On October 21, 2022, the film major Warner Bros. launched the NFT (non-fungible token) collection ” Lord of the Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring”. It’s one of the most anticipated NFT drops in the entertainment industry, and in the right momentum, considering the recent launch of the series “The Rings of Power” on Amazon Video.

In a future article, I will make some broader considerations, as this Warner project gives a glimpse of new models of distribution and use of entertainment content. Here I will just share with you my thoughts following my personal experience, having personally bought the NFT.

Welcome to the Movieverse… or not?

The site is presented as “WB Movieverse“. The name cleverly leverages the current buzz around the metaverse, even if the website has nothing to do with the metaverse. But we are in the field of entertainment, and every imaginative expression is always to be forgiven.

On the website, the project is presented with a well-made trailer, obviously enriched by the epic soundtrack of the film. It’s often mentioned the expression ‘Web3 Movie Experience’. But the reality, as you’ll see soon, is much different…

The purchase of the NFT “Lord of the Rings”

Now I go to the section for the purchase of the NFT, where features and contents are presented in a list: any NFT’s owner will get access to the extended edition films in 4K UHD, over 8 hours of unpublished video content (such as interviews, behind-the-scenes, etc.), digital collectables with AR (augmented reality) effects.

In addition, each NFT will give access to a gallery of images related to one of the three locations, randomly assigned to each NFT. The Mines of Moria are absolutely the ‘ultra rare‘ location. Also Rivendelle could be ok, it’s ‘uncommon’.

NFT Movieverse Lord of The Rings

So, let’s try to buy the NFT, then, and maybe with a bit of luck…

NFT price: $30. By clicking on ‘Buy now’ I discover that, in addition to payment in cryptocurrency by connecting with Metamask digital wallet, it is possible to pay in ‘Fiat’ currency (euros, dollars, pounds, and so on).

I enter my credit card details, pay exactly 31.50 euros, and the minting of my NFT begins.

The first thing I go to see is the ‘location’ corresponding to my newly minted NFT… will it be the Mines of Moria?! Or Rivendelle? No, I’ve not been so lucky: the location (and therefore the gallery of exclusive images) in my case is the ‘common‘ one: The Shire (the County).

Once the NFT is minted and deposited in the wallet, as a user I can access all the features of the site, and experience what Warner calls a bit pompously a “Web3 movie experience“.

What is it? Well, I am an enthusiast of innovation that revolves around the Web3, but anyway I like to be crystal clear with you…

What does the NFT give access to?

Here, all this amount of content is accessible only because the site is ‘connected’ to my wallet, and only if the NFT is ‘deposited’ in my wallet. The NFT, therefore, acts as a ‘key’, a key that can be resold on the market, then transmitted with a transaction – via blockchain – to another wallet, so that the next owner will get access to the content.

In addition to the videos, there is a bit of a vaguely interactive experience, depending on the location. In my NFT the location is the County, but I don’t have great expectations around such interactive experience. By now, it’s clear to me that the Movieverse is just an overpromising term.

If you had thought that you could move with your own avatar in a 3D virtual world – a kind of “movie-metaverse” –  and interact with the hobbits and play and … well, forget it. You can just rotate moving the mouse around a crystal ball, click and enter the various sections of the site (photo galleries, videos…), and that’s all.

Yes, there are a few places that you can visit, in my case Bilbo Baggins’ house or the County. But these are not 3D environments. The images give a sense of depth, which gives a feeling of three-dimensionality, nothing more.

Lord of the Rings NFT - Bilbo Baggins' HouseWhen I visit the County, I can see a mysterious bright spot. I click on that point, and a QR code appears. Using my smartphone, I can download an app, scan the QR code and get access to the AR experience.

But also in this case, it’s better to keep low any expectations. The AR experience consists of a small digital collectible, a banal brown cup. Even if I had got the Ring of Power instead of that brown cup, the experience would have been quite rudimentary.

I can place the cup with my smartphone in any corner of the physical world (the Pokemon AR app launched some years ago was much more engaging, even futuristic, in comparison!), so I leave it on a shelf of books in my house, abandoning it forever…

Let’s stop here and start drawing some conclusions. Answering some questions that came to mind as we navigated the ‘Web3 experience’ promised by Warner.

Is it worth buying the Lord of the Rings NFT?

For a fan of the Tolkenian universe, probably yes. Thirty dollars is not a big amount. Especially if you like to watch again 3 hours and 48 minutes of a film in an extended edition that is nothing new, as it is already available on other channels. Plus eight hours of interviews, making-of, etc.

I know well the indomitable spirit that animates those who are genuine fans of films, sagas, TV series (I know something!), and therefore nothing wrong with that.

Is it an immersive experience in a cinematic metaverse?

Absolutely not. Interactivity is also extremely limited. If you had bought the NFT to immerse yourself in the ‘Movieverse’ promised by Warner, well… you would have been misled.

The real pity is that Warner could have easily made the experience a little richer and more sophisticated. A little more effort would have been enough to create virtual environments in which to move, also adding a little more gamification…

Is buying the Lord of the Rings NFT a sound investment?

Well, first of all I totally disagree with anyone that defines NFTs as a sort of investment, a kind of alternative to mutual funds or ETFs or shares… Yes, I love NFT technology, and I am convinced that in the years to come they will have an important and positive impact on our physical and virtual lives. But… an investment?!

NFTs are a serious matter, they do not need to be the object of speculation to have an economic sense, a utility for people and enterprises. And what is happening in the NFT market these days is pure speculation, let’s be honest.

This is not to say that I have never bought NFT, quite the contrary. I have purchased several NFTs, with the purpose to contribute in some way to emerging artists in crypto art, or for the pure pleasure of owning that NFT, or for the interest to get a membership in a community.

But just for a moment let’s imagine that purchasing NFTs is a form of financial investment. Well, there is a problem.

Warner launched the collection on a new blockchaineluv.io or Eluvio.

Eluvio is a platform designed precisely for the global distribution of premium content through the blockchain. and that’s ok.

The issue is that the transfer of the NFT from Eluvio to Ethereum is not easy at all. Few vague articles that you can find here and there explain that such transfer is theoretically possible, but the reality is that your NFT will never reach Ethereum or other large blockchains and so will never access those major marketplaces where the exchanges happen (such as Opensea or Rarible)

In practice, your NFT will remain forever in your wallet, or you could resell it in the very illiquid marketplace of Eluvio. The demonstration is that at the moment, after so many weeks, the prices of Lord of the Rings NFTs are generally much lower than the minting price.

Was the Lord of the Rings NFT drop successfully?

Warner’s drop can’t really be defined as a success. Of the “Mystery Edition” (the one I bought), out of 10,000 NFTs that can be minted, after over one month 5,080 have been minted! Usually, with a successful drop, the available NFTs are sold out in a few hours, in some cases even in minutes.

So, from a pure business point of view, yes, it’s a flop.

In conclusion

If this NFT is disappointing in terms of content, it has nothing to do with the metaverse, it is not an investment… what’s the point then?

“Should I buy it” you’re asking yourself?

The answer is that it depends on whether you are a fan of the “Lord of the Rings”, ready to buy whatever is connected to the franchise. In other cases, think twice.

In my personal case, as I like to follow carefully what’s happening in terms of innovations in the global media & entertainment industry, purchasing that NFT was just a test. So, thirty dollars well spent, even if the overall experience is disappointing.

Even if the Lord of the Rings NFT hasn’t been a significant project in the overall NFT market, some aspects are quite interesting. The project shows a possible new path – the blockchain – for a potentially phenomenal innovation of the classic business model of digital content distribution. We’ll talk about that soon.

If you want to take a look at Warner’s ‘Movieverse’, and eventually purchase a Lord of the Rings NFT, here is the link.