Home Business Insights & Advice Yuga Labs halts CryptoPunks project following ‘Woke’ community backlash

Yuga Labs halts CryptoPunks project following ‘Woke’ community backlash

by Fhumulani Lukoto
19th Jun 24 11:38 am

Yuga Labs, the renowned company behind prominent NFT projects such as Bored Ape Yacht Club, has become the subject of controversy after deciding to halt the development of its latest CryptoPunks project.


On May 20 2024, the official CryptoPunks account revealed a fresh NFT collection named Super Punk World. This collection includes 500 hybridised 3D sculptures designed to blur the boundaries of race and gender. The artworks, created by New York painter Nina Abney, were intended to honour “the playful and rebellious early-internet origins of the CryptoPunks project.” This decision comes in the wake of significant backlash from the community, which criticised the project for various reasons, including claims of it being tone-deaf and not aligning with current social values. The ensuing debate has sparked discussions about the responsibility of tech companies and creators in addressing social issues within their projects. Some members of the crypto community criticised the collection for its “woke” approach, claiming that Yuga Labs had effectively killed CryptoPunks with this move. They argued that Yuga Labs was steering the project towards failure by embracing woke culture, echoing the sentiment “go woke, go broke.”

The controversy unfolds

The controversy began when Yuga Labs announced a new initiative within the CryptoPunks universe to expand and innovate the iconic NFT series. However, the project’s thematic choices and specific design elements quickly drew ire from a vocal segment of the community. Critics argued that the project was out of touch with progressive values and failed to address the evolving expectations of a socially conscious audience. Social media platforms were soon abuzz with critiques. Some users pointed out perceived insensitivities in the project’s narrative and character designs, suggesting that these elements perpetuated outdated stereotypes. Others were concerned about the lack of diversity and representation within the project’s creative team, highlighting the importance of inclusivity in the tech and creative industries. The term “woke” was frequently used in discussions, often pejoratively, to describe the heightened sensitivity towards these social issues. In response, Yuga Labs initially attempted to address the concerns through a series of statements and updates. They reassured the community that their feedback was being taken seriously and promised revisions. However, as the backlash intensified, it became evident that mere adjustments would not quell the growing discontent.

Decision to halt the project

Ultimately, Yuga Labs decided to halt the CryptoPunks project altogether. In an official statement, the company expressed regret over the situation and acknowledged the validity of the community’s concerns. They emphasised their commitment to listening and adapting to their audience’s values and highlighted their dedication to fostering a more inclusive and respectful environment within the NFT space. The statement read, “We have always strived to push boundaries and innovate, but we also recognise the importance of reflecting the values of our community. We apologise for any hurt caused by our latest project and will be taking a step back to reassess and realign with our community’s expectations.”

This move was met with mixed reactions. Some community members appreciated the company’s willingness to listen and act on feedback, viewing it as a positive step towards greater accountability. Others, however, saw it as capitulating to a vocal minority, arguing that the decision stifled creativity and expression within the NFT ecosystem. In response to the backlash, experts at bitcoinsynergy.ai released a statement on X clarifying that the team had aimed to partner with renowned artists such as Abney to bridge the gap between Web3 and the traditional art world. The Yuga Labs executive mentioned they intend to distribute Abney’s collection to those already backing her work in the space, potentially airdropping it to SuperCoolWorld holders. About the CryptoPunks collection, the Yuga Labs CEO stated that they will no longer change it. Solana noted, “What about punks? Yuga will no longer touch pinks. They will just be decentralised and preserved on the blockchain.”

Implications for the NFT and tech industries

The halting of the CryptoPunks project by Yuga Labs underscores a broader trend within the tech and creative industries where companies are increasingly held accountable by their communities. As NFTs and digital assets become more mainstream, the expectations for these projects to align with contemporary social values grow stronger. This incident highlights the delicate balance companies must strike between innovation and social responsibility. This serves as a cautionary tale for other companies operating within the NFT space. It illustrates the importance of engaging with diverse perspectives and incorporating a broad range of voices in the creative process.

Moreover, it emphasises the need for ongoing dialogue between creators and their communities to ensure that projects are inclusive and respectful of various sensibilities. The incident also raises questions about the role of “woke” culture in shaping the direction of tech and creative projects. While some argue that it can lead to overly cautious or sanitised content, others believe it fosters a more inclusive and considerate approach to creation, ultimately benefiting the broader community.

Yuga Labs’ decision to halt the CryptoPunks project reflects the complex interplay between innovation, community feedback, and social responsibility. As the NFT space continues to evolve, it is clear that successful projects will be those that not only push creative boundaries but also resonate with the values and expectations of their audiences. The lessons learned from this controversy will likely influence the future directions of NFT projects and the broader tech industry, highlighting the need for a balanced approach to innovation and inclusivity.


The above information does not constitute any form of advice or recommendation by London Loves Business and is not intended to be relied upon by users in making (or refraining from making) any finance decisions. Appropriate independent advice should be obtained before making any such decision. London Loves Business bears no responsibility for any gains or losses.

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