Can gaming revive the NFT market? OpenSea thinks so • TechCrunch
Today at TechCrunch’s crypto-focused event in Miami, OpenSea CEO Devin Finzer discussed his business and the future market for non-fungible tokens.
The digital assets, better known by the acronym ‘NFT’, saw their shares rise during the crypto boom of 2021. NFTs became synonymous with nouveau riche bubbling up from the blockchain economy, as a number of image collections using the digital asset format reached pop culture status and eye-popping prices.
However, as TechCrunch has reported, the emerging market for crypto-related activities and products is currently in decline. NFT trading volumes are down compared to a year ago, and elsewhere in the decentralized economy there is chaos as the implosion of the FTX exchange continues to reverberate.
This made Finzer’s appearance at the event potentially clarifying – in the midst of a downturn, where does OpenSea see the future of its core product category?
Naturally, given that he runs a company in space, we expected optimism from the tech boss. He delivered. Within his perspective, however, some central themes emerged that caught our attention. (TechCrunch has riffed on the idea of how it sparks consumer interest in NFTs, it’s worth noting).
First, gameplay. Finzer argued early in the conversation with our own Anita Ramaswamy that the world of NFTs is “quite diverse,” goes on to say that NFTs in gaming is one place where his market is seeing an “explosion in innovation.” The CEO also mentioned gaming as a market opportunity for NFTs to spark more consumer enthusiasm (OpenSea is working to help games and gaming companies create NFTs).
The association of games and digital assets has proven to be a popular topic for press coverage and founder activity. However, much of the focus during the recent crypto boom focused on play-to-earn (P2E) games such as Axie Infinity. But while Axie has seen its fortunes rise and fall, OpenSea appears to be bullish on gaming-related NFTs. As someone who has spent a fair amount of time on games like the Diablo franchise, I can imagine certain use cases for the tie-in, though I’m still a little leery of bringing real-world economics into most video games.
The extent of Finzer’s excitement regarding NFTs and gaming indicates to this publication that perhaps that is where we should be most focused when covering what the asset variety can do next.
Looking more broadly at the NFT market itself, Finzer argued on stage that platforms like Instagram joining the industry will be a net positive. In his view, the inclusion of NFTs from social companies can provide a ramp to the crypto market for ordinary people. Given that such entry points have historically been criticized as too steep, new methods of getting consumers into NFTs are likely to be welcome to his platform.
The future of NFTs may be less crypto-focused than it has been. Finzer cited the recent Reddit NFT effort in a discussion about trust, consumers, and crypto more generally. Many Reddit NFT users are not aware that it is a crypto-powered product, he explained. If consumers are willing to engage with crypto products outside of a crypto-native experience, it’s easier to see how gaming and crypto can eventually find common ground.
What’s in store for the company? Not a native token, at least not yet, according to our chat with OpenSea today. The company also did not want to talk about potential fundraising, although we expect it to raise more capital in 2023.
After listening to the chat, it felt like the era of expensive profile pictures had faded into the background. Now we have to see if the potential use cases for NFTs in other areas of the digital economy – and perhaps even IRL – can make the leap from possibility to reality.