By Bronte H. Lacsamana
BEFORE the pandemic, almost no one knew about non-fungible tokens (NFTs). These digital assets – like bitcoin and ether – are traded using blockchain technology. But unlike cryptocurrencies, they are unique (therefore non-fungible).
NFT art and game objects use digital certificates to authenticate rare online resources and track their movements. This concept, new to most people, has seen an influx of activity from artists and gamers who have learned to use technology to their advantage.
NFTs have gained mainstream notoriety through the world’s Beeples, whose digital artworks have been auctioned off for millions of dollars. Local artists also took advantage of this new location to sell their works, but at more modest prices.
“Having a marketplace where digital art could be traded like physical art is a crazy idea, honestly. It’s great to have an exchange of value for your art,” said Peter Corazo, an artist based in Cebu known online as xlvrbk (pronounced Silverback), which sells its 3D and virtual reality (VR) coins as NFTs on the blockchain.
With guaranteed ownership and authenticity, as well as a purely digital nature, NFT art attracted people like xlvrbk, who then found communities on Twitter and Discord. These digital spaces, tightly knit and constantly updated, provided artists with options outside of the traditional industry path, with art collectors reaching out to artists directly online.
On the gaming side, the Philippines has become a hotspot for blockchain-based games due to people looking for alternative income during the pandemic. In a gambling game called Axie Infinityplayers buy NFTs in the form of pets called Axies, which they use to win battles and harvest items that can then be traded or sold for Ethereum.
A surge in demand in early 2021 triggered a price hike, which made it more expensive for new players to join. Enter Yield Guild Games (YGG), a decentralized autonomous organization that invests in blockchain games and NFT assets, and lends Axies to “scholars” who want to learn how to play and eventually win.
The NFT earnings of these Fellows are split three ways – between the Fellow (70%), Yield Guild (10%), and the Community Manager who recruited and trained them (20%).
In mid-August, YGG said its scholarship program had 4,600 players, mostly from the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Venezuela, Peru and Brazil. Revenue reached the equivalent of $3.26 million in July, the highest monthly revenue to date.
INTERACT AS ‘IRL’
NFT communities in the Philippines are being integrated with their “mainstream” counterparts.
In May, Art Fair Philippines dedicated an entire section to NFTs, recognizing the growth of the country’s crypto community. The online edition of the event gave crypto artists a platform to share their thoughts on the development of NFT art.
While the fair was running, digital artist xlvrbk curated a Philippine art exhibit on crypto VR: “It’s easier to organize than real exhibits, because the logistics are much simpler. We had a dozen artists and a really fun opening night where people showed up to the VR space and interacted with each other, kind of like an IRL (in real life) gallery,” he said via email.
Both events made up for the inability of artists and art lovers to come together at physical fairs and actual galleries due to quarantine restrictions. The digital space, with all its innovative possibilities, has given people the opportunity to browse the rooms Iffilled with installations, paintings, photos and videos.
One downside to this art scene, however, is burnout. At the fair, the conversation among crypto artists focused on the importance of self-marketing and online socializing in spaces like Narra Art Gallery, an NFT art center jointly owned by Colin Goltra and Mr. Dizon of YGG, in order to sell their art.
“Putting yourself out, sometimes that kind of pressure can get to you if you’re not used to that kind of stuff,” said Michelle “Shelly” Soneja, art director at mobile and blockchain game studio Altitude Games, who is entering NFT the art in 2020. “There are so many new technologies every day, every hour.”
ALTERNATIVES AND OTHER APPLICATIONS
People who want to create assets – or create NFTs – have several blockchains to choose from. Minting fees, known as gas fees, can cost P2,000, according to crypto artists on the Art Fair panel.
While Bitcoin and Ethereum are well-known blockchain networks, alternatives like Tezos, Polygon, and Polkadot charge less for minting and have lower carbon footprints.
“Just on a relative scale, (Tezos) consumes – by some estimates – two million times less energy than Ethereum to perform the same types of transactions,” said Marissa Trew, chief marketing officer of TZ APAC, a consulting firm. Singapore-based blockchain consultancy. Ifrm, who explained why “Proof-of-Stake” blockchains like Tezos are more energeticffimore effective than their “Proof-of-Work” counterparts in a B-Side episode.
Although NFTs have received wide attention for art with million-dollar price tags, it is the artists and everyday gamers who are keeping the community alive by turning to the digital space. to earn their living. YGG has gone beyond gambling to earn by opening its own marketplace, allowing members to trade digital assets.
By encouraging financial literacy, many have become entrepreneurs themselves by learning how to trade assets or find the right time to invest, Beryl C. Li, co-founder of YGG, said in an episode of B-Side in July.
For Ms. Trew of TZ APAC, who has invested in the Tezos ecosystem in the region, blockchain has potential for business-to-business transactions such as licensing, supply chain management and invoicing.
“NFTs have utility far beyond being a digital asset. There is a large enterprise use case that is being developed,” Ms. Trew said. real B2B that NFTs are able to deliver far beyond the creator economy in the digital space, in terms of music, art and collectibles.”