Just a few days after being announced by ubiquitous YouTube presence Mr. Beast, the high-profile "Creator League" esports series has collapsed in a swirl of confusion and anger about its use of blockchain technology and accusations that the whole thing was in fact an NFT launch.
Creator League struck me as a little odd right from the start. It was formally revealed by Mr. Beast, one of the biggest names on YouTube, but he's not actually involved with the project. Several of the influencers who are (or were) taking part are not meaningfully involved in gaming: Bella Poarch, for instance, is a singer and social media celebrity, CDawgVA is a voice actor, podcaster, and variety streamer, and VinnieHacker is a Tiktok star. Yes, they occasionally stream games, but it's hardly their bread and butter.
WELCOME to the Creator League 🏆 pic.twitter.com/P0AHSMZWbrSeptember 2, 2023
Apparently that was an intentional choice: Those influencers and others would provide "personality-driven content," Creator League organizer eFuse said, while Hecz and Scump of Optic Gaming, Fortnite pro Clix, and Minecraft creator Sapnap, who are also taking part, "offer tested competition expertise."
"Collectively, these creators boast a combined audience of over 226 million followers and have a long history of mobilizing communities," eFuse said. "All creators will actively manage their teams and feature competitions on their live channels." That may be so, but as of right now the announcement video sits at 16k views on YouTube.
At the same time, eFuse also promised that fans who purchased a $20 "community pass" for their Creator League influencer of choice would have an active hand in team management and might even land a spot on a team: Fans who paid for the pass would have the opportunity to vote on team rosters and strategies, and "compete for a chance at cash prizes."
A free box of Feastables, MrBeast's chocolate bars, was also up for grabs for a limited time.
That pass is where it all went really wrong. Not long after the Creator League was announced, it came to light that the passes employ blockchain technology—the same tech that underpins NFTs. There was no mention of blockchain technology in the Creator League announcement, or in any of the materials shared with press ahead of the announcement. There's also no indication of blockchains or NFT on the Creator League website, although the name of the site—mynt.gg—is certainly a choice: NFTs are generated by a process known as "minting."
It is, however, mentioned in the terms of service of Coinflow, the payment processor used to handle Creator League pass purchase, which states that the site is an interface for "purchasing goods and services via blockchain merchants and NFT technology." This is where some buyers took notice of the issue and began airing their concerns, and it didn't take long after that for some of the influencers who had signed up for the Creator League to start distancing themselves from it.
"So I'll just be real with you guys, I accepted to join the Creator League not fully understanding the tech behind it," CDawgVA tweeted. "Needless to say, with the current information available I'm planning on withdrawing. I was not told or made aware at any point that there was Blockchain technology and was only made aware of that information when the event went live.
"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. It's an embarrassing fuck up on my part to agree to promote this to my audience. I'm sorry."
OTK co-founder Tips Out shared similar sentiments, although he didn't commit to an immediate withdrawal.
"Aware of the crypto thing," he tweeted. "We were told there was no NFT/crypto component but looks like that may not be the case. Waiting for responses to our emails/phone calls like others."
In a statement released on September 5, just three days after the Creator League was announced, organizer eFuse acknowledged that blockchain technology was being used "to validate data and log information relating to the community passes," but said that no cryptocurrencies were being used—all pass purchases are made in US dollars—and that the passes themselves are not NFTs because they do have not "transfer utility," which means that they cannot be resold.
"Within the product, the blockchain provides additional transparency to inventory levels for what was designed to be a limited release," eFuse vice president of engineering Shawn Pavel said in a statement. "We apologize for not intentionally disclosing the blockchain’s limited use within the Creator League purchasing process and have implemented practices to ensure that doesn’t happen again. To be clear, the Creator League is not an NFT project and we have never sold non-fungible tokens."
Still, the damage was done: eFuse also announced that the launch of Creator League had been postponed, and offered refunds to any pass purchaser who are "uncomfortable" with blockchain technology. The entire organization is also undergoing a "restructuring" which has reportedly resulted in the layoffs of about 30 people.
At this point, the long-term status of the Creator League is unclear. Confusingly, sales of the Creator League pass continued for a full day after the launch of the league was postponed, although they've now been suspended. Most of the influencers involved haven't commented on the situation publicly; materials promoting the Creator League on social media platforms including Twitter, YouTube, and Discord remain live. The league also said on Discord that anyone with a community pass who doesn't opt for a refund "will be welcomed once the season commences," although there's no sign as to when that might happen.
Efuse also said it will carry on with plans to host an open-for-all Fortnite tournament, initially announced as a way for competitors to earn spots on teams, although there was no mention of the promised $50,000 prize pool in the most recent announcement; signups for that will be opened "in the coming weeks." There is currently no word on whether the free Feastables offer is still valid.
"Consistent with the postponement of Creator League Split 1, we are temporarily disabling community pass sales," the Creator League website now states. "Those seeking refunds are asked to click the refund button on the Orders Page (mynt.gg/orders). Active passholders who maintain purchases will be welcomed once the season commences. Stay tuned to our Twitter (@CreatorLeagueGG) for the latest of the Creator League."