Mar 10, 2022 - Technology

Report: NFT sales exceeded $17B in 2021

Animated illustration of an ornate frame with falling dollar signs
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

A new NFT report detailing the 2021 market could lend evidence to arguments that the valuable digital assets have become a bubble.

Why it matters: The NFT hype train brought in millions in investments last year and also inspired a number of industries, like gaming, to pivot toward exploring blockchain technologies.

Catch up quick: NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are unique digital assets — often works of art, game characters and other creative products — that are recorded on a blockchain, or persistent digital ledger. Think of them as digital collectibles.

Driving the news: A new study by NonFungible.com and L’Atelier BNP Paribas, released Thursday, details the size and scope of the NFT market in 2021.

  • It is the fourth time the two organizations have collaborated on this NFT Yearly Report.

By the numbers: NFT sales reached $17.7 billion in 2021, up from $82.5 million in 2020 — a jump of more than 200 times.

  • Total NFT profits when reselling or buying also skyrocketed from $12 million in 2020 to $5.4 billion in 2021.
  • The report notes that most NFT transactions — 78% of the entire market — have used the Ethereum blockchain.

Yes, but: While the number of buyers and sellers also increased dramatically, it did not grow as dramatically as the sales totals, according to the report.

  • Additionally, while the number of buyers rose 2,962% over last year, the number of sellers rose 3,669%, creating a real buyers’ market.

Meanwhile, the average NFT price also rose sharply in 2021, according to the report, coming in at $807.52, compared to $49.18 in 2020.

  • The length of ownership plummeted. The report finds NFTs were being kept 48 days on average in 2021 before being sold, compared with 156 days the year before.

The report also shed light on the gaming industry's intense interest in NFTs.

  • It reports 20,986,532 sales, bringing in $5,177,192,804, with 1,722,714 owners in 2021.
  • And though it says there are 112 blockchain games, there appears to be only one of consequence: Axie Infinity.

Axie Infinity, according to the report, accounted “for nearly two-thirds of the Blockchain Gaming industry on its own,” in 2021.

  • In fact, outside of Ethereum’s 78% control, the report says that the Ronin blockchain, on which Axie Infinity is based, represents 19% of the remaining market.

Between the lines: NFTs have been criticized for being a speculative bubble, or a frenzied market that will stabilize over time. And Nonfungible.com’s recent tracking data of the market appear to reflect that.

  • Nonfungible.com shows that 93,626 NFT sales were made during the seven-day period ending on March 9, 2022. The sales brought in about $200 million during that time.
  • That’s down from a peak of 1,371,408 sales during the seven-day period that ended Aug. 12, 2021, a 93% decrease.
  • Weekly NFT sales have not risen above 500,000 since last September.
  • The sales this last week brought in about $200 million, according to the tracker. The weekly peak was $1.8 billion in Aug. 29, 2021.
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