The advent of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) comprised a series of projects by blockchain developers who aimed to demonstrate novel use-cases of blockchain technology. CryptoPunks and CryptoKitties are two of the most famous early NFT projects, and they paved the way for the explosion of NFTs into the mainstream. Still, adoption has been slow. Crypto companies may have started the movement, but non-crypto companies and popular brands have a bigger part to play in accelerating NFT adoption.
The Early Days – CryptoPunks and CryptoKitties
CryptoPunks was one of the earliest and most famous NFT projects on the Ethereum blockchain. It was released in 2017 by Larva Labs, a two person team of software developers. Some of the 10,000, procedurally generated, 24 x 24 pixel portraits have since sold for over USD 7 million, and the total volume of sales over the lifetime of the project is close to reaching a billion dollars.
The image above shows the top 4 CryptoPunks by their most recent sale prices. These 8-bit style portraits don’t look like much on their own, but their significance lies beyond the pure aesthetic – these NFTs were one of the first on the Ethereum blockchain, and were the inspiration for the development of the ERC-721 standard on which most NFTs were built thereafter.
In November the same year, Dapper Labs released CryptoKitties, a game that allows players to collect, trade, and breed virtual cats. Each CryptoKitty has a combination of different features, and built into the smart contract itself is a genetic algorithm that determines the inheritance and random mutations of the bred kitties. By December, CryptoKitties transactions took up about 15% of all Ethereum network traffic.
The CryptoKitty Dragon, as pictured above, sold in 2018 for 600 ETH (USD 172,000 at the time), and is the most expensive CryptoKitty to date. There are now over 1.9 million CryptoKitties in existence, amounting to over $40 million in sales over the lifetime of the project.
Accelerating NFT Adoption
Despite the overwhelming success of CryptoPunks and CryptoKitties, the majority of people still don’t know what an NFT is. Though many artists and brands with no relation to blockchain have entered the market with great success, it’s clear that crypto companies are still dominating the NFT market, for obvious reasons.
But the NFT market isn’t just a playground for the tech-savvy. It has real transformational potential for the way that individual creators interact with markets, and accessibility to the market is only improving. Still, accessibility alone cannot lead to widespread adoption. First, we need to raise awareness, and prove the relevance of NFTs to the everyday person.
Widespread adoption will occur only when the NFT market is saturated with content that provides real cultural value to the masses. The participatory nature of media today indicates that people are more ready than ever to embrace technologies that facilitate the kind of instantaneous, peer-to-peer sharing that is possible with NFTs. All we have to do now is give people what they really want – content that is culturally relevant to them.
Facilitating drops with popular artists, celebrities, and non-crypto brands is an essential part of raising awareness, because these drops create relevance. It brings NFTs to a different demographic. Those who wouldn’t take a second look at a CryptoPunk, but would froth at the mouth over the prospect of owning the only video of Tony Hawk’s last-ever 540 degree ollie.
Raising Awareness Through Drops With Non-Crypto Brands
American quarterback Trevor Lawerence, the no.1 pick in the 2021 NFL draft, teamed up with Topps to release a six-piece NFT trading card collection on Mintable.app. The collection was created in collaboration with professional artist duo Chase and Brooke Lawerence, who also happen to be Trevor’s brother and sister-in-law.
The entire lot of NFTs generated close to USD 400,000. Its success not only allowed us to reach a wider audience, but also demonstrated that sports fans are receptive to new forms of engagement that depart from the traditional models where bridges between athletes and audiences are monopolized by large sporting agencies.
Another prominent project that we facilitated was the drop by CNBC on 24 May, 2021, where a video of the ‘Haines Bottom’ (the term coined from the 2009 financial crisis when Mark Haines called the bottom of the stock market) was auctioned off.
Proceeds from the auction were split between Autism Speaks, a favorite charity of the Haines family, and the Council for Economic Education which supports financial literacy. CNBC also worked with a firm called Aerial to make sure that this was a completely carbon-neutral campaign. We were very grateful to be a part of this project as it was for a good cause, and demonstrated the potential of NFTs as a means of social transformation.
At Mintable, our mission is to democratize access to NFTs and accelerate the adoption of this amazing technology. By doing these drops, we hoped to reach new audiences with culturally relevant NFTs, and demonstrate how NFTs can provide a new means of participation and engagement. After all, adoption requires awareness, and we’re committed to helping everyone understand the true value that NFTs can bring into our lives.