1. Down 50% off the highs
i) But still smiling
Of course plenty has indeed happened between my last post in September 2021 and this post in February 2022. It is just amusing that if all we had to rely upon was my last post back in September, we would think hardly anything has happened, or that hardly any prices have moved.
But what really happened in the last 5 months? Well, we soared in a parabolic manner to all-time-highs, we saw the pre-sale frenzy and excitement for Chaos Legion, and then we saw the collapse in sentiment, prices and volumes as a crushing turn in the macro environment took the Splinterlands ecosystem down to goblin town along with the rest of crypto. The rest of the financial world hardly fared better.
Personally, I have experienced a wild ride from a Splinterlands total asset valuation (cards, lands and fungible tokens) of just shy of $1 million, to stabilising at around half of that value today. And I could not be happier!
ii) Knowing that things are still viable in a downturn (particularly with rent revenues and Chaos Legion)
Sure, it would have been good to have sold at the highs and then reinvested now that things have steadied. But I am not smart enough to time the highs. And I am too scared to hit the sell button on anything. One day it will be time to sell something. But it is not this day, and it is not this cycle. In my opinion, there is still juice in this 'trade'; this game has not fully matured yet. Therefore I believe there is still significant upside to be enjoyed with the position I am holding. I would not be saying this if I were holding a big position in alphas, however. Those who sold out late in Q4 2021 did the right thing because those really did go to the moon from the perspective of those long-term holders who had been in since the game's inception. A hearty congratulations to them!
I am happy because I have had the opportunity to see through a really severe downturn in the market while holding a big bag. Splinterlands has been through these sorts of downturns in the past, but in previous iterations I had not quite the amount invested as I do now. This most recent movement means a lot more. And the outcome has been great.
Because I got to experience what a reasonably 'distressed' situation in the market looks and feels like. Rent revenues fell severely. There were a few dark days when revenues sat at 1.5% ROA. But after a bit of hard work and paying close attention to the market, revenues stabilised at around 4-5% ROA.
Even as Splinterlands fungible token values took a >70% haircut, the cards did not completely collapse in tandem. They kept their value a bit better. And to know that 4-5% yield remains possible when the market turns bad is a great thing to keep in mind. It means that even in bad times, Splinterlands yields are comparable to sensible real-world yields. I feel much less compelled to consider cashing out of the game to protect against severe downside. The perceived risk of sudden and catastrophic collapse goes down.
And now that things are stable, finally it feels right to start buying again. Words cannot begin to express how I frustrating it was in mid to late 2021 as the market continued to run up. Things got so hot that there were next to no decent buying opportunities anywhere. I recall only making two major purchases that felt like good deals throughout those months; a gold foil Valnamor for (I think) around $7,500 / 750,000 DEC at the time, and a regular foil Mighty Dricken for $3,500 / 350,000 DEC at the time.
At the time of writing (15 Feb 2022) the next GF Valnamor is listed at $15,000 / 4.4 million DEC and the next Mighty Dricken is listed at $9,999 / 2.93 million DEC. As someone who earns and spends in DEC, it's the DEC value that actually matters to me in the end.
Other purchases made during this time do not seem to have fared quite as well. Gold foil Mylors come to mind; though I already had a large position prior to the big run-up (including a 22 BCX max copy), I still bought a handful more near the top. Stupid Mylors.
iii) Optimism already beginning to return
A large part of me wishes this downturn would last another quarter or so, but I fear that sentiment is already starting to recover. Now that things have stabilised, I have noticed a lot more confidence and optimism in the markets and in the Splinterlands discord. I am watching market and rental volumes with interest. This most recent end of season with a personal roaring return to 100,000 DEC/day earnings tells me that things have shifted once again and it is time to get buying before prices start running away again.
It is important to note that while 100,000 DEC/day is a neat milestone, I am not really targeting a specific DEC number in the long term. When it comes to rentals specifically, my personal target is to pull at least 1% of all daily rental revenues. So long as that goal is achieved, I am personally OK with the performance of my portfolio. Really, I am rooting for upward volumes for the markets in general. My job is to keep up with the pace.
2. Back to where we were 5 months ago
i) Short term volatility
5 months is an eternity in crypto and NFT-land, but it is a mere blink of an eye in the slower and more sensible world of meatspace. If people treated Splinterlands like their treated their retirement savings, you would typically check your performance maybe once or twice a year at most. And if you had left Splinterlands alone back in September and then circled back to it this February, you might have concluded that nothing much has happened at all.
But those of us paying attention know that it has been anything but quiet. The short-term volatility is frankly insane; going up 100% and then going back down 50% in 5 months is not for the faint-hearted.
In more euphoric times, private islands and retirement were a hot topic. Not meaning to pick on anyone in particular, but we would do well to be reminded how sentiment looks and feels like when things get a bit too hot. To me it seems that as expressions of regret increase in frequency, it may be a signal to start planning a way to soften the landing that is likely to follow.
Trawling through the archives between October and December 2021 can be an eye-opening exercise. Or if you are not nearly as patient, you could simply take a glance at the activity in the #tokenomics (formerly #sps) channel and calculate a quick and dirty ratio of how many dumb hot-takes pop up every 100 messages. Or alternatively if you are like me and have little patience for certain types of people, observe the proportion of blocked messages to total messages.
Though I put no trust in the sky-high valuations and the euphoric banter in the main discord, what this run opened my eyes up to was the potential for where the valuations in this game could go over the next 3 years or so. It also helped form in my own mind where my personal "sell" number would be; the point at which it would be time to reduce Splinterlands exposure and diversify into other opportunities. For example, a double-digit SPS $USD value would certainly do it. But beyond that I will offer no further comment except to say that all of us should have a target firmly set in our minds at which point it is time to divest expand into other ventures.
If you're playing in these markets, either you have high conviction in the game, or you have high conviction in playing off the fear and greed of your fellow speculator. If you falter in either aspect, expect to puke up your position and get washed out. Personally I would rather not siphon money off of scared speculators (watching people pay 3000 DEC to rent a card for 24 hours was awful, even if I was the beneficiary), but I want to deal with players who are putting money in because they can see the value that this game provides. That feels much more of a win-win situation to me.
ii) Long term resilience
It is these win-win transactions that build long-term resilience for the ecosystem over time. That resilience is built upon the conviction of the people who stay and participate the way the developers intended, or at least are willing to adapt as the developers take the game in a certain direction. For these people who are willing to play along and adapt, they will fare as the developers fare. And so far they have been rewarded greatly for it. I can happily attest to this, having been a player since the beginning of Beta.
Of course there is always a place for the "ROIboi locusts" (the character of most guilds at this current time - though they may be ashamed to admit it), the speculators and the botnets, who will set up their operations, take their cut and eventually move on. They too have fared well in this whole enterprise. But those who stay and adapt have enjoyed much bigger payouts. And Splinterlands is one of the very few games that has a history long enough to demonstrate that sticking around for the long term pays off handsomely i.e., more than two set releases.
iii) Laying down a foundation of wealth
People who have the conviction to stick around do so not because they want to make gobs of money, but because the combination of game, economy, community and developers are compelling enough to make people put a stake in for the long term. And this will result in great returns that can lead to an accumulation of wealth that might actually be meaningful.
Personally I did not put money into Splinterlands thinking that these were magic beans or rocket fuel. What I saw was an opportunity to turn a fun game into a modest income-generating side hustle via an avenue that was largely overlooked. Because when I entered into the renting business, hardly anyone else was doing it seriously or at scale. The system was a pain to use (swapping currencies, exchange risk, escrows, manual listings...) and revenues were tiny. I remember the excitement of earning 5c a day, and the major achievement of reaching $1/day. The moment $5/day was reached was the moment I realised that there really was something here to build on.
And that is when I started buying with whatever money I had to spare. The best deals were gold foils at the time. The reasoning being that their premium was much less than the 50x that their rarity implied. And also there would be much less competition in the gold foil rental space. Most everybody neglected them, there were only a handful of gold foil collectors. Collection power was dirt cheap so gold foils commanded no premium in that regard. No serious player would ever really consider building a deck out of gold foils.
But none of us had any idea that the SPS airdrop was coming, or how it would be greatly skewed towards holders of gold foils. Though in hindsight, Aggy did hint at this during some ancient AMA's back in the day. And that is when things really started to blow up. A collection formerly with a ton of worthless CP and grossly underpowered for its cost, now became a SPS airdrop money-making machine. I had hit upon a winner almost by mistake.
I am fortunate that I do not need any of this value in the near term. The great irony now that I am managing what is (to me) a modestly large portfolio which grew more or less "accidentally". I cannot say at all that I was smart enough to see any of this coming. I was early and I was lucky. I might have had enough sense to adapt once the opportunities arose, but that is all I will claim for myself. The lion's share of the credit rests with the developers and with the community.
3. Now is a great time to buy
i) DEC equivalent prices are back to where they used to be before the boom
Now that Chaos Legion is out and prices seem to have stabilised, it is time to look seriously into buying singles again. I already achieved my goal of cracking enough packs to field a max regular foil Chaos deck. I gave it a playtest of several hundred games just to get a feel for what I think the good cards are. Now it is straight back to renting as my main "game".
As mentioned earlier, as someone who earns in DEC, it is the DEC values of cards that matter to me. And now is a great time to buy. Though in nominal $USD terms cards are higher than where I would like them to be, in DEC terms they are right back to where things used to be before the parabolic run in 2021.
I remember a time of gold foil commons selling forever below 35c and DEC was trading below par (so, maybe 500-1000 dec per GF common at 35c USD). Now you can see gold foil commons even trading under 300 DEC. DEC-denominated prices may have been lower at other moments in the past, and I understand that the fundamental burn values of these modern cards are different to older editions. But even so, it is my strong conviction that these are close to the best prices DEC-wise that we are going to see. Unlike the frustration I felt between Q2 and Q4 of 2021, I am happily buying into positions now.
ii) A full set of Chaos-era GFLs
Prices I feel are so good that I went earlier expected to collect a full of set of Chaos-era GFLs. In time I hope to eventually pick up at least two of every card, but that is now the lowest on the list of single-buying priorities. [Edit - I actually forgot to pick up the Void Dragon when I took this screenshot. I've since picked one up. Whoops.]
Of course not all the airdropped cards are out yet, but I will be on the lookout for them as they drop. Aside from Dr Blight, I have not had any good luck come my way yet in terms gold foil airdrops.
iii) GF Epics
The next item on my list of priorities is actually to pick up a modest position in Chaos-era GF epics. These being just as tough as the GFL's to pull (when accounting for potions), it makes sense that these GF epics trade at roughly the same CP/cost relative to the legendaries. They are hard to get big positions in, and they yield exceptionally well.
4. Opportunities on the horizon
I advocated for buying up vouchers in a private discord days before the announcement of the Waka promo card. If only I had taken my own advice and picked up a few before they doubled in price. Fortunately I am still a relatively large holder of vouchers and feel confident enough to be able to have a shot at buying on of these promos once details land. Vouchers are still undervalued though. They are an interesting call option-like instrument whose value resets every time one use case passes and the team cooks up another one, totally changing their valuation and risk profile. Vouchers are fun.
If I was smart enough to convert some DEC earnings into stables, I might actually have had some cash on hand ready to plow into Riftwatchers once that lands. Or not - perhaps I would have blown the lot on Chaos Legion packs instead. But never mind, at least I haven't spent any airdropped SPS yet. Riftwatchers may eventually make that necessary, depending on how soon it launches.
There has been some absurd talk of $1/day/plot as discussion about lands heats up. Assuming a 10% yield, that means your average plot of land should cost $3,650. Really? I would be thrilled with even 1/10th of that upon release. Which at current prices (around the $370 range), might make it a sensible buy. And I sure would appreciate its release sooner rather than later. A second income stream would really come in handy since the card rental space has been a tough grind up until this season when things started to blow up again. Not holding my breath though.
By all appearances, it seems the team is going to do this right, with no compulsion to rush. As someone who only put a modest initial investment into land, I am grateful that I do not feel the need to hang onto every scrap of news concerning its release. There are others with much larger land holdings than me. It is going to be awesome for them once this aspect of the game releases.