The year 2021 was mostly defined by the many ongoing trends in the NFT space to such an extent that Collins dictionary chose “NFT” as its “Word of the Year for 2021”. To justify it best, the NFT market generated over $40 billion in trading volume in 2021 – a remarkable feat for digital artworks that only gained hype last year.
Though NFTs have been around since 2017, the craze took over intensively when Metakovan spent an astonishing $69.3 million on Beeple’s “Everydays: The First 5000 days”. While people were processing how a JPG can be worth millions, pixelated faces called “CryptoPunks” made a big splash with a sale of around $7.5 million for a pixel portrait of an alien punk.
The climbing NFT prices reflected the acceptance of digital art as NFTs which otherwise was a much-diminished version of what it is now. Here are the highlights on how the NFT market blasted off to a startling top echelon of the decentralized world in 2021.
Viral NFT Trends of 2021
When we talk about NFTs, most of us think of them as digital artworks, but it’s so much more than that. NFTs can be represented as video clips, sports highlights, images, gifs, memes, or even a tweet. Surprisingly, NFTs have covered all formats and domains in 2021.
To start with, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey sold his first tweet as an NFT for $2.9 million. Later in 2021, Twitter’s NFT giveaway, “The 140 Collection” fetched $5.3 million in trading volume on NFT marketplace OpenSea.
As if that wasn’t shocking enough for the general public, the entertainment industry ramped up its fan base through NFT releases. Marvel released Spider-Man NFTs, followed up with more exciting drops including Captain America NFT collection and Fantastic Four comics NFTs. This prompted Warner Bros to dip their toes in having a little NFT fun. They then produced 100,000 ‘Matrix’-inspired avatars as NFTs.
While the NFTs were burning hot, Fox Entertainment entered the NFT space with $100 million to put into NFTs. At the end of the year, WWE tied up with Fox entertainment to launch an NFT marketplace. The buzz was not limited to entertainment; it stretched further and beyond, and some amazing NFT projects became viral as a result.
Trending NFT Projects of the year
You can imagine the hype if the project has raised over $40 million in a blink – that’s the Loot Project we are talking about. Loot, unlike any other NFT project, is a randomized adventurer gear-generated NFTs that appear as black cards. These black cards with random words written on them are called adventure chest bags. In that, one can choose items in the bags including foot, hand, head, weapon, and neck, etc, and can create anything they want from it.
This new approach towards NFTs has gained a lot of attention and hence Loot Project exploded in popularity in no time.
Another NFT project that awestruck collectors, speculators, investors, and everyone in the crypto space was Curated NFT Projects by Art Blocks. Art Block grabbed attention for being the only marketplace incorporating programmable on-demand generative NFTs at that time.
Both of these projects enjoyed immense popularity for expanding NFTs’ conventional aspects into fascinating concepts.
NFT Artists strong fandom in 2021
We just talked about Beeple’s extraordinary $69.3 million NFT sales. Well, that’s not his only NFT weighed in millions. Though he released a slew of NFTs throughout the year, his other artwork – “Human one” NFT exploded as one of the most expensive art pieces auctioned last year, fetching $28.9 million.
2021, was in fact can be marked as the major shift in the art industry, particularly for digital artists and animators who do not always receive the recognition they deserve. One such artist is Pak, an anonymous tech-savvy digital creator who snatched the headlines from mainstream NFTs with his experimental programmable NFT collections.
His NFT Projects maintained his buzz in the NFT market throughout the year with projects like “Lost Poet” and “The Fungible”. Both of these projects brought in over $75 million and $17 million in primary sales respectively.
Later in the year, he made record-smashing sales worth $91.8 million with his “Merge NFT project“, ranking first in the list of highest-paid NFT creators in 2021. In this project, 312,686 units of mass were merged to create a unique NFT for each collector. With this large sum, he also took first place in the list of top NFT artists in terms of sales volume.
The huge hits stirred hope in many aspiring artists, seeing the possibilities the NFT industry holds. Even celebrities, major business leaders, and sports personalities took a great deal of interest in NFTs, which brings us to our next topic: CryptoPunks and Bored Ape Yacht Club.
Stars’ new obsession – Pixelated faces and Cartoonish Apes
Early in 2021, CryptoPunks has grabbed the bulk of headlines with its prices perking up to millions of dollars. The involvement of big names and companies gave a further push, making CryptoPunk NFTs – a Twitter avatar and status symbol. In the most expensive NFTs of the year list, CryptoPunk 7523 worth $11.75 million holds 4th position, twinning with Punk 4156 worth $10.26 million at 5th rank.
CryptoPunks in a true sense has gained ground in 2021 with famous CEOs and celebrities using Punks as their profile pic on their social media handles.
To name a few, Snoop Dogg, Marshmello, Jay Z, Jordan Belfort, and Mark Pincus are some famous folks that fueled the hype around Punks. Following the suit, Visa also purchased CryptoPunk, setting its foot in the crypto space.
Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC), a cartoonish apes NFT collection, popped up that bore striking similarities with CryptoPunks in terms of utility. A majority of interest was driven by celebrities hopping on the BAYC bandwagon including rapping god Eminem, NBA star Stephen Curry and talk show host Jimmy Fallon.
BAYC and CryptoPunks have always been tussling over floor prices, with one toppling the other every few months, maintaining a healthy rivalry throughout 2021. The year wrapped up with Adidas’ announcement to explore the metaverse through BAYC, gmoney NFT, and PUNKS comic. Many companies and influential personalities also took a lead to delve into metaverse utilizing NFT at its best. Let’s know more.
True utility of NFTs in Metaverse
To begin with, Facebook changed its 17-year-old brand name to Meta, this perceived as its initiative to join the wave of Metaverse adoption. While Facebook (now Meta) revealed its Metaverse-focused approach. Other social media platforms including Instagram, Reddit, and Discord took their first steps towards embracing NFTs.
Snoop Dogg, who has a huge fan following on his Twitter handle ‘Cozomo de’ Medici,’ which is dedicated solely to NFTs, entered Metaverse. In his own signature style, he arrived with ‘Snoopverse LANDs auction’ in The Sandbox, a virtual Metaverse. His Metaverse mansion ‘Snoopverse’ also got a neighbor who paid a stunning $450k.
In fact, The Sandbox Metaverse we are talking about is an amalgamation of the virtual universe and Play-To-Earn game. Axie Infinity is another such game built on the Metaverse concept as well. We’ll get to Play-To-Earn games in a minute to fill in the gaps.
Before that, let us conclude that NFTs are real things. Perhaps not so real to be called tangible, but they are undeniably a game-changer in every way. When we say game-changer, we literally mean it. Let’s know how it changed the gaming industry, possibly forever.
NFTs integration into Play-To-Earn Games
NFTs have boomed in 2021, with many traditional approaches taking a turn too – gaming is one of them. NFTs have recognized a fresh gaming model called Play-To-Earn games in 2021. In this, NFTs are integrated into games such that gamers can create, buy and sell in-game items as NFTs across various marketplaces.
For example, Axie Infinity became the most popular game in the gaming industry. Its Play-To-Earn gameplay allows players to create a collection of “Axies”, Pokemon-like little monsters which you can breed, battle and trade, in turn earning rewards. These rewards are in the form of NFTs or the platform’s native tokens, which you can sell to generate passive income.
The Wolf Game is another fantastic game in the Play-To-Earn category. This game took a step further to make the gameplay more exciting. In this particular game, players can not only win NFT rewards, but they can also steal NFTs during a gaming tussle.
The year ended with Ubisoft’s new platform – Ubisoft Quartz. On this platform, players can buy and earn in-game NFTs called ‘Digits’. Other NFT games that remained at the forefront of the NFT craze were Gods Unchained, Splinterlands, F1 Delta Time, The Sandbox, Alien Worlds, DeRace, Battle Racers, Rabbids Tokens, and so on.
Basically, the Play-To-Earn gaming model has empowered the gaming community and has introduced a user-driven economy. This way, gamers get a chance to monetize their time and efforts while playing their favorite games.
To say the least, NFTs have truly evolved in 2021 with Metaverse and Play-To-Earn games.
NFT Craze and Celebrities
The biggest push for NFTs came when celebrities from various domains, including sports, entertainment, business leaders, and many more, saw the potential of NFTs. While many released their NFT collections, some even launched their own NFT platform.
Tom Brady, for instance, an American football player, launched his own NFT marketplace “Autograph” in early 2021. In a year’s end, he dropped an NFT series titled “Live Forever” highlighting his early NFL career. Many celebrities like The Weeknd and Sam Bankman joined his platform ‘Autograph’.
Sports personalities were greatly immersed in the NFT space. NFTs offered them an exciting way to interact with their fans and also monetize iconic moments of the match. Bolt, Messi, LeBron James, and Michael Jordan are among such sports sensations that went wild on NFTs.
After reading this many sports legends’ names in one, it won’t come as a surprise to you that NFT paved its way to the Olympics as well. You heard it right, the international Olympics committee launched tradeable Olympic Pins as NFTs offering Olympic-themed entertainment experiences for fans.
Mike Shinoda, Linkin Park’s Frontman, released new music titled Ziggurats in a generative NFT series. Many in the music industry including Steve Aoki, Grimes, Shawn Mendes, Eminem, and Snoop Dogg, joined the NFT frenzy.
We know about Jack Dorsey and his tweet NFT, but he is not the only famous CEO who entered the NFT market. Elon Musk, Tesla and SpaceX CEO, also created a music track about the NFT mania and later auctioned it off as NFT.
Speaking of celebrities, there are a lot of names on the list who went crazy on NFTs – Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Ellen DeGeneres, Kate Moss, Cara Delevingne, and Emily Ratajkowski are among them.
The year of NFT Mass Adoption
In a nutshell, 2021 was jam-packed with NFT releases. With so much already happening in the NFT industry, many companies and organizations were influenced. Even the United Nations showed a green flag to NFTs by launching the DigitalArt4Climate campaign. The initiative promoted NFTs assisting in climate empowerment and resource mobilization.
Recognizing the increasing NFT adoption, iconic auction houses such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s also integrated the NFT marketplace on their platforms. Sotheby went a step ahead to launch the NFT charity auction later in 2021. The aim was to donate the profit from the auction to Sustento’s healthcare workers. It’s not an overstatement when we say that NFTs have also been utilized for better causes.
Crypto exchanges and wallets such as Binance, FTX, Blockchain.com, Gemini and more, also introduced their own NFT marketplaces. Though NFT is all about a decentralized approach towards art, these marketplaces work on a centralized model. Super Rare, one of the renowned marketplace, in mid-2021 launched RARE token to decentralize their NFT marketplace. This step itself was a major move for NFT culture.
With year-end approaching, Adobe photoshop introduced a new feature to support NFT verification on marketplaces. This feature allowed users to save an image as an NFT
Brands using NFTs for Promotion
No sector has been spared from the NFTs craze. Giant fast-food brands didn’t lag to embrace NFTs as well. These big companies include MacD, Burger King, Coca-Cola, Taco Bell, Red Bull, and the list goes on.
Top magazines, which have typically been the first to report breaking events, became the talk of the town themselves with their NFT releases. For instance, Time Magazine was involved in many NFT projects like Cool Cats and their own ‘TIMEPieces’ NFT collection. Rolling Stone also entered the NFT market in collaboration with a massive hit collection – BAYC.
After reviewing every domain that participated in the NFT arena, we can conclude that 2021 was simply spectacular for NFTs. These trendy digital assets undoubtedly introduced people to crypto and blockchain. The mix of enticing artworks with cutting-edge technology has enabled many artists to reach a larger audience in 2021.
Undoubtedly, in the next few years, NFTs will no longer be a strange idea, but rather a commonplace reality. NFTs have made decentralized culture more approachable, and 2022 is likely to see full-fledged NFT adoption!
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