The non-fungible token (NFT) market tripled in 2020, with the total value of transactions increasing by 299% year on year to more than $250m, according to a new study released by NonFungible.com, an NFT market analyst firm. Developed with support from foresight business L’Atelier BNP Paribas, the report – the third annual study of the NFT market – finds that NFTs are primed to become a leading emerging asset class for the Virtual Economy in the years ahead, both in terms of their financial value and their practical uses, and a major driver of economic activity in virtual worlds.
NFTs are digital blockchain-linked assets that, unlike Cryptocurrencies, are completely unique and not interchangeable with any other asset. Examples range from plots of virtual land in multi-user platforms, to programmable art, to ownership records for physical assets. Because they are unique and impossible to replicate, they can bridge the gap between the virtual and the physical economies, offering a huge market of valuable digital goods that can be scaled, collected, and traded.
The report, which uses proprietary technology to track activity in the NFT market, found that the total value of all NFT transactions (which includes sales and all other transactions such as “breeding”, “minting” and renting) increased from to $62,862,687 in 2019 to $250,846,205 in 2020. In addition, NonFungible.com also found that market activity has increased significantly: the total number of active wallets transacting NFTs (including buying, selling, holding or using them in a blockchain application) skyrocketed, growing 97%, from 112,731 in 2019 to 222,179 in 2020. Similarly, the number of buyers and sellers rose from 44,644 to 74,529 (+66%), and 25,264 to 31,504 (+24%), respectively. The number of active wallets accelerated throughout 2020, suggesting even stronger growth ahead in 2021: Q4’s total growth was twice Q3’s, and three times that of Q2.
NFT traders have also experienced unprecedented financial performance, with profits of up to $500,000 in a single year and certain traders able to generate annual profits in excess of $100,000 from trading NFTs.
Meanwhile, big name brands are increasingly entering the space, creating lucrative NFT-based consumer goods and services. These include fashion and luxury brands like Nike, Louis Vuitton and Breitling creating virtual fashion products; sports brands like Turner Sports, NBA, F1 and PSG, as well as entertainment brands like BBC, Warner Music, and Paramount creating online collectables and games; video game studios like Ubisoft and Atari creating virtual worlds, games and tokens; and tech companies like IBM, AMD and Samsung creating new services and utilities.
“As the boundaries between virtual and physical worlds become ever more blurred, we are seeing the rapid growth of virtual economies online, each offering a diversity of employment, investment and commercial opportunities,” said Nadya Ivanova, COO and & foresight lead at L’Atelier BNP Paribas. “For all the hype around cryptocurrencies, it is non-fungible tokens that are driving and enabling much of the economic activity and use cases within virtual platforms, and they are likely to become both an important asset class and a foundation for the virtual economy in the next decade. Investors and brands that want to capitalise on the shift to virtual activity should start by paying close attention to the NFT market as it continues to mature and grow.”
The growth of the NFT market is partly the result of the increase in online activity following the pandemic, but also reflects a wider and accelerating trend towards people spending more of their time – and money – in virtual spaces on virtual goods, services and experiences.
“The exponential growth of the NFT market in 2020 has been remarkable, and historic,” said Dan Kelly, CEO and co-founder of NonFungible.com. “The ecosystem is no longer just a speculative industry; it’s a value creation industry, reaching newfound maturity, utility and growth. We’re still in the early days of a young and developing space with many new ideas and projects formulating, a testament to the loyal and tight-knit groups who have evolved around the NFT ecosystem. But these are laying the foundations of a future mainstream economy that will change the very way we relate to our online worlds.”