Up until early 2021, NFTs were an obscure and niche segment in the crypto industry. But last February, Mike Winklemann sold his NFT collage at Christie's for $69.3 million, starting the NFT boom.
At the start of 2021, overall NFT sales worldwide averaged around 2,000 works per day for only a few hundred thousand dollars. However, at the peak of the market in August 2021, there were over 200,000 NFT sales per day, with the total value of transactions exceeding $400 million. Since then the NFT hype has significantly subsided. The total number of daily NFT sales is normally in the range of 10,000–30,000 trades, except for occasional spikes during significant events in the field. However, the total value of daily sales rarely is above $100 million.
Now the NFT market is flooded with sellers and there is an acute shortage of buyers. The supply is too large, while the prices of some non-fungible tokens absurdly inflated. There is an opinion that this bubble will burst soon. Together with experts, we are trying to figure out if the NFT era is really ending.
Is NFT another bubble about to burst?
Obviously, the NFT hype is very similar to an economic bubble that is about to burst. According to the statistics, things in the industry are not going very well. According to NonFungible, the number of active NFT wallets has fallen by 88% since last September (from 119,000 to 14,000), while individual sales have fallen from 225,000 to 19,000 per day, a whopping 92%. Worse, the number of buyers is about five times less than sellers, which is critical for the market.
Interest in non-fungible tokens, however, remains. NFTs are a broad and diverse asset class whose value is difficult to explain in terms of one set of market principles. We can interpret NFTs as assets in the traditional art market: unique works of art and collections created by popular artists that sell for exorbitant amounts. The entire industry rests on the reckless belief of the buyer that in the future he will resell his purchase for even greater money.
To understand whether the NFT is really heading towards the end, we asked the experts if, after such a multimillion-dollar pumping with funds, we should expect its logical collapse, as was the case with the dot-com bubble or ICOs.
Venera Shaidullina, Professor of the Financial University under the Government of the Russian Federation, emphasizes that NFT is, in fact, wrapping real images into machine code and connecting to the blockchain.
“Some fans even gave a performance. They bought a painting for good money, photographed it and wrapped it in an NFT image. Further, the picture was publicly burned. Thus, only a copy of this painting wrapped in an NFT token remained. In fact, it is a digital image of a certain thing—a painting, image, song, game character, and so on. Anything can be represented.
”And yes, if you get the point right, you see that NFTs are a short-lived topic. Almost the entire value of NFT is that it preserves the original. But what prevents from making a copy and using it, for example, by copying an image and also placing it in the blockchain? This is a ‘subtle matter” of copyright. And, frankly, this is unlikely to affect Kevin from Shropshire. Nobody prevents him from making copies and viewing them or posting them on his social networks.”
The expert adds that, in general, the NFT industry is more interesting for media personalities and their fans because getting the original painting in digital form from a famous and fashionable artist will be the dream of any his devoted fan. Celebrities use this. For example, Dolce & Gabbana recently sold a digital collection for $5.6 million. Buyers received 9 items of clothing developed by the D&G’s fashion designers.
There is an interesting point here. Famous people do not just sell unique items in NFT, they sell much more. For instance, Dolce and Gabbana, along with the virtual collection, sold a tour of the atelier in Milan, admission to the exhibition and a 2-year subscription to all events of fashion designers in Italy. Other stars sell their NFTs in the same way. For example, boxer Oleksandr Usyk, along with a virtual collection, also sold personal training with him. That is, the NFT industry is the prerogative of stars who can offer something else besides images. But otherwise, it is unlikely to live long on mere hype.
Ivona Gutovich, Director of Green Crypto Processing for Russia and Eastern Europe, with no doubt believes that NFT is an enormous bubble, which became possible both thanks to a talented PR company and favorable market conditions. Literally all other assets grew after Bitcoin, whereby people suddenly made decent sums of money. Here, as in a casino, after a person breaks the jackpot, he can either exchange chips for money or try his luck again. Many have decided that exchanging their suddenly rising chips for jpeg images will be a great investment decision.
That being said, the very technology behind NFTs (a blockchain token that provides a link to metadata that is stored separately in the cloud or on another blockchain) can be quite useful. For example, it's a convenient way to transfer ownership of various real-world objects, and NFTs allow creative people to monetize their fan base through digital merchandise sales.
The expert adds,
“What we have been observing in terms of trading activity is mostly related to manipulation. Let's say a person creates a pixel image in 2 minutes with a special editor, puts it up for auction for $200,000, and then buys it from himself from another wallet. Thus, the NFT is already worth $200,000. Then he puts it up for sale again. You can increase the price to create the appearance of hype, but you can also show unprecedented generosity by putting up the picture for $50,000. Even if only one person decides to purchase the NFT (and there is no need for more), then the profit out of thin air will be 25%.
”It is clear that in the conditions when everyone talks about the magnificence of NFT from every iron, the chances of success in this business are growing. If you spend a little more time, you can create a business webpage and a whole collection of similar pictures. You can show originality and, like a student from Indonesia, become a millionaire by selling 933 selfies on OpenSea. Such schemes also open wide opportunities for money laundering and tax evasion. That's the whole secret of success.”
NFT is experiencing temporary difficulties
Despite the disappointing statistics, many experts believe that the current decline in interest in NFTs is a temporary phenomenon caused by general market trends.
Milena Bykova, Development Director of the Fintech Start Association, NFT Project Manager, recalls that, according to the latest statistics from the Wall Street Journal, the NFT market is crashing. Token sales are around 19,000 per day, down from over 225,000 in September last year. Many NFT owners have noticed that their product costs several times less than at the time of purchase. After the NFT market took off in November, shares of the NASDAQ Composite Technological Growth Index soared to their maximum and, a few months later, are hitting anti-records.
This situation is really reminiscent of the 1995-2001 dot-com bubble, when the NASDAQ peaked during the trading session and fell more than 1.5 times at the close. The expert also notes that you should not get upset and rush to sell your tokens. This is only a short-term loss of interest, similar to the situation with Bitcoin. The NFT market is constantly evolving, and it is impossible to predict what it will look like in a few years. There was a real boom in autumn, with 10–15 or more projects released on different blockchains every day, but only a few could really successfully launch their project. Most of the products were a vivid example of scam or, conversely, the project was real, but its developers chose the wrong position in marketing and promotion and therefore the project went unnoticed by fans—both during the airdrop and mint.
Danatar Atajanov, Brand Manager of the OXLY.IO crypto platform, notes that they have been talking about the collapse of the market from the very beginning of the hype, from the second half of 2021, when the NFT boom was in full swing. “NFT” became the word of the year.
On the one hand, NFT is a technology, and the first NFT was created back in 2014. But the growth of the market, the emergence of new crypto technologies, and the marketing appeal made NFT a massively attractive product, and the NFT market itself has acquired apparent signs of a bubble:
- A sharp increase to $22 billion between December 2020 and December 2021.
- The participation of many celebrities, fashion brands, and the growth in the quantity and volume of marketplace trade.
- Active marketing support in all social media. Using the #nft hashtag, you will receive hourly information about sales and airdrops, requests for participation in new projects, and whitelists.
- New projects are often poorly developed clones of well-known predecessors and have nothing but the desire to make money on hype.
- The number of hype followers is not decreasing, and they continue to subscribe and buy NFTs, promoting the story that blockchain jpegs have value.
The expert adds,
“I would not talk about the collapse of NFT. The foam will fly off over time, but the technology itself will remain, as will those projects and implementations of technology that bring real benefits to society. The bubble will be supported for some time by new projects which use interesting fresh approaches. In addition, the NFT market has managed to be widely integrated into the masses, unlike dot-coms or ICOs. Most probably, a slump in the global economy will also lead to a fall in the NFT market, but this will not be a crash, rather a cleansing.”
Alexey Stepanov, website developer, entrepreneur and expert on NFT collections, says,
“To be sure, the dot-com, NFT and ICO situations look very similar: assets whose value is not established and a lot of money and unqualified players. In the NFT environment, bubbles burst regularly—hype collections lose value immediately after release, and investors lose money. And such stories make up much more than half. But NFT is moving in the same direction as the global cryptocurrency market, and institutional money and large technology partners, such as Binance labs, major participants in the SOLANA ecosystem, and many others, are also entering there. All major exchanges have their own NFT divisions and marketplaces. For example, on June 20–23, a huge NFT conference NFT.NYC will be held in New York, which will bring together all the major players, and ideas will be expressed where the industry will go next.”
Kristina Vinogradova, Editor-in-Chief of NFT-ARTY, also believes that the current situation of lower activity in NFT is accounted for by the unstable situation in the market, in general, and the crypto winter, in particular. Bitcoin is going down, and many altcoins have fallen in price by more than 70%. The Fear and Greed Index is in red. The NFT market could hardly be an exception. Instability around the world has spawned the same instability in the world of cryptocurrencies and NFTs. Stablecoins are collapsing, and NFTs from top collections are being sold for next to nothing.
The expert adds that now on the Internet, the opinion that NFT will see the same future as dot-coms is more and more widespread. The dot-com market of the end of the last century was indeed similar to the NFT market now. A lot of startups were presented, and people were seized with enthusiasm on the eve of the Web 2.0 era. So they are today. A huge number of NFT projects have entered the market since the last year. And now society is also on the threshold of a new stage in the development of the Internet—Web 3.0. Perhaps the enthusiasm of the people is so great again that the NFT bubble could burst. But NFTs are something more substantial than dot-coms. It is not just a product or a picture, it’s an opportunity for artists, business and education. In other words, it’s an opportunity for the development of society as a whole.
Analyst Aziz Kenzhaev also believes that the NFT is experiencing only temporary difficulties.
”There is no logical collapse of the NFT sphere, but a slight decline is possible. We remember that the entire crypto industry is interconnected, and if some global news concerns one project, then everyone gets it. And Bitcoin is still the locomotive of the industry, and, if it falls, it pulls everything down. Therefore, even promising NFT projects can fall into this funnel and appear to be a scam. In fact, NFT is a very and very promising and useful technology, and the more such projects, the faster the development of technology applicability.”
Oleg Fakeev, Founder of the Whales of Investment Telegram channel, agrees that right now the NFT market is going through hard times.
“Because of the general market situation, NFTs, like all other cryptocurrencies, are in a drawdown. The situation was also strongly influenced by large project launches which pulled off a lot of the liquidity. Nonetheless, new projects do not stop coming out or developing. Powerful collections with ever more unique applications are constantly emerging. It is important to understand that NFTs are not just ‘pictures’ on the Internet, but already a large market, which includes many well-known brands and large investors. We do not expect a collapse in the truest sense of the word. Like any technology on the market, it follows general economic cycles.”
Dmitry Kudinov, Operations Manager at EMCD, the largest mining pool in Eastern Europe, a specialist in mining digital assets, believes that NFT is more of a Wild West than an economic bubble. There was a period when people entered the market and bought everything, but after a while they realized they would not sell most of these tokens in the near future. This cooled the ardor of collectors, but there are still a lot of unqualified buyers on the market who are easily manipulated. And if such a buyer buys a work that does not have value, this does not devalue NFT by Biple or other market stars. Now society has entered a period of global crisis, and therefore interest in NFTs has naturally declined. Investors in difficult times prefer to invest in more stable spheres, and this is not unusual. The expert is sure that after some time, interest in NFT will rise again, and the market itself will become more understandable because the players who sold something that had no particular value on hype will leave it.
Metaverses will save NFT
One of the principal arguments in favor of NFTs is their connection to the metaverses. The new technology is literally tied to non-fungible tokens, and therefore they simply cannot cease to exist. Interest in metaverses is very high, which, according to some experts, will ensure the popularity of NFT for many years to come.
Radion Sailer, CEO of the YouTube channel “Mr. Sailer”, shares his predictions on how long the NFT sphere will “live”, saying,
“Each week I track the capitalization of NFTs, and I wonder when NFTs will reach their final.
“In my analysis, the NFT space is now seeing a seesaw. They have -30% capitalization one week and +40% the next. Obviously, the entire market affects NFTs as well, but NFTs are needed for the metaverses, since many processes are tied specifically to fungible tokens. Everyone is waiting for the metaverses, and top companies have cosmic plans, so for now, NFT will remain on the market for at least another year.”
Artem Kopaleishvili, Founder of NFTPricer.art, notes that the entire crypto industry is now experiencing difficulties, and, of course, this affects the NFT area as well. However, the very understanding of NFT in the minds of buyers is taking on a new form. Now, even during a strong drawdown, a great lot of projects are released directly related to the NFT. More and more projects appear in P2E (play-to-earn) and M2E (move-to-earn) in which everything is tied to NFT. The biggest hype right now is the game STEPN (M2E), which will release at least 5 clones between June and August, and all such games are based on NFT. People buy sneakers for $700–1500 and walk around earning an average monthly salary.
The expert is sure that in 2–3 years, the metaverses will enter our lives more, and every fifth will earn (or earn extra money) in virtual reality, playing all kinds of games that will generate income. Therefore, the “collapse of NFT” in the foreseeable future is definitely not to be waited for. Their value changes, since instead of simple, sometimes completely ridiculous, pictures for $400,000, people will go for those NFTs that can bring them income.
NFTs have brilliant prospects for the future
Despite the problems of the industry, NFT has a wide range of practical applications. This technology should not be underestimated. Non-fungible tokens have long gone beyond being digital pictures sold for a lot of money. Today, NFTs have integrated into various areas of the economy, business, and society. In this regard, experts are sure that it is still too early to talk about the collapse of the sphere.
Dmitry Chigirin, Creative Director and Co-Founder of the Sol creative agency, believes that the history of NFT is not over yet. He notes that NFTs are created and used for various purposes. The most common example in the industry (and how it started) is the direct sale of media as art or collectibles. In this case, NFT is a business. This use case is familiar to many—but relatively. If you ask a passer-by on the street if he has an NFT, then most likely he will not understand the question at all. And no wonder. NFTs, like any new technology at the start, are for innovators. According to statistics, there are 2.5% of innovators in society. Until when the NFT takes the next step and reaches the wider masses, it is strange to talk about failure or collapse. Now it is still innovative. But the market and industry will have to find a balance with new people and institutions.
The expert adds that there may be other use cases in which NFT is a tool that works to achieve the goals of another business, and marketing in particular. An example of the use of NFTs as a method of proving the authenticity of luxury objects can be given here; as a tool for selling tickets to events or booking hotel rooms; and so on and so forth. NFTs become backed by a physical good or service that you can get. Pricing becomes more understandable and logical. The development potential of this NFT use case is large.
The purpose of tokenization—and the use of NFT in particular—is to popularize the technology for solving practical problems. The more people use it, the more convenient and understandable it is. It is necessary to go through evolution from hype and PR to real functionality and benefits. The very essence and the purpose of using NFTs will progress. The number of users will grow. NFTs, apparently, will increasingly go to the practical side. El Salvador is a good example of how an entire country can take advantage of tokenization. Is El Salvador a bubble? The question is still open.
Dmitry Kotov, CEO and Founder of CryptoConsulting, emphasizes that the natural process of development of any technology goes in a spiral. Periods of growth are followed by falls. Now the NFT is approaching its peak in the current round. Yes, there are artificially inflated prices for NFTs, such as the monkeys or cryptopunks, and such a market will soon come to naught.
The expert adds,
“NFT is an immensely valuable web3 invention, on par with the Bitcoin blockchain. The value of NFT is that digital authentication will be built on its basis in decentralized social institutions of the future; and the ownership of intellectual property and, in the future, of real property, up to real estate, will be implemented. Of great value is the ability to create NFT-based identification through SBT tokens. Now one can already observe the tokenization of companies and soon it will be possible to issue shares of each person. NFT as a technology is with us forever, but the monkeys are unlikely to cost as much as they cost once.”
Vladimir Gorgadze, head of the Blockchain Master's program at MIPT, head of tokenization projects at MMC Norilsk Nickel, head of Newity, a blockchain solutions developer, does not exclude the collapse of the NFT industry. However, the expert says that the NFT concept itself will not disappear, and the NFT market will develop at a more organic pace. After all, in fact, NFT is just a transfer to a digital (i.e., lightweight, cheaper, and more convenient) form of ownership. The most logical thing from the proposed ones is to compare the market situation around NFT with the “bubble” of dot-coms, which deflated a little, but continued to develop and “nurtured” a new industry.
Anti Danilevsky, CEO and Founder of Kick Ecosystem, notes,
“As everything new and trendy, NFT has a lot of scams and evidently empty projects. And, as was the case with dot-coms and then with ICOs, a similar scenario of events can be predicted in this area: garbage will disappear and “pull off”, but good projects will remain. Properly crafted NFTs that have real value and applications are here to stay and will truly change the world, in particular the gaming industry. Of this I am sure.”
Dmitry Noskov, an expert at the StormGain crypto exchange, agrees that the NFT market looks overblown right now. Nevertheless, according to the expert, the industry still has prospects because non-fungible tokens represent a product that is quite interesting for users, in particular, in terms of copyright protection. So they will certainly be in demand.
Alexander Belenov, Head of the Blockchain Laboratory of the Idea Research Center, notes that any new technology at the stage of its infancy gives rise to many fraudulent projects.
“The simple reason for that is that most people do not yet understand all the details of this technology. And such ignorance allows some smart but dishonest entrepreneurs to deceive enthusiastic but illiterate followers of everything new. So I don't see any problem for NFTs themselves. Foam will go away again, and those who are interested in the development of this technology will remain. And NFT is now used only in a very narrow range of applications.
“The first thing that immediately comes to mind at the sound of the NFT abbreviation is a digital right to one or more digital images; then, probably, the earth / unique objects from the metaverses will surface. Next come the NFTs on content from well-known media personalities. Well, if the user is sophisticated, then he can remember about attempts to connect NFTs with real estate. That is about all.”
The expert notes that there are much more opportunities for business applications of NFT. Suffice it to recall the article by Vitalik Buterin about the so-called Soulbound Tokens (SBT). This is an NFT that is tied to something with no transferability once it is issued. Why is such a token needed? The answer is simple. This is the token that will replace documents in the future. It will be tied to a specific person at the time of issue, and then personal information of a person will be attached to it within the framework of DiD (decentralized Identity). And this is just one spectacular example of the use of NFT technology.
Despite the fact that the collapse of the industry is possible, it will not destroy the new technology, this almost never happening, but will clear it of the scams and allow it to move to a new level that will already be friendlier for mass application.
Yulia Nevzorova, Head of the Legal Department of the Method agency, does not believe that the NFT sphere is going to decline, either.
“I don’t think that there will be collapse as such. Most likely, the prices for NFT objects may fall, or the number of such transactions will decrease. Understanding what NFT is, we can say with confidence that it will not disappear.
“In general, NFT is a very cool tool that can replace national copyright registries. In addition, it can also help scale art for the masses and transfer many transactions related to intellectual property to the digital space. I am sure that the future belongs to such a space, and it can already be seen in the younger generation, which cannot exist without such a space..”
Vladislav Akeliev, Director for Development of the ECOS cryptocurrency investment platform, believes that two scenarios are the most popular: the collapse of an industry as an economic bubble or its rooting as a new direction in the art industry and the further emergence of a mature market. At the moment, the second option seems more likely, when the NFT market will become as transparent as the traditional market for the sale of art objects.
Unqualified buyers are the primary cause of the NFT bubble
Now in the NFT market there are a lot of unqualified buyers who are easy to manipulate. We asked the experts if this could be considered one of the main reasons for the bubble to inflate.
Milena Bykova notes that at the moment, the NFT market is "inflated". Every crypto investor wants to make money quickly and simply. Observing the active growth in the cost of tokens, investors themselves created demand, thereby raising the price up. Due to the increase in demand, scam projects appeared and new NFTs began to lose their value as a financial instrument more and more. The main problem of the market now is the purchase of a token not as a real digital financial asset, rather in order to “be in the party”. This makes projects tend to being garbage and increases the time spent searching for truly original products, where the creator lives by what he does, and not just tries to benefit from unqualified buyers who are ready to invest in any token.
Alexey Stepanov emphasizes that there are both players in this market who do not understand anything at all, and those who enter very consciously, understanding and accepting the risks that the industry bears. The expert believes that NFT for the average person is an opportunity to jump on the cryptocurrency train, a kind of a lucky ticket that will allow you to get rich easily and quickly, which, of course, is not the case. Those players who approach the issue systematically and continue to work, even after local losses of investments with unsuccessful projects, will get richer.
Kristina Vinogradova agrees that today there are a lot of inexperienced users on the cryptocurrency and NFT markets, who are also called hamsters. It is they who look with greedy eyes at the growing floor price of a particular collection and at the very peak buy up the coveted NFTs for all their money. The floor collapses and the hamsters say everywhere that NFT is a scam. This is indeed another significant problem affecting the market. In the crypto world, it is very important to keep calm and cool mind. You mustn't ever follow the crowd, which is very difficult for beginners.
Also, newbies are prone to influence. They follow someone’s example because they have not yet learned to conduct their own market research. Hamsters are very easy to manipulate, because their emotions run wild as soon as they conceive gold mountains. Unfortunately, beginners do not have enough knowledge to evaluate a particular project critically. This is often used by scam projects which inspire the audience to buy something that in fact does not hold value and has no future.
Artem Kopaleishvili also attributes the problem of the NFT sphere to numerous unqualified buyers.
“It is not difficult to draw a beautiful collection for NFT or create a mint site. Then marketing works, bringing in 20–30 thousand users on Discord and Twitter, fueled by airdrops and whitelists, and a collection of 10k scatters in a matter of minutes. Further, the collection is simply neglected and gradually begins to fall in price. As I wrote in paragraph 2, due to a lack of understanding of the principles of the technology, people do not know how to analyze projects and simply follow the opinions of leaders, basically buying pictures that carry nothing in them.”
Aziz Kenzhaev agrees with the opinions of the previous experts and believes that the above problem is very acute.
“If it were not for unqualified buyers, there would be no scammers. Before buying or investing in such projects, you always need to study them carefylly and gain enough knowledge yourself. One or two people with a large audience can tell you how they made a million on this project, but you are unlikely to hear the voices of the remaining tens of thousands who lost money. Therefore, gain knowledge always before investing your money.”
Dmitry Kudinov says,
“Yes, people with little understanding of the real value of tokens often create demand for something that will depreciate over time. As a result, we get many people who have bought illiquid assets. But now people have become more cautious and first look at the project, study the authors and only then buy the token. There are fewer and fewer buyers flying in on the hype and buying off everything on the NFT market.”
Dmitry Noskov agrees that unqualified buyers are one reason this market is over-hyped today. There are too many participants in it who rarely understand what they are doing, and they are easy to manipulate and control. This is the weak side of the NFT market. Moreover, if the participants go through a certain filter, then it will cease to be so attractive.
Oleg Fakeev notes that any market is full of unqualified investors, and the NFT market is no exception. No one can call the appearance of popular instruments Robinhood, Revolut or, let’s say, Tinkoff Investment, the reason for the collapse of the stock markets. Absolutely the same laws apply here as in the classical market, only liquidity is thousands of times less. The arrival of numerous unqualified investors is not the reason for the failure of a particular project, it is only an implication of a growing market, which, in turn, is an implication of a growing purchasing power.
Danatar Atajanov emphasizes that the main buyers of NFTs are really unqualified investors, who expect to make a profit by buying NFTs cheaper at the start of sales and selling them at a higher price later. But this does not always work out. According to data from the OpenSea marketplace, only 28.5% of NFTs purchased at the minting stage and subsequently sold on the NFT platform brought a profit. Behind the apparent simplicity and accessibility, there are technologies that require close attention of the investor. But, as a rule, an unqualified buyer is driven by a thirst for profit, professionally warmed up by marketers.
Anti Danilevsky says:
“It is unlikely that a large number of unskilled users can be called the reason for the inflation of the bubble. I see the real reason in greed. That is why many are involved in the pyramids, knowing well that this whole affair is a fraud. People know well that most NFTs are a bubble, and they want to make money with it before it bursts.”
Yulia Nevzorova says:
“To be honest, if you don’t know why you need this or that object and you don’t know how to use it or whether you will use it, then it is unclear why you spent money on it at all. It's like going to the store, buying something that most people around you have, but not knowing why you need it. Let's get back to the example of a painting. Someone buys a painting to hang in the kitchen, and someone understands its value, understands that in a year it will become more expensive, and in fact invests. It must be understood that an investment does not always imply a positive balance in the end, since any investment is a risk.”
Vladislav Akeliev does not see a big problem in the overcrowding of the NFT market with unqualified buyers. According to the expert, art is no longer something “only for the elite”, as it used to be. Now, in order to feel high modern art, you do not need to attend closed auctions and exhibitions, you just need to go to the platform and become the owner of some magnificent creation in a few clicks of the mouse. No one talks about the bubble of limited-edition sneakers, although the situation there is very similar to that in the NFT market. And recently, the STEPN project even brought these two industries together, making a lot of noise.