The metaverse is gradually becoming a mainstream concept with Non-fungible tokens (NFTs) taking centre stage in the crypto ecosystem. Looking back at the year 2021, a lot of developments have taken place, but perhaps the biggest growth has been in the NFT space. So, what’s behind this booming trend? At the very core, the metaverse and NFTs introduce a futuristic iteration of the internet where users can exist virtually.
While the crypto ecosystem has been around for over a decade, the metaverse and NFTs are significantly spurring adoption by attracting more people from different industries. Some of the industries at the forefront of integrating NFTs include the gaming sector, creative industry, entertainment and the sports industry. Stakeholders from these sectors are playing a fundamental role in building the metaverse.
Moving on to the growth trends, the NFT market has skyrocketed in 2021 as various projects launched to serve the growing demand. According to DappRadar’s Q3 blockchain game report, NFT-related games such as Axie Infinity and Splinterlands experienced a massive increase in user activity and volumes. Axie Infinity generated $2.08 billion in Q3 trading volumes while its cousin Splinterlands recorded over 245,000 daily User Active Wallets (UAW).
Meanwhile, NFT projects such as The Sandbox and Decentraland which are focusing on metaverse lands have also experienced a surge in trading volumes. The Sandbox recorded $86 million in virtual land sales during the last week of November while Decentraland followed with $15 million. As more people join in on the hype, metaverse lands are becoming more expensive; a trend that will likely continue into 2022.
Well, before predicting the future, let’s dive into a recap of some of the NFT projects that made headlines in 2021.
1) The Sandbox
The Sandbox is one of the growing metaverse ecosystems, featuring a total of 166,464 land parcels. Players who purchase these land parcels can build, own and monetize their virtual experiences. Ideally, The Sandbox introduces a virtual economy where stakeholders, including creatives and gamers, can display their content or games while earning SAND token rewards for participation.
While the project has been in existence since 2019, the first play-to-earn season was launched as recently as November 29th. This milestone has significantly increased the demand for land parcels on The Sandbox. According to the September land sale prices, a piece of land went for as much as 1011 SAND ($7,153 per the prevailing prices). The figure is expected to go much higher following the debut of ‘Play The Alpha’ initiative that will run up to 20th December.
Notably, The Sandbox community has also grown past 15,000 users coupled with the support of an additional 750,000 from various social media channels. Popular celebrities like Snoop Dogg are some of the notable figures that have partnered with The Sandbox. The rapper is set to unveil a replica of his villa on The Sandbox where he will display his NFT collections and host metaverse parties.
2) Axie Infinity
Axie Infinity took the NFT ecosystem by a storm, setting the stage as one of the pioneer play-to-earn (p2e) games. This blockchain-based game is built on Ethereum’s sidechain ‘Ronin’ which eliminates the low latency and high transaction cost associated with the Ethereum blockchain. Axie Infinity first gained traction amongst South East Asia countries, with players in the Philippines making a decent living during its early days.
While the incentives have since reduced, Axie Infinity’s ecosystem has continued on an upward trajectory in the past few months. At its core, the game allows players to own metaverse creatures ‘Axies’; fierce creatures that love to battle, build and hunt for treasure.
These digital creatures can be traded through the Axie marketplace, enabling players to buy more advanced in-game items to enhance their performance. So far, over 2.7 billion Axie NFTs have exchanged hands through the Axie marketplace. Players who participate also have an opportunity to earn SLP tokens for completing daily tasks such as PvP battles and mini-games. So far, over 2.7 billion Axie NFTs have exchanged hands through the Axie marketplace.
Unlike The Sandbox and Axie Infinity, the Envoy NFT ecosystem is designed to introduce professional onboarding services into the metaverse. Currently, only a handful of people know how to navigate the NFT ecosystem. Envoy solves this shortcoming by offering technical and structural support to creatives and gamers looking to mint their own NFTs or develop p2e gaming ecosystems.
The Envoy NFT label targets both established businesses and individual creatives. Essentially, Envoy creates NFTs from the ground up on behalf of their clients. This can be done solely through Envoy’s resources or in collaboration with other stakeholders in the NFT industry. Creatives who hire Envoy for their NFT services can also access a consumer market, allowing them to sell their NFTs or buy other digital collectibles.
The project has also gone a notch higher to offer community incentives for $ENVOY token holders; they can hold or farm this native token through Envoy’s vault in return for Pearls. These pearls are a gateway to more incentives such as unique rewards in the form of NFTs. Additional features of the Envoy ecosystem include cross-platform aggregation and legal structure guidance to navigate the murky NFT waters.
Splinterlands is another NFT game that has experienced tremendous growth within a short period. The game is built on the Hive blockchain and features a p2e tactical trading card game. Players are required to buy a $10 Summoner’s Book, giving them access to the Splinterlands card gaming ecosystem. With this set of cards, players can engage in PvP battles amongst other featured games.
The idea is to engage in card battles to earn a rarer set with a much higher value. Splinterlands has built an interoperable bridge to the Wax blockchain which means that players can wrap these digital collectibles and trade them on other blockchain networks. As for the platform’s operations, Splinterland features three in-house tokens; Credits (in-game currency), DEC (earned from competing in card battles) and SPS (the native governance token).
According to DappRadar statistics, the number of active wallets on Splinterlands within the past 24 hours is well over 450,000 while transaction volumes stand at $3.84 million. Going by these numbers, Splinterlands will likely hold its fort as one of the most active NFT gaming ecosystems.
The concept of the metaverse and NFTs might seem like a fad; of course, there is a probability, but the trends are proving that betting against NFTs is likely not the smartest move as of press time. This upcoming virtual world has not only garnered the support of traditional art galleries, but also prominent figures such as Dallas Mavericks Mark Cuban. As we usher in 2022, the NFT ecosystem is one of the areas where traditional and crypto investors ought to follow closely.
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