In recent months, the emergence of non-fungible tokens has been an incredible things to witness. These tokens — more commonly known simply as NFTs — are essentially offshoots of the ever-expanding cryptocurrency market. They are wholly unique digital assets that can be bought and traded, much like certain real-world, one-of-a-kind playing cards or other collectibles. And with a market for NFTs having emerged more or less overnight, some of these “tokens” are already attaining incredible value.
In many of the most noteworthy cases, the emergence of NFTs has occurred within the world of sports, where non-fungible tokens are essentially digital trading cards. In particular, the NBA’s virtual trading card market — largely represented by a platform known as “NBA Top Shot” — has exploded. Through this platform, officially licensed “moments” (essentially game highlights) are bought and traded like cards. And already, the most valuable of them are being listed for up to $250,000.
NBA Top Shot has largely seized control of the NFT conversation in sports and to some degree in general. But we’ve seen the phenomenon spread throughout other leagues and events as well. Various entities are said to be launching Top Shot-like platforms for the NFL, MLB, and UFC, and a poker marketplace featuring live moments from World Poker Tour events has already emerged as well. This last example may be particularly interesting to watch given that it’s beaten many major sports to market. And with more poker tournaments beginning to spring into action again (following a pandemic hiatus), there’s significant opportunity in this space.
While these trends in sports and gaming have served up many of the highlights that are familiarizing people with NFTs though, the concept has also exploded through the world of art! This is something that’s been brought up here before with respect to emerging art online. In short, NFTs have gone mainstream so quickly as a new medium for digital art that people are now thinking of ways to make it easier for physical artists to benefit from the new space.
What this means is that the art NFT marketplace too has virtually unlimited capacity for growth. Already, the most expensive pieces being sold are turning heads, with one piece by crypto-artist Beeple selling for an astounding $69 million. But as more traditional artists gain entry to the NFT markets and merge with digital and crypto artists, we could well see a whole new world of artistic products changing hands. Just as some see sports NFT markets continuing to thrive because of an inexhaustible stream of fresh highlights and “moments,” there should be a never-ending pipeline of new art tokens as well.
Then again, there are also some who seem to view NFTs less than seriously, and this is another point of view worth considering. The tokens have been accused of bringing us further into a world of make believe, and are viewed by others as nothing more than a passing fad. These are easy opinions to agree with, because in some respects the core concept is illogical. The NFT market is turning unique digital versions of things into unique originals, which is somewhat make-believe. A single person might own an NBA highlight that anyone can view on YouTube; an art collector might purchase a one-of-a-kind digital token for a painting that the painter then sells the physical original of in his hometown. Perhaps in time this will all stop seeming real, and we’ll simply move on from the NFT fad.
So, which of these speaks to what NFTs will ultimately be? Are they primarily going to be modern iterations of sports trading cards? Are they a sustainable new digital marketplace for visual art? Or are they merely a passing fad?
It’s impossible to say at this early stage, but the best guess may be a mix of all three. NFTs may continue to be valuable in both sports and art, even as the current craze over them proves to fade a little bit. Even if that’s the case though, the emergence of non-fungible tokens is proving to be an important and interesting development for artists of all kinds to pay attention to.