The year 2021 could go down as the year that NFTs became the talk of cryptocurrency and a favorite for many investors. This may be the start of a multiple year run or a one-time moment in the spotlight. Benzinga recently chatted with several NFT investors and industry experts to recap the exciting year for the sector.
The NFT Experts: Benzinga spoke to the following for their takes on NFTs in 2021.
Josh Ong – NFT Collector, NFT Consultant
Hunter Orrell – Web 3.0 Investor
Matt Higgins – Co-founder, CEO RSE Ventures
Big Brands: An ongoing theme in 2021 was the push from major brands to expand into the NFT sector. This included the likes of PepsiCo (NYSE:PEP) with their own NFT launch, Nike Inc (NYSE:NKE) buying RTFKT and Adidas (OTC:ADDYY) partnering with Bored Ape Yacht Club, PUNKS Comics and Gmoney.
VaynerNFT was among the companies that helped onboard big brands like Pepsi to the NFT space.
“Bringing centuries of brand-building experience with them, brands joining the NFT space legitimizes it in major ways, while opening the floodgates for mainstream consumers,” Akkineni said.
Doucet was more cautious of big brands entering the space, calling some of the entries “half-baked efforts.” Doucet praised Adidas, who is taking their time to enter in a “tasteful and community-centric fashion.”
Ong shared some of the caution from Doucet.
“There’s going to be some tension between the decentralized values from those early to the space and brands’ inclinations toward high control and centralization,” Ong said. “Internal advocates at these brands will play a crucial part in helping them navigate their transition to web3.”
Orrell said big brands help onboard more people to the NFT space but said the NFT ecosystem isn’t reliant on big brands.
“My honest opinion is that brands that use NFTs well and build unique and industry leading mechanics for their fans will be the ones that are important and not the brands who are just slapping NFT onto everything,” Orrell said.
Bored Ape Yacht Club: Every month in 2021 featured major storylines for the NFT collection Bored Ape Yacht Club. By the end of 2021, Bored Apes had briefly passed the floor price of CryptoPunks, representing a flipping of the old blue chip by the new blue chip.
Ong, who owns two Bored Ape NFTs, was surprised to see Apes pass CryptoPunks this soon.
“I’m definitely bullish on the utility that comes with membership in the Yacht Club and the momentum of having an active team on the project,” Ong said.
Orrell, who is a member of the Bored Ape community, said he originally didn’t think the flipping would happen in 2021. A key moment in 2021 led Orrell to believe Apes would pass Punks in value by early 2022.
“Towards the middle of the year you could tell the community was different and that Yuga Labs were executing at a level almost no one else was,” Orrell said. “I remember seeing the lines for BAYC events in NYC and realizing it wasn’t just owners anymore, but now fans of the brand joined the lines.”
Doucet said the trend could continue in 2022 with Apes getting passed by a different NFT collection.
Higgins admits he didn’t see Bored Apes flipping CryptoPunks in floor price valuation in 2021. Higgins, who is an investor in Axie Infinity and Dapper Labs, said Gary Vaynerchuk showed him CryptoPunks in March and suggested he buy some.
“Open your phone right now and buy five of them!” Higgins said Vee told him, admitting he did not buy any Punks at the time.
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2021 Trends: While NFTs were an overall surging trend in 2021 even passing searches for “cryptocurrency” during the year on Google, there were several trends within the NFT sector including PFPs, play-to-earn and NFT utility.
“PFPs are here to stay, but will take massive leaps forward in late 2022 and 2023 once Twitter, Discord and other web2 platforms get on board,” Doucet said.
Utility was the biggest trend Akkineni pointed to for NFTs in 2021.
“We anticipate the trend will continue; with physical, digital and experiential access granted by token ownership,” Akkineni said.
Higgins called out tokenomics driven by utility as a key trend in 2021.
“Cyberkongz really blazed the trail in my opinion by developing a strong community underpinned by thoughtful tokenomics, aka bananas,” Higgins said.
Tokenomics and utility are the reasons why Higgins sees play to earn as the next multi-billion dollar industry as a natural extension of what is already happening with gaming.
“How many billions of dollars are spent on skins with no utility beyond in-game performance or prestige? Now layer in the ability to earn tokens in the metaverse and actually own the underlying IP of an NFT that itself might appreciate in value – it’s going to be massive.”
Can Ethereum Be Caught?: The majority of big NFT collections were minted on the Ethereum (CRYPTO: ETH) blockchain in 2021.
“I honestly can’t wait for the day where we don’t even talk or care about what blockchain an NFT is on. In the near future, asking what chain the NFT is on will be like asking what mobile provider you use to surf Instagram – who cares!” Doucet said.
Ong highlighted Solana (CRYPTO: SOL), Polygon (CRYPTO: MATIC) and Immutable X (CRYPTO: IMX) being used for NFTs in 2021.
“This doesn’t have to be a winner-take-all, especially as better cross-chain solutions arrive,” Ong said.
Orrell highlighted Polygon as a potential winner going forward thanks to almost nonexistent gas fees. Orrell also singled out Tezos as a surprising success story in 2021.
“My prediction is that we will see Polygon and Tezos grow more in 2022, especially Polygon due to P2E gaming,” Orrell said.
Higgins suggested Alogrand (CRYPTO: ALGO) as an NFT cryptocurrency to watch.
“They are building something special and in many ways superior to ETH,” Higgins said.
Higgins said it will be a long time before Ethereum gets knocked from its NFT leadership position.
Growth of Discord, Twitter Spaces: Two companies that have benefitted from the growth of NFTs are Discord and Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) thanks to its Spaces function.
“It’s (Discord) very similar to the chat rooms we frequented in the 1990s and provides that at the end of the day, the metaverse we all desire is just a basic chat with emojis and like-minded people,” Doucet said of Discord.
Akkineni called Discord the “lifeblood of the NFT community today” and said NFT news breaks on Twitter.
“I do see room for another player in the space; particularly in bridging the social aspects of users displaying NFT collections; which is a bit of a gap at the moment,” Akkineni said.
Orrell sees other social media platforms LinkedIn and Instagram gaining from more NFT brands using the sites from a “marketing perspective and cultural perspective.”
Higgins came up with a great analogy to explain how important Discord is to the NFT community.
“Discord is to the metaverse what lithium batteries are to Tesla. Maybe one day something else might power a Tesla, but for now, without those batteries, there is no Tesla,” Higgins said.
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