• NFT trading peaked August 29 of last year, hitting over $422 million in daily sales volume
  • The total net profit for this year’s top 10 NFT traders was $185 million of ether

2021 was the year of the NFT, literally. Just ask Collins Dictionary, which made the term its word of the year

The crypto asset went mainstream last year, according to a new report from blockchain analytics firm Nansen. Count the signs, from Adidas’ NFT drop to payment network giant Visa’s $150,000 purchase of a CryptoPunk.

“This year NFTs achieved a mainstream breakthrough. Despite spikes in volume, a sustained interest from first-time buyers suggested a new market in the making,” Nansen’s report said.. “As the market matured, reputable NFT projects with high liquidity became valuable commodities.”

NFT trading peaked August 29, hitting over $422 million in daily sales. The volume likely lined the pockets of the year’s top 10 NFT traders, who amassed $185 million of ether.

Breakout NFTs, including some of the biggest projects by market capitalization, include CryptoPunks, Bored Ape Yacht Club, Art Blocks, Sandbox’s LANDs, Cool Cats and Vee Friends. The top-tier will vy to remain their standing as torrents of newcomers enter the market.

Though NFTs started as digital art, the rise of  blockchain-based gaming has given the asset class an additional tailwind. 

“Gaming offers a compelling use-case for NFTs — it allows players to truly own their in-game items, enjoy the value accrual of the in-game economy, and at the same time, earn a living by playing,” the report said. 

Industry leader Axie Infinity, for example, generated $17.5 million in revenue in one day in August, translating to annual revenue of $1.3 billion. 

In 2022, Nansen’s research team predicts that there will be a “growing trend of investment in metaverse and gaming utility,” adding that “NFT markets thrive on innovation that is unpredictable as it is fun.”

Correction (Jan. 27, 14:50 UTC): Article previously stated that the top 20 NFT traders made $185 million of ether last year. The top 10 traders netted that amount, not 20.


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  • Morgan Chittum is a New York-based reporter covering NFTs, the metaverse, play-to-earn gaming and other emerging Web3 tech for Blockworks. Previously she was a street reporter, covering crime at New York Daily News, and a media and journalism fellow at the Poynter Institute. Contact Morgan via email at [email protected]