Remember NFTs? Those boring, ugly ape avatars surrounded by Nazi allegations, and the $500,000 memes, and the terrible representation, and the dire celebrity chat show segments (see: Paris Hilton hawking bored apes with Jimmy Fallon), and the guy who burned a $10 million Frida Kahlo artwork because he was convinced that it would be worth more in the metaverse? Good times. A crowning achievement of human civilisation, even. But what goes up must come down, and – to our “sincere dismay” – the NFT market has crashed in a staggering fashion.
Who says? A team of researchers at dappGambl, a “global community” specialising in Web3 and blockchain technology. According to their new report, Dead NFTs: The Evolving Landscape of the NFT Market, the vast majority of NFTs that were bought during the industry’s 2021 boom are now essentially worthless. Sorry, crypto bros!
To compile the report, the researchers analysed more than 73,000 NFT collections (73,257, if you want to be exact) using data provided by the world's largest NFT data infrastructure, NFTScan. Of those collections, they found that a massive 69,795 have a market cap of 0ETH. To put that into perspective, 95 per cent of NFT collectors – an estimated 23 million people – are now holding onto investments that are completely worthless.
Of course, there were plenty of warnings about the volatility of the NFT market, even in its giddy, pixellated heyday – for every claim of “revolutionising the art world”, there was a story about an unfortunate degen who risked it all on a JPEG of an algorithmically-generated anime girl or zombie kitten, and lost.
The problem isn’t just rooted in the risky nature of the NFT market’s novel ownership model, though, suggests the new report. Of the collections analysed, only 21 per cent have been fully bought up, suggesting that NFT creators also lost out, with four in five failing to sell all of their wares. Maybe insta-generating endless digital images and attempting to flog them for thousands of real-world dollars leads to an imbalance in supply and demand... who’d have thought?
The report also delves into the much-discussed problem of NFTs’ carbon footprint. Despite claims of “clean crypto” innovations in the wake of the market’s rise and fall, it finds that the costly process of minting NFTs still had a significant environmental impact, measuring the emissions of 195,699 NFT collections at approximately 16,243 metric tons of CO2. That’s around the yearly emissions of 2048 homes, or 3531 cars. Was it all worth it? No, absolutely not. Each and every one of those 195,699 collections is now “dead”, meaning it has “no apparent owners or market share”.
After all this, maybe you’re still holding out hope (or harbouring delusions) for the future of this radical, revolutionary marriage of art and Web3 technology. There were some interesting projects in amongst all the rubbish! And the top NFTs are still booming... right? Well, not according to dappGambl, which says that even the cream of the crop are struggling to maintain their value. That is, across the top 8850 NFT collections, 18 per cent have dropped to a floor price of zero, with a further 41 per cent priced between $5 and $100 (good news for those who buzzed about NFTs democratising the art marketplace... slightly worse news for artists who are struggling to break even). Of course, there are still the outliers at the top of the pack, but these are apparently few and far between, with just one per cent topping $6,000.
None of this means that an NFT comeback is impossible, of course (although tech experts like Mark Zuckerberg gave up on the dream long ago). Maybe the A-listers will unite for more legally-dubious shenanigans in a quest to recover their losses. Maybe demand will grow as Web3 enters the mainstream. Maybe, like a $3.9 million zombie Cryptopunk, these silly little pictures will rise from their graves, brainless and festering and worse than ever before. We can but dream!