Today, OpenSea CEO Devin Finzer spoke about his business and the future non-fungible token market at TechCrunch’s crypto-focused event in Miami.
The digital assets, better known by the acronym “NFTs,” saw their shares surge during the crypto boom of 2021. NFTs became synonymous with neo-wealth bubbling out of the blockchain economy as a number of image collections utilizing the digital asset format achieved pop culture status and staggering prices.
However, as TechCrunch has reported, the evolving market for crypto-related activities and products is currently in a downturn. NFT trading volume is down year-on-year and chaos reigns elsewhere in the decentralized economy as the implosion of exchange FTX continues to reverberate.
This made Finzer’s appearance at the event potentially clarifying – amidst a downturn, where does OpenSea see the future for its core product category?
Of course, given that he runs a company in this space, we expected optimism from the tech executive. He delivered. From his perspective, however, a few key issues emerged that caught our attention. (TechCrunch has explored the idea of how to reignite consumer interest in NFTs, it’s worth mentioning).
First, games. Finzer argued early in his conversation with our own Anita Ramaswamy that the world of NFTs is “pretty diverse,” going on to say that NFTs in games is one place where its market is seeing an “explosion of innovation.” The CEO also cited gaming as a market opportunity for NFTs to generate more consumer excitement (OpenSea is working to help games and gaming companies develop NFTs).
The merging of gaming and digital assets has proven to be a popular topic for press coverage and startup activities. However, much of the focus during the last crypto boom has been on play-to-earn (P2E) games like Axie Infinity. But while Axie has seen its fortunes rise and fall, OpenSea still seems bullish on gaming-related NFTs. As someone who’s spent a reasonable amount of time playing games like the Diablo franchise, I can think of specific use cases for the pairing, although I’m a little skeptical about bringing real-world economy into most video games .
The magnitude of Finzer’s excitement about NFTs and games suggests that perhaps that’s where we should focus the most when we cover what the asset variety can do next.
Taking a broader look at the NFT market itself, Finzer argued onstage that platforms like Instagram joining the industry will be net positive. In his view, the inclusion of social enterprise NFTs could represent a gateway into the crypto market for ordinary people. Given that such entry points have been criticized for being too steep in the past, new methods of getting consumers into NFTs are likely to be welcome on its platform.
The future of NFTs could be less crypto-focused than it has been so far. Finzer cited Reddit’s recent NFT efforts in a discussion on trust, consumers, and crypto in general. Many Reddit NFT users are unaware that it is a crypto-powered product, he explained. When consumers are willing to engage with crypto products outside of a crypto-native experience, it’s easier to see how gaming and crypto might eventually find common ground.
What’s in store for the company? According to our chat with OpenSea today, not a native token, at least not yet. The company also didn’t 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 need to see if the potential use cases for NFTs in other areas of the digital economy – and perhaps even in IRL – can make the leap from possibility to reality.