The cryptocurrency and NFT spaces can be complicated to navigate, and one VALORANT pro is currently finding out the hard way what can go wrong if you are unlucky enough. Matt “WARDELL” Yu, formerly a star of TSM’s VALORANT team, has been going through it on Twitter this week with an NFT scam that has apparently cost him hundreds of thousands of dollars.
With WARDELL currently acting as a stand-in for Version1, it seems like he’s had time to diversify his interests somewhat, as evidenced by his new Twitter bio, where he describes himself as a “Social Media Influencer”. According to his recent tweets, though, this has sadly resulted in him losing somewhere between 200-300K, presumably USD, in what he calls the “Catalina Whale PUMP”.
In crypto terms, a pump happens when a number of faces/influencers talk up a coin/currency — or sometimes a set of NFTs — leading to the item quickly appreciating in value as people follow their advice and try to buy in while the deals are still cheap. Then, with the coin/NFT now worth money, the original owners and influencers will sell their entire stock for a profit, leaving the later investors with a large amount of normally worthless crypto to complain about.
For WARDELL, there is more than just the loss of his money. The player apparently has also been a supporter of the Catalina Whale NFT group, even interacting with them on Twitter in happier times. With his profile as a VALORANT pro and streamer, this could well have added value to the NFTs he was trying to support.
What makes this case slightly more confusing is the fact that WARDELL uses the term “pump” in his recent tweets, but seems to have been robbed and lost ownership of his purchase altogether. An exchange from April 26, 2022, where the Catalina Whales account were announcing the sale of an NFT, saw WARDELL reply with the message below, suggesting he may feel he was robbed.
In another message, sent as a reply to a tweet from the Catalina Whales founder Michael Ross George, WARDELL is seen asking about free merch, claiming to be eligible as he “submitted before [being] robbed”. This again would support the idea he bought into the Catalina Whale NFTs, only to lose possession of his purchases somehow.
With NFTs, like crypto, the dream for the investors is that they will be the one to discover the next big thing that gains value fast, and make out like bandits. However, the reality in many cases is more sombre, with terms like “rug” and “pump” becoming common on social media for how often this happens.
Esports is uniquely vulnerable to this due to a combination of factors. Firstly, you have a significant number of people like WARDELL, who have dedicated large periods of their formative years to getting really good at games, while others were still in education. Thanks to the boom in pay in esports, these are people who have access to significant wealth, but rarely have the sort of support networks a large sports star might have to try and guide them through investments.
Then there’s the online environment of esports, which has made scamming so ubiquitous and sophisticated. Recently, a lot of respected faces in the scene have pivoted to flogging NFTs or shilling for crypto firms themself, and it’s easy to see how a wealthy young man could buy into a deal that doesn’t pay off. WARDELL has claimed he has come to terms with his lost money, so all one can hope is that the next person to consider buying a picture of a cartoon animal in a hat, or maybe just a receipt for said picture, thinks of WARDELL and maybe thinks again.