[UPDATE, 12/2: Nifty’s late Wednesday evening said it re-opened the purchase queue for the “Matrix” NFTs after completing an audit of its platform. About an hour later, the company said it had officially sold out. “We know it wasn’t the experience we’d hoped for, but we’re happy to see so many of you able to mint your base avatar,” Nifty’s said.]
Hundreds of thousands of fans lined up Tuesday to buy digital collectibles tied to Warner Bros.’s upcoming “The Matrix Resurrections” movie at $50 apiece — and quickly swamped the systems of Nifty’s, the nonfungible tokens (NFT) marketplace hosting the sale, prompting the company to pause the sale.
Within an hour of opening the “Matrix” NFT site at 1 p.m. ET Tuesday, Nifty’s halted the purchase queue briefly before restarting it — then paused it again, keeping users in limbo overnight. As of noon ET Wednesday, there were more than 330,000 users waiting in the queue on Nifty’s website for the chance to buy the “Matrix” NFTs.
Earlier this month, Warner Bros. announced that it would mint 100,000 unique NFTs of “Matrix”-inspired avatars — available for $50 each on Nifty’s site — a natural tie-in to the movie franchise’s virtual-world conceit and designed to promote the Dec. 22 release of “Matrix Resurrections.”
It turns out that demand for the initial Nov. 30 drop of the “Matrix” avatars proved more than Nifty’s could handle. In an update Nifty’s posted on social media Tuesday evening, the company said that “even as the queue continues to be paused, we want to ensure you all of a few things — we’re very actively working on a solution, along with our partners.”
According to Nifty’s, once it scaled to max capacity, “we encountered infrastructure issues, and our team is actively working on a solution with our cloud provider.” The company recommended that those still waiting in line to buy “Matrix” NFTs add their email to the “Please notify me when it is my turn” field on its website, “so that you’ll know specifically when you have made it to the front of the line.”
On its customer-support site, Nifty’s said, “Due to such high traffic, there may be a delay with the Matrix Avatar NFTs appearing in your account. Please allow some additional time (up to 8 hours) to determine if your NFTs have arrived successfully.”
A Warner Bros. rep referred inquiries to Nifty’s. In a statement, a Nifty’s spokesperson said, “Fans of the Matrix are even more passionate than we anticipated, and as a result, the demand surpassed our expectations. We are working to get back up and running as soon as possible so that everyone who was excited to get a Matrix NFT can do so.” The company also plans to “make it up to fans and give all Nifty’s users who queued yesterday for a Matrix Avatar a free ‘glitch in the Matrix’ NFT,” the rep added.
NFTs provide a way to authenticate the ownership of digital content, using distributed blockchain technology, akin to real-world collectibles like baseball cards or physical artwork, and Warner Bros. is among a growing number of entertainment companies looking to exploit the trend.
Part of the appeal of the “Matrix” NFTs was the two-stage release: The Nov. 30 launch features “base” avatars resembling ordinary people trapped in the Matrix (above left), followed by a second phase beginning Dec. 16 in which owners of the base avatars will be given a choice — to either take a “Blue Pill” and have their avatar remain locked in the Matrix, or take a “Red Pill” and transform their avatars into resistance fighters unplugged from the Matrix (above right). All of the “Matrix” NFTs are created using Epic Games’ MetaHuman Creator tool.
Initially, Nifty’s said it was limiting initial avatar purchases to 25 per account per day. About two hours after the NFT sale opened, the company lowered the purchase limit to 5 per account due to the overwhelming demand. According to Nifty’s, about 5% (5,000) of the NFTs are being “withheld from the initial sale for use in community activities, giveaways, customer service resolutions and promotional purposes throughout the many phases of the project.”
Lana Wachowski’s “The Matrix Resurrections” is the fourth movie in the sci-fi franchise, coming 18 years after the most recent installment, “The Matrix Revolutions.” It’s set to hit theaters in the U.S. and HBO Max on Dec. 22. The film reunites original stars Keanu Reeves and Carrie-Anne Moss in the iconic roles they made famous, Neo and Trinity.