NFT Uses: A Guide to Key Categories and Their Utility
|— NFTs are a vehicle for culture and digital ownership, a gateway into new communities, and an essential building block of the creator economy. |
— Creative “one off” works of digital art have thrust previously unknown talents into the spotlight. Their compositions are garnering hefty prices and are inspiring the next generation of talents to enter the scene.
— Avatar NFTs and PFPs serve to generate socio-economic value for like minded communities with projects like Bored Ape Yacht Club leading the way.
— The blockchain generated metaverse is primed to change the landscape of online life. From purchasing a fully customizable house to swagging out your NFT avatar in fresh apparel created by others, the possibilities are endless to craft your own reality.
— Let’s take a few minites to discuss NFT uses
If you feel lost or your eyes glaze over a little bit when NFT’s are mentioned, that’s totally understandable. For newcomers to this exploding scene, it might be hard to decipher just why NFTs are so popular – what is their function, and how useful can a digital cat picture really be?
Hey – we feel you. No one is expected to be an expert on everything and we all have much to learn, but our hope is that this brief glossary of NFT uses will help you understand the culture and landscape of NFTs and maybe even chart your course.
The 1/1 Composition
A pretty common misconception about NFTs is that they are all about art, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Nonetheless, let’s tackle art collectibles first, and explain why the market for them is so feverish.
For the longest time, artists have been told that they should get a so-called “real job” and that they’ll never make it. The boom of NFTs has made those nay-sayers eat their words.
Let’s take a look at one of the scene’s agenda setters. At the ripe age of 18 FEWOCiOUS is one of the biggest names in digital art and their story is as beautiful as it is inspiring. Having run away from an abusive household to live with his grandmother at age 12 and struggling with gender identity, Victor’s only refuge was art. Under the name FEWOCiOUS, they poured their heart into digital and physical compositions that their grandmother would label as “ugly.” The world did not agree. Their first work sold on the NFT platform SuperRare for $7,320 and his success has snowballed ever since. Fast forward to 2021 and his 5 piece collection titled, “Hello, I’m Victor and this is my Life” auctioned for a staggering $2.16 Million at Christies.
Much like other creators who have made their name in digital art, Victor’s story does not end at a Christie’s auction. The creator economy is here to stay, and brave talents like Victor are leading the charge. But in reality, most NFTs are not one off piece, so let’s take a deep dive into the many NFT uses and applications to show how this game changing technology is being used.
NFT Avatars and PFPs
Avatars and PFPs are further examples of commpon NFT uses. Avatars are generated images of a character, normally in a “headshot” format. Each one is unique in appearance as they contain different algorithmically generated traits in clothing, shape, color and more. Some generated works like World of Women feature human characteristics while most other projects showcase elements of fantasy or display the cartoonish faces of animals.
Avatar NFTs are particularly appealing because they’re at the core of our digital identities and social signaling, they’re also a ticket of admission into an exclusive club in which you are unique but also a part of something bigger than yourself. Since this collectible type is a digital asset with real world monetary value and social cache, every member of the community is incentivized to help improve the brand by networking, community building and collaborating on new projects.
Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC)
If you’re new to this space, there is still a pretty good chance that you have heard of the Bored Ape Yacht Club. The project is hard to ignore, as the average price for one of the ape NFTs is $263,000 and members now include the likes of Eminen, Steph Curry, Jimmy Fallon, and Mark Cuban amongst other stars. It may seem outlandish that a generative series can fetch such high prices but when you dig a little deeper, things start to make more sense.
On its surface, BAYC is just another collection of unique avatar NFT tokens which exist on the ethereum blockchain. However, by holding one of the 10,000 bemused cartoon apes, you are granted a whole host of incredible benefits that were completely unique to the space when the project began in April. On top of offering free merchandise and exclusive community events to holders, BAYC set a new standard for NFT uses in the ecosystem, by providing their community with IP rights to their ape. Put more simply, apes can create derivative projects on top of the Bored Ape brand to benefit the community.
Capitalizing on the revolutionary concept of decentralized ownership, members immediately began generating new ideas to increase the value of the project and monetize their tokens. Ape holders have taken advantage of their respective commercial licences in some pretty creative ways. One ape with the twitter handle Jay started his own Bored Ape IPA at his brewery, while others have franchised their avatar to collaborate with big named clothing brands such as Adidas and The Hundreds. BAYC was the first demonstration that decentralized brands and entertainment franchises can succeed as DAO powered, community owned entities with a bottom-up governance structure.
Why the Cartoon Twitter PFP?
If you’ve spent enough time on Twitter you may have stumbled across users with avatars as their profile picture. When a community strongly backs a generative NFT project like BAYC, members often use their avatar as a Photo for Profile or PFP on Twitter or other social media platforms. This action is intended to communicate to others in the community that you are a proud member of the group and support its plans for the future.
The ape community was particularly good at marketing itself on social media. One of the first moves they made was to follow eachother on Twitter by identifying other ape PFP’s in a campaign called #apefollowape. Within days they were able to easily and efficiently collaborate on new initiatives, meet up in real life (IRL), and disseminate unified messaging into the Twitterverse.
It should come as no surprise that so many apes wear their colors proudly. If you wear a Rolex, you may get a few glances here and there but an ape PFP could be seen by thousands if not millions of people. Unlike flexing a luxury watch, sporting a well respected PFP can provide valuable networking opportunities within the crypto space and an ability to meet wonderful, brilliant, driven individuals.
Other NFT avatar projects, such as the New Zealand based “Fluf,” use their community to steer the direction of the overall mission, much like a ship with no captain. By owning one of these 10,000 unique audio-visual cartoon rabbits called a Fluf, you gain access to a whole host of exclusive events such as digital concerts in the metaverse or even the ability to use your Fluf avatar in other metaverse games. The members are highly active in molding the narrative of the project to constantly add value by voting on new ideas as a community.
Differing from collectibles like BAYC, Fluf is about to integrate a completely new feature called Altered State Machine (ASM) which leverages AI neural networks to train your Fluf, imbuing the avatar with traits that change based on learned experience in the metaverse. Don’t worry, your AI powered Fluf wont turn on you and escape the metaverse. The ASM feature is simply a powerful tool that provides your character with a personality unique to you.
Furthermore, these 3D modeled characters, tailored for the metaverse, mark the beginning of decentralized entertainment franchises. Imagine Marvel selling Spiderman the character first before making the movie. Fluf aims to make that vision into reality by licensing out their avatars to holders who can mold their characters over time. In effect, the movie and narrative is built by and for and by the viewers, not a massive production company – this is just one of the newly emerging NFT uses we’re seeing change the space.
The intersection of the fashion world and NFTs is exploding and it makes sense. Fashion brands are constantly trying to stay ahead of the game and digital art is clearly pushing the boundaries on culture and creativity. Whether we’re talking about DressX who aims to bring popular style into cyberspace and reduce waste, or Fabricant, which makes clothing that can be bought and sold in virtual realities, the fashion industry will be forever transformed by the emergence of NFTs.
Nike’s purchase of the extremely popular, creator-led RTFKT studios signals mainstream adoption of blockchain based collectibles as a means to amplify brand awareness and introduce fashion into the digital world. RTFKTs projects center around creating and selling collectible virtual collectables and avatars that can be used in the metaverse. They started by releasing extremely popular NFT sneakers with FEWOCiOUS and have evolved into world building with the introduction of avatars into their digital ecosystem.
In collaboration with esteemed Japanese artist Takashi Murakami, Nike’s RTFKT released their CloneX project, a series of 20,000 collectible 3D cartoon avatars whose traits are influenced by anime, streetwear, and gaming. By purchasing one of these bespoke Murakami creations, you are forging a digital identity that can be used across multiple metaverse platforms. For better or for worse, our consumption habits contribute to our identity and as we spend more time online, people desire an outlet to express themselves through fashion and accessorizing. In this way, the digital realm is not much different from the physical. However, having an online
presence has the advantage of liberating the user from biases of age, sex, religion etc because customizing your digital avatar is completely of your own making. RTFKT also allows you to bring your digital presence into your life through a process called “forging.” For example, by forging your NFT accessories, you commission RTFKT studios to make custom versions modeled after your NFT that you can wear in real life. Mind-blowing.
Additionally, holding a valuable avatar NFT signals your social status and project affiliations. An Ape avatar PFP sends a different message than a CloneX in the metaverse and on social media, just like walking down the street in Vans or Gucci represents your personal brand in the physical world. Fashion NFTs hope to bridge the gap from the digital to physical realms by merging IRL experiences with your own online personality and style.
The traditional gaming model is antiquated. You pay to rent assets that can only be used in a closed ecosystem and will never derive any utility or entertainment outside the game. Imagine walking into a Zara and purchasing a sweatshirt only to be told by the cashier that it can only be worn inside the store. That would probably be the last time you stepped inside a Zara. Why shouldn’t gaming follow the same logic?
Decentralized gaming solves this problem because everything that you accumulate within the game, whether it’s cryptocurrency or NFTs, is owned by you and not the platform. What’s really revolutionary about this type of NFT collectible is that they enable gamers to “own” their experience. Within blockchain based games such as Sorare or Axie, any asset that you purchase within the game can be traded freely on the market for real cryptocurrency that you can liquidate at your convenience.
SoRare is one great example; NFTs take the good old passtime of fantasy football and transform it into an international platform where participants can “own” their team by collecting their football cards. Unlike regular football based computer games, your players (or at least their NFT cards) can be bought and sold for real value even outside the Sorare platform. Real players, real value – and a link between the real world and your gaming experience. This is the appeal of game asset collectibles.
In 1992, Author Neal Stephenson is credited with coining the term “metaverse” in his novel “Snow Crash” in which lifelike avatars bounced around a virtual, realistic 3D world, blurring the lines between artificial and biological existence.
The year is 2021 and science fiction has become reality. With the emergence of decentralized metaverses such The Sandbox, Decentraland, and Somnium commanding a massive user base, we are beginning to witness an unprecedented cultural and societal shift wherein people are creating their digital identities and second lives in virtual environments. Acting through your personal, customizable avatar, you are free to roam free and personalize your digital reality as you see fit.
If you thought NFTs were all about art and gaming, think again. In the first week of December 2021, the demand for digital land outpaced all other NFT categories. Speculators in this space are betting millions that the metaverse will go mainstream and their virtual real estate will appreciate in value.
If you think your avatar deserves a cool place to live, you’re going to have to buy some land. Within each metaverse, whether its Decentraland, The SandBox or some other platform, LAND NFTs are purchased with cryptocurrency that holds real world value. After buying the LAND, you can use that digital space however you like. Does your building need a re model? Need to build an entirely new house and furnish it? All of that is available to you and owned by you.
And that’s not all – Metaverse projects also have marketplaces full of collectibles to be used within the game, from furniture and accessories to cars and plants.
Metaverse collectibles are all NFTs, completely unique to you, ready made in the metaverse. The best part is that you can buy plots of land next to your friends, celebrities like Snoop Dogg, or anyone else who owns LAND in your neighborhood and walk to their customized house in seconds!
NFTs: Breathing Real Life Into All Things Digital
As the line between digital and IRL life blurs, we are often forced to ask ourselves if our quality of life is meaningfully improving as we delve deeper into the land of 1s and 0s. If the world of NFT uses has taught us anything, it is that the transition to a technological future can be filled with wonder and positivity. The ability for community projects to bring people from all walks of life into a space and innovate for the betterment of the group is an egalitarian dream that no one could have envisioned 5 years ago. For the first time in the history of the internet, individuals are beginning to have true ownership over their digital existence by decentralizing ownership rather than having culture be imposed by brands from the top down.