It’s been just over two weeks since the Philadelphia 76ers announced their new partnership with Color Star Technology, an extremely normal Chinese company making the always tricky business transition from ready-mix concrete to operating a digital metaverse, under the leadership of an elusive and mysterious man named Sir Lucas Capetian. Defector has been trying to make sense of this company and its personnel and product ever since, but at every step of our journey things have only gotten stranger. Who is Sir Lucas Capetian? Why was Color Star represented at the partnership signing ceremony by a man named Jarom Heaps, who as far as anyone can tell does not work for Color Star? Why does Color Star’s signature Color World app present one deeply strange autoplay video and quite literally nothing else? Why are the company’s English- and Chinese-language websites nonfunctioning husks? Why does Color Star’s Director of Communications, a seasoned international business-doer and published author, know next to nothing about the company’s history, the condition of its product, and the identity of its leadership? What the hell is going on here?
This was all fun and games when it was a poor, underprepared Color Star spokesperson babbling nervously about the “different lasers” that “go around” a performer “like Lady Gaga,” but it is now Jan. 5, 2022. Color Star and Color World still seem extremely fake, but the company’s marketing partnership with the 76ers is now real as hell. The 76ers’ home arena is practically wallpapered with garish banners boasting of Color Star’s listing on the Nasdaq exchange. It was possible to make some sense of this with Color Star hyping up a Dec. 23 beta launch of its Color World metaverse, but as the hours and days passed and all that remained on the app was that one insane 90-second self-advertisement video, that the 76ers were really going through with this started to seem ludicrous.
There was some renewed hope that we would all soon be metaversing it up on Color World when Color Star announced, on New Year’s Eve, that it would launch its “star interactive platform APP sports section” on Jan. 1, with an “online football course” taught by “the world famous football master” David Villa, formerly of Valencia, Barcelona, and the Spanish national team. Because this whole thing appears to be taking place in another dimension, Jan. 1 came and went with no launch of anything that could at all be credibly described as “interactive” or a “course” or even a “section.” Instead, Color World replaced the surreal and upsetting 90-second autoplay video with another surreal and upsetting autoplay video, but this new one is 11 damn minutes long. It launches with a rough eight-minute biography of Villa, followed by approximately two minutes of Villa telling several distracted-looking youths that he always liked to use the instep when attempting penalties, followed by one minute of Villa saying goodbye. This boring and insane video is now 100 percent of what is presented by the Color World metaverse.
Color Star is not yet finished being extremely fucked-up and weird. Tuesday morning the company issued a press release once again insisting that it will one day have a metaverse, and announcing that they hope to distribute to users custom “3D printed dolls” representing the user’s avatar. While this sounds like a neat little perk, it is packaged in more of that signature Color Star craziness. Capetian, confusingly identified in the press release not as Color Star CEO but as CEO of something called Playmate Technology, is quoted as boasting that “the owner of this series of virtual avatar products will also be the only user and copyright holder of the avatar in the app and even the global virtual world.” As this is functionally how character customization works in virtually all online video games—why would anyone who is not me want to use my custom Mii avatar for any reason, ever—this seems to be a somewhat dopey repurposing of the whole NFT concept.
The page on Color Star’s extremely clunky Chinese-language site—what communications director Douglas Menelly described as their “primary site”—now includes a QR code for accessing the app where all this neat-o stuff is promised. Out of sheer incredulity at the ongoing and escalating strangeness of this saga, I deleted the accursed Color World app off my phone and re-downloaded it using this QR code, but this did not relieve my confusion. The QR code loads the same hell app with the nightmarish David Villa video, and nothing else.
Meanwhile, Color Star has replaced the huge banner of Shaquille O’Neal on its “primary” site with one featuring former longtime Real Madrid and La Roja keeper Iker Casillas, but unfortunately the site is now even more borked. A huge video block on the homepage labeled “Concert” fails to load anything; a scroll bar underneath it cycles through brightly colored thumbnails but none of them activate the dead video space; the “Explore Other Courses” pages are as Bom as ever. The website still lists a Gmail address and New York phone number as the only methods of contact, despite Menelly expressing horror and embarrassment when this was pointed out to him more than two weeks ago.
The search for Capetian continues, but for now will have to proceed without any further help from Menelly. After offering to put Defector in touch with Capetian and promising to send along “a little intro video” from a friend in Shanghai more fully explaining the metaverse concept, Menelly took the unusual step of blocking me on LinkedIn, following Defector’s publication of our Color Star story on Dec. 23, the date of his company’s evidently aborted beta launch. But not before reaching out to Defector one final time, at 1:04 p.m. on Christmas Day, to remind us that “Christ teaches love and forgiveness” and that there’s “redemption even for people like you.”