On the NFT marketplace OpenSea, Evolved Apes is a collection of 10,000 unique NFTs available for purchase. Each was also supposed to be a character in an Evolved Apes fighting game, in which NFT owners would throw their apes against each other in battles for Ethereum cryptocurrency awards (just as ancient hominids did thousands of years ago, as I understand). But everything has gone horribly wrong: According to a Vice report, the project's leader fled one week after Evolved Apes went live, taking 798 Ether (approximately $2.7 million) with them.
The funds were raised through the selling of NFTs and were intended to go toward the game's development and marketing. However, the situation became tense in September, according to the report, when project executives began to fade from view and communications became inconsistent. It was also discovered that the project's artist had not been paid in full and that the winners of a social media contest had not received their NFT prizes.
Mike Cryptobull, a community member who paid just over $10,000 on 20 Evolved Ape NFTs, was eventually requested to examine the problem and produce a report on what had happened. In it, he claimed that Evil Ape, the project's blockchain wallet administrator (whose true identity is unknown), had vanished and taken the money with him. Evolved Apes' official Twitter account and website have also vanished.
Mike Cryptobull's report and the Vice piece make no mention of criminal charges being pursued, in part because it's not entirely obvious that a crime has been committed. Police reports were filed in the UK, where the Evolved Apes team is situated, according to Jdmjem, an administrator of the Fight Back Apes Discord, but while there is “certainly an aspect of a scam,” there may not have been one technically.
“The thing is that everyone did get what they paid for, an NFT,” they said in an email sent to PC Gamer. “At the end of the day, any promises of a game or other development fall out of the scope of your purchase.”
“People are trying to file police reports but [the] problem is this is unknown turf and while unethical not technically illegal. We all got what we paid for.”
For the time being, the Evolved Apes NFTs are still available for purchase: Since Evil Ape's absence was made public, more than 660 of them have sold for a total of 16.7 Ether ($59,700) according to the OpenSea trade history. And Evil Ape continues to profit from each sale with a 4% royalty: Attempts to contact OpenSea, presumably to block the sale of Evolved Apes NFTs or divert royalties, have so far gone ignored, according to Josh Cryptobull, another member of the community.
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