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Forkast Labs Launches NFT Indices, Yuga Labs Concludes Controversial Auction, Amazon NFTs Murmur Grows and More

Renewed public interest in non-fungible tokens (NFTs) reflected by swollen market activity so far this year has teased a resurgence of the niche. The space has maintained its newly-found recovery pace in March, with more startups and even traditional brands taking up digital collectibles or announcing ventures in the sector. Earlier this week, Yuga Labs concluded a largely successful albeit controversial Bitcoin NFTs auction. Here are details and other interesting headlines in the sector this week.

Forkast Labs launches NFT indices, including ‘a proxy of the NFT market’

Crypto data intelligence service Forkast Labs on Tuesday debuted a series of NFT indices measuring the health of the digital collectibles market. Conventionally, the NFT sector’s performance has always been judged by equivalent figures of traditional markets, including sales and transaction volumes. This “myopic” approach, co-founder and COO Sarah Chang explained, gives a “largely fragmented, price-centric and incomplete” picture of the NFT economy as per the Mar 7 announcement. Forkast Labs came into existence in January as a joint venture between Forkast media outlet and NFT data analytics platform CryptoSlam.

Chang said that the indices products, which include Forkast Eth NFT Composite and Forkast Sol NFT Composite – trackers for NFT performance on Ethereum and Solana, respectively – would help provide “a deeper and more substantive view” of the NFT market. The launch of the indices will fulfil investors’ growing demand for actionable information about the niche’s economy. The main Forkast 500 NFT index featuring items across 21 blockchains, including Cardano and Polygon, will serve as a ‘proxy’ of the NFT market, tracking the real-time performance of the sector. The index uses a proprietary algorithm to flush out any inorganic activity involving manipulating sales and price figures.

Public interest in this speculative asset class has seemingly returned after a sluggish 2022, during which trades shrunk 97% between January and September. In January, trading volumes increased by 35% to a 7-month high of $946 million. Several factors have contributed to this, most recently the hype around Blur, which has sought to get a bigger market share at the expense of OpenSea’s dominance. Markedly, the Forkast 500 NFT index’s measurement shows that the global NFT market has improved since the start of the year. Forkast Labs reported nearly $1 billion worth of artificial trade volume last week, remarking that activity like wash trading needs to be eliminated to assess NFT market activity better.

Amazon continues NFT push, token a possibility

E-commerce giant Amazon revealed in January plans to launch a digital assets enterprise encompassing an NFT platform to give users the ability to buy NFTs conveniently. In addition to e-commerce, Amazon has already established successful initiatives across cloud computing, online advertising, digital streaming and, more recently, has been exploring the digital collectibles effort. People familiar with the matter said at the time that the NFT initiative would come in spring. Amazon’s Web3 blueprint is not yet conclusive and has been revised constantly according to the vague report, which also indicated that Amazon would likely release an update to the public on the matter in April. The launch would follow in late April or May.

A Mar 7 Blockworks report citing several sources familiar with the matter divulged that the NFTs would associate digital ownership with physical goods that can be delivered to customers. The latest sources revealed that the e-commerce company would notify its more than 167 million US-based Amazon Prime customers of developments around the digital collectibles initiative once it launches.

Specifics, including the back-end technology and integration options, are yet to be released, but rumors indicate the next three months will deliver more developments. Previous reports indicated that Amazon representatives involved in the project had approached layer-one blockchains and blockchain gaming companies. Other sources said that Amazon intends to create a private blockchain, but it is unknown whether the chain will be an original creation or a fork of an existing protocol. The sources also didn’t confirm if the initiative will include a token.

Amazon’s expected NFT initiatives will mirror that of brands like Reddit and Starbucks to make NFT consumer engagement seamless. The companies tapped on Polygon’s network for their respective NFT initiatives. In January, Amazon unveiled a partnership with Avalanche, integrating the chain into its web services platform to allow developers to launch Avalanche nodes on Amazon Web Services (AWS). It’s not clear if Avalanche will be featured in this initiative.

To learn more about Polygon, visit our Investing in Polygon guide.

Do not sleep on Avalanche NFTs

Avalanche was in the spotlight earlier this year for the AWS partnership, a collaboration with the traditional Web2 firm to enhance the adoption of blockchain technology. Avalanche has also been making inroads using NFTs, including a collaboration with Shopify to enable millions of merchants to mint and sell NFTs via the Venly Shopify merchant app. John Nahas, the VP of business at Ava Labs, the builder of the Avalanche blockchain, said that the integration makes it simple to go through the entire process of creating and selling NFTs on Avalanche. Venly said that Shopify store operators also receive royalties for NFT trades on the Venly market.

To learn more about Avalanche, check out our Investing in Avalanche guide.

Yuga Labs concludes controversial auction, netting over $16.5 million

In other news, Yuga Labs, the creators of the Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) NFT collection, completed the contentious auction of the Bitcoin NFT Collection on Monday, with the highest bidder shelling out around $160,000. A total of 3,246 bidders took part, placing bids between 2.2501 BTC and 7.1159 BTC in just 24 hours for the limited-edition generative pieces inscribed on Satoshis on the Bitcoin network. The TwelveFold collection, a “base 12 art system localized around a 12×12 grid”, launched early last week, representing a first-time foray into the Bitcoin-based Ordinals protocol.

The 300-edition generative art project auction closed with the top 288 bidders identified as winners of Bitcoin Ordinals-based NFTs in a Mar 6 tweet. Those identified as winners will receive the art in the empty Bitcoin addresses shared during the action alongside the self-custodial wallet containing their bitcoin. The rest (12 inscriptions) were set aside for “contributors, future donations, and philanthropic efforts”, according to an update from the blockchain tech startup. Yuga Labs made over $16.5 million from the inaugural auction of the NFTs collection based on Ordinals protocol.

Notably, the project is unique from others owned or acquired by the same company. For starters, the NFTs were released on Bitcoin, unlike others like BAYC, launched on the Ethereum blockchain. NFT auctions and sales on Ethereum allow bidders to place on-chain bids on top Ethereum marketplaces. This is, however, not possible in the case of Bitcoin due to its limited smart contract ability, which prevents developers from setting up similar mechanisms.

In addition to lacking utility, the NFTs don’t support interaction with Ethereum-based projects. The collection was also limited to 300 pieces as opposed to the majority from Yuga Labs, which contain at least 9,999 items. The TwelveFold project was conceived out of “the relationship between time, mathematics and the blockchain,” according to the creator Michael Figge. The pieces will bear no physical difference despite their bid prices as they will be minted from one code. They will, however, be generated and identified by number in order of the rank of the bids.

Quarters rebuke the auction process

The collection’s auction technique drew many reprovals from the crypto community over the weekend. In particular, many critics identified flaws in the ‘primitive’ bidding process, describing it as a “scammer’s dream.” Others called the NFT sellout a ‘dangerous’ precedent since the company took custody of bidders’ assets. Casey Rodarmor, the creator of Bitcoin Ordinals, spoke against it, noting in a strong censure message that Yuga Labs set up a scheme that malicious actors could manipulate to steal bidder funds.

In justification, Yuga Labs co-founder Greg Solano said the NFT sellout was an experiment, adding that the lack of smart contracts and trustless transactions on ordinals compelled the approach. Bitcoin Ordinal NFTs have nonetheless remained in the headlines since their debut in late January. Dune Analytics data shows that over 340,000 Ordinals have already been inscribed. Yuga Lab’s exploration outside the Ethereum-based projection comes as the firm defends its position in the market.

A free mint of Sewer Passes to BAYC/ MAYC holders to unlock gaming

The Monkey family of Yuga Labs was bolstered in January following the launch of a new project – Sewer Passes – that came with a free mint to existing BAYC and MAYC holders on Wednesday. The NFT offering generated more than 4000 ETH in sales within just 24 hours of the release. Sewer Passes were meant to expand BAYC’s gaming stature, with the NFT allowing holders (including those who purchase from them from the secondary market) access to the skill-based game Dookey Dash. Holders competed between Jan 18 and Feb 8. Twitch streamer Kyle Jackson got the highest scores in the NFT game, winning one-of-one “Golden Key”, which he sold for 1,000 ETH last month.

Notably, the holders of Sewer Passes, which have been listed for resale on OpenSea, were able to play a game an unlimited number of times to achieve a score that would validate their passes and allow them to be transformed into a “mysterious power source.” The mint featured 26,000 players, averaging a playing time of 28 hours per gamer. The Sewer Passes also included a blocklist of certain wallet addresses, remarkably those of other secondary marketplaces like LooksRare and NFTX, a feature that Yuga Labs co-founder Wylie Aronow has in the past deemed necessary to preserve creator royalties in the NFT market.

Cool Cats NFT project rejuvenated in pursuing new objectives

Ethereum-native Cool Cats profile picture project came into the light in 2021 with 9,999 programmatically randomly generated avatars and has since spawned Cool Pets. Consistent with the decline that the NFT scene has experienced over the last several months, the value of Cool Cat NFTs plummeted from record numbers in the early days when the floor price reached as high as 14 Ether – worth about $48,000 at the time.

Breaking out with new features and availability on other blockchains

Cool Cats announced on Jan 11 a rejuvenated push toward the project’s long-term development. CEO Stephen Teglas told Decrypt that they plan for the future and intend to show this to the community. This is particularly important in regaining user confidence again as the project has in the past seen complaints regarding inadequate support provided by the founders, departures of key leaders, and mixed reactions to its gamified NFT experience Cooltopia. Cool Cats’ new approach targets to expand utility available to its tokens’ holders, and that started with a marketing campaign for its rebrand, led by a forward-facing Blue Cat – the project’s headliner, according to Creative Director and co-founder Colin “Clon” Egan. Cool Cat owners and Cool Pets NFT holders, the first and obvious beneficiaries, were airdropped with a free Fracture NFT, described by Robert Mehew, the co-founder and Head of Content, as a type of NFT that allows for a novel storytelling experience through digital collectibles.

Expansion beyond Ethereum with customizable avatars

The launch of Explorers NFTs planned for later this year will mark an even greater expansion of the Cool Cats project. It will encompass the implementation of fully customizable full-body avatars that are interoperable across multiple blockchain networks. Although the details on the utilities of these NFTs are yet to be fully disclosed, they could mirror the Doodles 2 project’s bridging to Flow blockchain from the Ethereum blockchain, in the process transforming conventional profile pictures into feature-rich avatars with the capability to be personalized with virtual attire.

These Explorer NFTs will be built as usable across several layer one and layer two networks and not exclusively chains with EVM compatibility. They would also mean reduced barriers and seamless integration with various supported applications and platforms. The team said it intends to involve the community to develop assets that can be integrated with the Explorers.

To learn more about Flow, check out our Investing in Flow guide.

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