9 nonfungible token projects leading the top NFT

9 nonfungible token projects leading the top NFT use cases

An introduction to the top projects leading the way in NFT collectibles, games, marketplaces, art and even domain names

 Nonfungible token are digital representations of assets that are not interchangeable in the real world. While they’ve been around since mid-2017, NFTs gained renewed traction among the crypto community in 2020, after the DeFi boom. In the first half of the year, the amount of USD transferred in the NFT ecosystem reached $232 million — up 52% from the entirety of 2019.

Continuing that trend, the first quarter of 2021 has seen explosive growth in the NFT sphere. The top three NFT platforms saw total sales of $342 million in February — up from $71 million in January. NBA Top Shot — a platform for users to purchase or sell officially licensed NBA digital collectibles — has brought mainstream attention to NFTs and accounted for 67% of the total NFT trading volume. More recently, Beeple’s NFT artwork “Everydays: The First 5000 Days” was sold at Christie’s for a record-breaking $69.3 million.

NFTs are often touted for their potential to revolutionize gaming, collectibles, digital art and other sectors, and while their utility is still being explored, OKEx Insights examines the top nine NFT protocols, by total sales and volumes, across various categories, including collectibles, virtual worlds, gaming, art and domains. The following nine NFT protocols are highlighted in this article:

  1. NBA Top Shot
  2. Cryptopunks
  3. Hashmasks
  4. Sorare
  5. CryptoKitties
  6. Decentraland
  7. Rarible
  8. SuperRare
  9. Ethereum Name Services

1. NBA Top Shot: Giving NFTs prime time

NBA Top Shot is an officially licensed blockchain application from the National Basketball Association, created in partnership with Dapper Labs and built on top of the Flow blockchain.

Each collectible in NBA Top Shot — available as an NFT — contains a short video of an in-game moment (a dunk, a buzzer-beater, a game-winning block and so on) that comes with specific information, including the game the moment came from, the collectible’s rarity, stats of the player it features and seasonal averages alongside recent sales history. 

These moments are sold in a limited number of packs each week, which are categorized in tiers based on their rarity: Common, Rare and Legendary. When the platform comes out of beta, an ultra-rare fourth tier, Ultimate, will be introduced which will include one-of-one “Genesis” moments and one-of-three “Platinum Ice” moments — though they will be sold via auction rather than through pack drops.

The Common, Rare and Legendary moments can also be purchased from other users directly from the platform’smarketplace, and their prices are determined by their tier, featured players and serial numbers.

Featured packs are consistently sold out due to strong user demand. Source: NBA Top Shot

NBA Top Shot has exploded in popularity and topped the total sales in the NFT sphere. On Feb. 23, a Legendary LeBron James moment in the Cosmic Series 1 Set was purchased for $208,000 — the top acquisition of NBA Top Shot collectibles to date. NBA Top Shot has also garnered over $427 million in sales, and its collectibles are owned by more than 333,000 collectors, as of the time of writing. Going forward, NBA Top Shot is expected to launch additional features and games.

2. Cryptopunks: Topping the crypto collectible sales

CryptoPunks is one of the earliest NFTs and consists of 10,000 uniquely generated characters, or “punks.” Each punk is owned by one person, and the ownership is recorded on the Ethereum blockchain. These punks were available for free during the initial release, however, all of them were quickly claimed and are now traded on marketplaces.

Those looking to get a punk can install MetaMask to connect their Ethereum wallets and then buy and sell punks on marketplaces such as OpenSea.

The rarity of a punk is based on its type, attributes and accessories. For instance, males and females are the most common punks, whereas there are only nine alien punks. In addition, each punk has unique accessories such as hats, glasses and so on. The value of each punk is also determined by the number of accessories it has. In general, two or three accessories are the most common while the rarest punks have either zero or seven accessories.

The explosive growth in sales and prices seen by CryptoPunks contributed to the skyrocketing NFT market in February. NFT data provider Cryptoslam revealed that CryptoPunks account for 16 of the top 18 crypto collectible sales, while CryptoPunk 7804 marks the highest crypto collectible sale to date with a price of 4,200 ETH ($7.8 million at the time of purchase).

The CryptoPunk 7804 is an alien punk wearing a forward cap. Source: Cryptoslam.io

3. Hashmasks: Unique, collaborative artwork collectibles

Launched by Suum Cuique Labs in Switzerland, the Hashmasks protocol offers digital art collectibles created by over 70 artists from around the globe. There are a total of 16,384 unique digital portraits (i.e., “Hashmasks”) on the network, and each is unique in terms of its character, mask, eye color, skin color and items. 

Each Hashmask is owned by one user at a time, and the protocol encourages user participation by letting the owner assign a unique name to each artwork. This is done via the platform’s native token — the Name Changing Token, or NCT. Each holder can claim around 10 NCT generated from their Hashmasks every day, and when they hold 1,830 NCT, they can burn them and rename the Hashmask on the Ethereum blockchain. The provenance record of each Hashmask can be traced via the Interplanetary File System.

Users purchased their first Hashmasks during the initial distribution period that started in late January and has since concluded. The purchase prices of Hashmasks were set on a sliding scale — so, the earlier the purchase, the cheaper the price. Users who participated in the initial distribution period also received 3,660 NCTs each, enabling them to make two name changes for their Hashmasks.

Initial distribution period and the price of Hashmasks. Source: Hashmasks

One key difference between Hashmasks and other art NFT protocols is the gamification aspect in which owners are incentivized to hold their masks and claim tokens, which are then used to name the masks on the blockchain.

There are other dynamics at play here, too. For instance, 12.5% of all Hashmask characters are wearing animal masks, while only 5.9% wear pixel masks. The pixel masks may seem more exclusive at first, but a unicorn animal Hashmask is more exclusive, with there being only 13 of them. 

Since the initial distribution in late January, the sales of Hashmasks have reached ETH 27,269 ($45 million) with 4,004 owners. at the time of writing. Hashmask #9939 was sold for 420 ETH and ranked 12th in terms of top crypto collectible sales.

4. Sorare: Ethereum-powered fantasy soccer collectibles

Released in 2019, Sorare is a global fantasy soccer game allowing users to buy, sell and manage a virtual soccer team with digital player cards. Each digital card in Sorare is a nonfungible token based on the ERC-721 standard. 

Since it is powered by blockchain technology, Sorare card owners can verify the scarcity and ownership of their cards as well as transfer them freely. Each player card displays several attributes, such as rarity, average score and experience points. There are three types of player card scarcities in Sorare: Rare, Super Rare and Unique. Each player card has one Unique version, 10 Super Rare copies and 100 Rare copies.

To become a soccer manager in Sorare, users first register their teams and claim 10 common player cards. They can then form a starting squad of five and earn points for players’ performances in actual soccer matches. Users can also compete in various tournaments and get ETH in rewards.

Each player card has three different scarcities. Source: Sorare

Sorare has gained widespread popularity as it secured official licenses of world-class teams such as Real Madrid, Bayern Munich, Liverpool and PSG. The platform also recently raised $50 million in its Series A funding and partnered with Ubisoft to introduce One-Shot League for their players. Sorare has, to date, recorded total sales of 25,967 ETH with over 12,000 owners.

5. CryptoKitties: The first NFT to go mainstream

CryptoKitties is an Ethereum-based game that allows users to collect and breed virtual cats. The game’s tokens are nonfungible, as each one represents a unique digital cat on the blockchain. These digital cats are differentiated in terms of their appearance and traits — their “cattributes.” Given the nature of these tokens, each digital cat represented by an NFT cannot be replicated, destroyed or taken away.

To start breeding digital cats, users need to deposit Ether (ETH) in the game’s official wallet, Dapper. There are two ways to breed new kitties — breeding two of your own kitties or breeding with a public sire (i.e., the father). Users can get their first kitty by making a purchase in the marketplace or bidding for a kitty in the game’s Offers system.

Experienced CryptoKitties players aim to collect as many valuable digital cats as possible. The value of each kitty is determined by its generation and rarity. For generations, a general rule of thumb is that kitties with fewer generations are more valuable than those with a larger number. This is because kitties with fewer generations have faster cooldown speeds, so they can breed more often. 

“Gen 0” is the rarest generation of kitties, with supply fixed at 50,000. This made Gen 0 kitties scarce, and their value increased over time. Apart from generations, kitties that are also considered rare include those with low ID numbers, as well as Exclusive cats or Founder cats, which can all be traded at higher prices on the CryptoKitties marketplace.

CryptoKitties was the first NFT protocol that caught mainstream attention in late 2017. As users could breed rare cats and resell new kitties for a profit, the game attracted significant attention. The surging demand for CryptoKitties led to the number of daily transactions on the Ethereum network reaching an all-time high of 1.349 million in January 2018 — a record that was surpassed in September 2020 amid the DeFi liquidity-mining craze spurred on by Uniswap.

Daily transactions on the Ethereum network hit their previous peak during the CrypoKitties craze. Source: Etherscan, OKEx Insights

While the “prime time” of CryptoKitties has passed, the game retains its iconic status as a leading protocol in the NFT space. The total, all-time trading volume of CryptoKitties currently stands at over 66,000 ETH — or roughly $32.8 million, at the time of writing — with a total of nearly 2 million NFT assets created.

6. Decentraland: A decentralized virtual world

Powered by the Ethereum blockchain, Decentraland is a decentralized virtual world that allows users to use customized avatars, trade collectibles and participate in the virtual world’s governance process. 

To start exploring Decentraland, users need to first connect to a web browser with their crypto wallet. Users can then select and customize their avatar, and each avatar is given a virtual passport representing its identity in Decentraland. Once users have completed the initial setup of their avatar, they can start building their own neighborhood and can buy rare digital assets. 

Participation in Decentraland requires both fungible and nonfungible tokens. MANA is the digital currency used in the Decentraland marketplace. Each MANA token is interchangeable with another MANA token and is, hence, fungible.

MANA can be purchased from any crypto exchange that lists its trading pairs, such as MANA/BTC or MANA/ETH on OKEx.

Users can then spend MANA for parcels or estates of “LAND,” in-game items and even unique names on the marketplace. Apart from the Decentraland marketplace, users can purchase supported items on NFT marketplaces such as OpenSea.

Decentraland also uses LAND, an NFT, to represent the ownership of the parcels and estates. LAND is a nonfungible digital asset maintained by an Ethereum smart contract that represents the parcels of virtual land in Decentraland. Each LAND token represents a unique parcel of land and can be traded on the Decentraland marketplace.

The Decentraland DAO went live in September and encourages user-participation in the governance process. Users can vote on governance proposals, and their voting powers come from three sources:

  • Wrapped MANA: MANA converted into WMANA, each of which equals one voting power unit
  • LAND parcels: Each parcel equals 2,000 voting power units
  • Estates: Each estate equals 2,000 voting power units

Users can cast their votes on various governance topics, including:

  • Features and upgrades of LAND and parcels
  • Marketplace fees
  • Allocation of MANA for development efforts
  • Addition of new wearables to the Decentraland world, builder and marketplace
The governance proposal page of Decentraland. Source: Decentraland

Decentraland records a trading volume of 147,830 ETH ($248 million) and currently has more than 96,000 in-game assets.

7. Rarible: A marketplace for digital collectibles

Rarible is an NFT marketplace founded by Alexander Salnikov and Alexei Falin in January 2020. The Moscow-based platform allows users to mint, buy and sell their rare digital collectibles. Rarible supports a variety of digital collectibles and products, including digital art, domain names, DeFi insurance policies, memes and metaverses.

Rarible lists a wide range of digital art collectibles. Source: Rarible

The minting of digital collectibles in Rarible is relatively straightforward. Users can start by uploading collectibles in any of the supported digital forms (graphic, audio, etc.), followed by adding descriptions and pricing details. After this, users need to connect with their Ethereum wallet to approve minting transactions. 

The NFT minting feature has been appealing to content creators and artists, who can release teasers for their content and give full versions to users only after the purchase of the relevant NFT.

Rarible gained widespread popularity among the crypto community due to its governance token, RARI. While the recent hype around governance tokens stems from the DeFi sphere, Rarible was the first NFT protocol to launch its own governance token.

The launch of RARI is the first step toward Rarible’s ultimate goal: the creation of the Rarible decentralized autonomous organization. As RARI holders, users can submit and vote on system-upgrade proposals, including decisions regarding Rarible’s trading fees and the addition of new features. 

Rarible continues to explore the integration of NFT and DeFi, and it has partnered with Yearn Finance and blockchain-based insurance platform Nexus Mutual to launch insurance coverage NFTs in September 2020. Rarible also recently completed its seed round funding, and RARI reached an all-time high of $24 per token.

At the time of writing, Rarible has recorded all-time volumes of more than 67,000 ETH, or $113 million.

8. SuperRare: A marketplace for single-edition digital artwork

Founded in 2017 by John Crain, SuperRare is a digital art marketplace where artists can tokenize and monetize their authentic, single-edition artwork as collectible digital items. Each work of art on SuperRare is represented by an ERC-721 token, secured by cryptography and traceable on the blockchain.

When artists issue authenticated digital artwork on SuperRare, their artwork is certified on the Ethereum blockchain to prevent forgery and provide historical provenance. In addition, artists can display their artwork in SuperRare using virtual reality galleries and digital displays. Art collectors, on the other hand, can purchase artwork on SuperRare and resell the NFTs on secondary markets, such as OpenSea. All transactions on SuperRare are made with Ether, and buyers need to pay a transaction fee of 3% for all purchases.

Similar to traditional art galleries, SuperRare also charges commission from artists. For primary sales, the artists receive 85% of the revenue, while SuperRare keeps 15%. For secondary sales, the artists receive 10% as royalty.

SuperRare describes itself as a combination of Instagram and Christie’s, and its “Activity” tab has an interface similar to the former, while its marketplace is like the latter — both routes bringing art collectors to a page where they can make online bids for digital artwork.

Users at SuperRare can track trending works of art. Source: SuperRare

To date, SuperRare’s all-time trading volume surpassed 28,913 ETH — equivalent to roughly $48.6 million, at the current ETH price — and the platform has sold over 20,000 pieces of digital art.

9. Ethereum Name Services: The leading NFT in domain names

Founded by the Ethereum Foundation in May 2017, Ethereum Name Services is an open, distributed and extensible naming system based on the Ethereum blockchain. The protocol has more than 190,000 registered names and has integrated over 100 wallets and decentralized applications to date.

The native TLD — i.e., top-level domain — is “.ETH” on ENS. These “.ETH” domain names are unique and nonfungible, represented by ERC-721-compliant NFTs, and they are available for purchase and trading on NFT markets such as OpenSea and Rarible.

.ETH domain names listed for sale on OpenSea. Source: OpenSea

Since these domain names adhere to the ERC-721 NFT standard, they can also seamlessly plug into NFT markets and wallet interfaces, enhancing NFT and DeFi integrations.

Ethereum Name Services is the leading NFT in its sector, with an all-time trading volume of over 7,119 ETH ( $12 million) and more than 31,000 owners, according to OpenSea.

Top five NFTs in domain names with ENS ranking first. Source: OpenSea

NFTs are gaining mainstream adoption in 2021

While 2020 laid down a solid foundation for NFTs, 2021 has seen them go mainstream with major partnerships from sectors including sports and digital art. Soccer and basketball fans saw value in NFTs via NBA Top Shot and Sorare, while Beeple’s record $69.3 million sale of his digital art shook the art scene. Moving forward, we can expect NFTs to thrive further as UFC and MotoGP also plan to bring their huge fanbase to the NFT space.



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