No, this isn't the plot to a new movie starring Matt Damon — it's the world of Zed Run, a digital horseracing game built on blockchain technology.
But, to be honest, that does also sound like an amazing plot to a movie starring Matt Damon.
Unlike the real Kentucky Derby, which saw this year's race tainted by steroid use, the only drugs involved in Zed Run are the ones you feel like you're on while watching the adrenaline-inducing digital entertainment unfold.
Zed Run, built by the Australia-based Virtually Human Studio, consists of what the creators refer to as "breathing NFTs," non-fungible tokens that actually take on a life of their own. The platform launched in early 2019 with horses selling for as little as $30. Now, horses have sold on the secondary market for upwards of $150,000, with complete stables full of horses topping $225,000.
According to Zed Run co-founder Geoff Wellman, the crew behind the skyrocketing gaming platform is a collection of sci-fi-lovin' '80s kids who have taken the blank canvas of real-life horseracing and painted on it some of the wildest digital art anyone has ever seen. Which, in 2021, is really saying something.
"Zed Run is set in a parallel world where things behave a bit differently to give us some creative freedom in the way we approach horseracing," Wellman says. "We follow some rules to create familiarity with traditional horseracing; however, we break other rules, like having our horses run without jockeys."
such as the local group behind Zed Racing Miami, which has bred (yup!) their horses to create a new colt that is instantly racetrack-ready. Users are able to name bred horses themselves, but the rest — including the color of the horse and how badass it is on the track — is left up to breeding algorithms that take into account bloodlines and how removed a horse is from its ancestors.
The process, on its face, seems very Tamagotchi. Like the handheld digital pet from the '90s, users are becoming attached to their horses, almost as if they were real.
"It's about bridging the real with the virtual and developing an NFT you can emotionally connect with," Wellman says. "Each racehorse is unique and will behave slightly differently, and each racehorse will take you on a different journey. We have stable owners who have traded their racehorse telling us they still keep an eye on how the racehorse is doing because of the connection they have with it."
While present-day users are already gambling in a sense when they pay an entry fee for races, actual gambling — possibly even at casinos — seems almost inevitable. Imagine walking up to a table at the Hard Rock, entering your digital horse in a race, and taking home a huge purse.
The company says the idea of betting on races in the future does seem like an obvious transition, but there are many hoops to jump through before it's ready for gaming approval.
For now, peer-to-peer custom races are the latest update to the platform. Want to challenge your friend, or a celebrity, to a digital horse race? Zed Run is working on that.
If you're reading this, you're still early to the Zed Run party. And while the product that exists has been the talk of the NFT world, much more is said to be on the way.
"Our invaluable partnerships will amplify and transcend this further into other sports and industries, advancing entertainment into fresh, immersive experiences for people around the world to enjoy," Wellman says.