you made into the project’s development itself. It’s an easy and straightforward way for builders to raise funds and keep their work up, while supporters can benefit from a token with a fluid environment and from feeling like they’re a part of the developer community, as well as a part of what makes the project a success. Of course, this model presents quite the scarcity of substance and opportunity for growth, which means that the macro crypto trend can leverage the price of native tokens.
When Murasaki, the game studio building decentralized titles on the blockchain that I co-founded, announced its first project, I decided not to be one of those GameFi developers. I was going to put my face and my name out there, right next to Murasaki’s and Cyberstella’s, because I believe in the future of what we’re building, and I believe that anonymity almost always spells out signs of trouble.
By looking at the LinkedIn data, I was right.
People do care about finding out more about the identity of a founder or developer before they sign over their money. However, scammers have managed to successfully convince a portion of the GameFi community to act against their own best interest, contrary to how they would behave in almost every other scenario. And when they’re done scamming one community, they move on to the next — after all, no one knows who they are, so it’s easy for them to start over with a new audience. The cycle repeats itself over and over again, and the space’s reputation keeps getting worse because of it. It’s a true lose-lose situation for everyone involved, except the anonymous scammers.
In poker, blind betting refers to the cards you are required to put down “blindly” before you have had a chance to see what they are, after which each player will do the same and either fold, call or raise without knowing what they are betting on or how it might turn out. In such a scenario, everyone is aware of the rules and circumstances, which means they trust that no other player will grab everything on the table and run. In GameFi, that’s often what happens.
I believe that anyone who boldly lies their way to full funding belongs in prison. Here’s why their moment of reckoning is closer than we might think: It’s actually not that hard to spot a scammer in action.
If they don’t display their real name, their face and their identity in verifiable ways, that’s always going to be your first red flag. Next, look for a lengthy and detailed roadmap. It shouldn’t entail a crazy amount of moving parts, nor should it be unintelligible and jargon-filled, but instead, it should just be a very clear and compelling explanation of what the project is about and what it aims to achieve in the next few months and years. If you can’t find a roadmap, that’s another major red flag. What about smart contracts? You need to be deploying smart contracts in order to deliver what you actually promise; otherwise, that’s strike three.
Community is a huge factor for any Web3 project and anyone who’s serious about building and evolving in the space. If your potential scammer project proudly shows off 50,000 members on Telegram and Discord, but only five or 10 people seem to be online at any given time, you might have another, huge, clear-as-day red flag staring right at you.
Lastly, overpromising is a big sign that somewhere along the line, something will not quite check out the way it should. How can a project owner publicize a super high-quality AAA title they’re in the process of building while also not doing much fundraising and constantly pushing back roadmap deadline after deadline? It’s probably the easiest way to spot a scammer, and the one you should be most afraid of.
The truth is, chances are that most anonymous builders are ready to run away with the money once they raise enough, as they don’t need to try and actually turn the project into a success. They can just buy bots to increase their profile and social media standing, pay pennies to shillers who will keep up the appearance of an active community on Telegram and Discord, and be done with their job.
Here’s the good news: Only in the last few years, crypto scammers have faced 18 months in prison, 15 years, 115 years — and even 40,000 years. Yes, really, 40,000. When it’s so easy to spot a scammer and the sentences they face should they get caught so high, here’s hoping that people will wise up to the reality of GameFi scams, and anonymous developers will realize nothing could be worth 40,000 years in prison.
May 2023 be the year that we put anonymous crypto scammers where they belong — far, far away from the community we’re proud of and even further away from eager investors’ money.
Shinnosuke “Shin” Murata is the founder of blockchain games developer Murasaki. He joined Japanese conglomerate Mitsui & Co. in 2014, doing automotive finance and trading in Malaysia, Venezuela and Bolivia. He left Mitsui to join a second-year startup called Jiraffe as the company’s first sales representative and later joined STVV, a Belgian football club, as its chief operating officer and assisted the club with creating a community token. He founded Murasaki in the Netherlands in 2019.
This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal or investment advice. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed here are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views and opinions of Cointelegraph.