Despite an eventful year fraught with crypto collapses and price drops, Steven Goulden, a senior research analyst at crypto trading firm Cumberland has pointed to several “green shoots” to break the surface in crypto in 2023.
In a 14-page “Year in Review” report released on Dec. 24, Goulden said he saw four “emerging narratives” in 2023 that will lead to “significant progress” for crypto over the next six to 24 months.
These include nonfungible tokens (NFTs) becoming a “go-to method” of tokenizing a brand's intellectual property (IP), Web3 apps and games becoming “genuinely popular,” while Bitcoin (BTC) and Ether (ETH) could become more commonly used as a nation’s reserve asset.
Goulden argued that while NFTs have until this point, “largely been confined to the art space,” he believes the next step for NFTs will lie in the marrying of NFTs and a brand’s intellectual property.
The analyst noted that many non-Web3 companies are already making “significant progress” to monetize IP and improve customer engagement using NFTs.
Among those include a Starbucks partnership with Polygon to generate NFTs for Starbucks customers, and Nike’s launch of Swoosh, which enables users to design customized sneaker NFTs.
“Listening to these companies talk about Web3 initiatives, it’s clear they see digital engagement with customers and fans as a new aspect of the retail experience,” said Goulden.
He also noted that “selling NFTs to retail users has the potential to generate material, high-margin revenue.” Nike is a textbook example of that, having generated $200 million from digital sneakers alone. The analyst expects Polygon (MATIC), LooksRare (LOOK) and 0xmon (XMON) to lead the way on this front.
The Cumberland analyst also said that NFTs will become a “go-to method of tokenizing IP,” sharing that there are around $80 trillion of intangible assets that exist on corporate balance sheets today.
Real-world utility apps to gain traction
Goulden also sees the adoption of Web3 platforms providing “real world utility” starting to gain traction in 2023, acknowledging it has been “extremely challenging” to disrupt Web2 monopolies thus far:
“The reality is that it takes time to build and bootstrap projects like these, and so we anticipate material traction is probably 12+ months out, with serious user adoption probably 2-5 years away.”
Some “genuinely useful real world” platforms that Goulden highlighted included IT recruitment platform Braintrust, Internet of Things protocol Helium, GPU rendering service Render, global mapping project Hivemapper and ride sharing app Teleport.
Web3 games to attract “serious” gamers
The analyst was also optimistic about the Web3 gaming market, noting that there are around three billion gamers in the world, 200 million of which are “serious” — representing $200-300 billion in total addressable market.
“[...] yet these users usually don’t own in-game items and have little control or governance over these gaming ecosystems,” said Goulden.
Related: 5 cryptocurrencies to keep an eye on in 2023
Goulden says the play-to-earn aspects of blockchain-based gaming will lead to significant profitability for developers but added that because it takes “around 2-3 years to build a triple A (highest-quality blockbuster) game,” we probably won’t see a “Web3 game that becomes a star” until 2023 or 2024.
BTC and ETH as reserve asset
Finally, the research analyst suggested that close attention should be placed on BTC and ETH’s potential role as a reserve asset, particularly for nations focused on exports.
Goulden said many high-export nations around the world may choose to stock up their reserves with alternative assets such as cryptocurrency instead of United States treasury bills as a means to depress their own currencies against the U.S. dollar:
“Even a small central bank allocation to BTC or ETH would be material and would likely lead to other exporting states following suit.”