According to a recent report by Cointelegraph Research, the volume of nonfungible tokens (NFTs) sold this year could eclipse $18 billion. From artwork, music and in-game characters to videos and photographs, these minted certificates of ownership for digital assets on blockchains are well sought after by collectors, investors and philanthropists alike. They can also be freely traded across decentralized NFT platforms such as OpenSea. Without further ado, let's look at the biggest trends developing in the NFTs space.
1. Celebrity and contemporary NFTs
Of course, at the number one place this year, as there was no shortage of NFT drops and collaborations in the entertainment industry. Highlights include Mila Kunis' Stone Cats NFTs drops, which sold out in about 35 minutes and caused soaring gas prices on the Ethereum blockchain to process the transactions.
In November, rapper and songwriter Snoop Dogg auctioned off a 3D collage consisting of 10 different portraits of himself at various stages in his professional career, with the winning bid amounting to 188 ETH (around $700,000). In mid-December, NBA star Kevin Durant announced a partnership between his firm Thirty Five Ventures and Coinbase to collaborate on NFT drops.
Then, there was director Quentin Tarantino announcing the auction of seven uncut scenes from Pulp Fiction as NFTs built on the privacy-oriented Secret Network. However, Tarantino may have had too much of an appetite in joining the hype, as productions company Miramax filed a lawsuit against Tarantino over alleged copyright infringement stemming from his NFT sale.
However, as directly rated by crypto enthusiasts, the most popular NFTs are those featuring “pixelated punks” created by artist Crypto Punks. The group currently holds the top sales volume on OpenSea.io with 750,300 Ether (ETH) worth of digital art (about $3 billion in today's price) traded since its inception in 2017. Their success has also attracted partnerships and deals with top Hollywood agents.
2. Play-to-earn NFT games
NFTs are not only meant to be displayed. One blockchain game, Axie Infinity, involves players dueling one another or nonplayable characters and completing daily quests with in-game creatures known as Axies. Each Axie is a unique NFT that can be bought and sold on the Ethereum blockchain. The minting of Axie NFTs is known as breeding in the game, with rarer Axies having better stats and subsequently costing far more. According to its official marketplace, the total volume of Axies bought and sold in the past 30 days amount to over 125,000 ETH, or around $500 million.
In addition, players can purchase virtual land NFTs in the game. Such digital real estate represents locations where monsters and bosses spawn, in addition to hosting an abundance of resources. The most expensive Axie Infinity land ever sold took place last month for 550 ETH ($2.3 million at the time).
Another popular choice is NFT fantasy soccer game Sorare. Through Sorare, players can manage their own soccer teams via digital player NFT cards. According to its CEO, Nicholas Julia, over half a million players joined the platform organically without marketing efforts.
3. Metaverse NFTs
Developments in the Metaverse, a digital realm comprising a 3D augmented reality, have been gaining traction ever since Facebook rebranded itself as Meta back in October. NFTs play a pivotal role in the Metaverse to guarantee the uniqueness of virtual assets such as player avatars. Meta's head of Metaverse products, Vishal Shah, said in an announcement that the new platform “will make it easier for people to sell limited education digital objects like NFTs, display them in their digital spaces and even resell them to the next person securely.”
Right now, there is a massive 21-level skyscraper being built in the Metaverse by Bloktopia to pay homage to the maximum 21 million Bitcoin (BTC) that can ever be created. Notable consumer brands like Adidas and Nike are also entering the Metaverse, partnering with contributors to develop NFT artwork for their namesake brands. Above all, developers at virtual metaverse game Sandbox wish to defend the realm against the threat of monopoly from big tech.
4. NFT philanthropy
There has been significant growth in the number of charities accepting crypto donations in 2021. One platform facilitating such transactions, the Giving Block, saw donations surge to over $100 million this year, compared with $4 million for all of 2020. The firm is partnering with NFT platforms so a portion of auction proceeds can go directly into crypto non-profits, with direct NFT donations being a possible future development route. In the United States, investors can deduct their charitable donations directly against their ordinary income, usually over a few years, resulting in a win-win situation for all.
But, philanthropic ventures in the NFT realm go far beyond. Thus far, NFT auctions have helped raise enough funds to build a school in Uganda and support frontline healthcare workers. In 2022, an up-and-coming NFT auction will help raise awareness for contemporary artists with developmental disabilities. Meanwhile, the proceeds from another will go to a charity of choice by the former Italian royal family.
5. NFT world art
With traditional art, artists have to travel around the world to participate in exhibits and auctions to make their work known — a privilege only reserved to those with sufficient capital. But, with the rise of decentralized NFTs marketplaces, anyone around the world can mint, showcase and sell their art with little startup capital, thereby connecting cultures worldwide.
Two notable mentions are the Melanated NFT Gallery and Mongol NFTs. Melanated NFT Gallery features contemporary African and Latinx artwork such as landscapes, photographs of jazz icon Miles Davis, DJ music, guitar audio, trading cards and other music. Meanwhile, the Mongol NFTs platform contains NFT images of pastoral nomadic steppes of the namesake country and its history, traditions and customs as told by Mongol artists. It has surpassed 100,000 registered users and 1.5 billion Mongolian Tugrik ($550,000) in sales.