NFTs: Why Hype Beats Completion

Is the greatest risk to the value of an NFT project for it to actually ship a product?

That might sound counter-intuitive, but there is arguably no other area of investment in which prices are so dependent on hype and anticipation. FOMO refers to the fear of missing out, and this emotion can be a powerful driver, running up crypto prices. In the world of NFTs, FOMO sometimes seems like the primary fuel, coursing rapidly from project to project, even in recently bearish circumstances.

Corollary to that, there is one thing that is certain to put an immediate end to an exaggerated sense of anticipation, and that is completion, or if the magical thing that was being waited for actually arrives. At this point, if it was the anticipation itself that was holding up prices, and that anticipation has suddenly been removed, then it’s easy to foresee what might happen to the prices.

How Do NFT Projects Build Anticipation?

There are some up-to-now effective techniques that are used to build NFT hype and ramp up the FOMO levels around a project.

  • The reveal process

When a new collection is minted (meaning the new NFTs are launched and sold), it’s usual that the NFTs at first all display an identical placeholder image. At a set time after the sale is finished, a reveal then takes place, when the art (or whatever it is) becomes visible.

If you hold a particular NFT, you might be promised something to come in the future, dropped straight into your wallet. This could be another NFT, or the project might develop its own token, which NFT holders will receive a share of.

  • Spin-off collections

Initial collections can generate further, related collections, which owners of the original will be whitelisted for (meaning they have buying priority at the new launch), or, as mentioned, the new NFT might be airdropped for free.

  • Staking plans

A mechanism may be developed whereby staking your NFT earns the project’s native,  fungible  tokens. However, this is not staking in the usual proof-of-stake blockchain sense. Essentially, you’re simply being rewarded (if the tokens on offer have value) for not selling your NFT.

  • Gaming/metaverse development

It has become common for projects to make mention of metaverse integration, or plans to develop some kind of game or interactive experience, centered around the NFTs in the collection.

  • Closed communities

NFTs may provide access to private communities, usually through Discord servers. This works well if the community has a sense of exclusivity and prestige, is a network where valuable information can be tapped into or if it simply seems like a fun place to be.

  • IRL events/merchandise

NFTs may grant access to real-life events and physical merchandise.

Are These Techniques Legitimate?

All of these strategies can be viable, and some are reflective of what makes NFT technology valuable and innovative. Certainly, the idea of NFTs as keys that unlock membership of networks, communities, or web3 ventures is a powerful premise that fits with the shift towards conducting business digitally.

Furthermore, delivering quantifiable future benefits, including more NFT assets, tokens that are designed with utility, or physical merchandise, can be a reasonable approach, depending on what is being offered and why.

As for integrating with, or even developing, a metaverse or metaverse-like game, there may be a small number of projects that have this capability.

Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC), developed by Yuga Labs, has become the big-money, showcase NFT collection, and it has used some of the patterns and techniques detailed above with tremendous success.

In fact, BAYC may have transcended prosaic investment circuits, as each NFT in its collection now appears to have acquired intrinsic provenance/authenticity value, by which it is desirable to own an ape simply because apes are desirable to own.

Where Do the Problems Lie?

In a saturated market, these hype cycles cannot be endlessly sustained. There are certain patterns that, through playing out repeatedly and without purpose, start to ring hollow.

Frequently, when a collection is still pre-reveal, there will be intense trading and a rise in prices, followed by a post-reveal crash. Something similar occurs around airdrops, whereby prices pump in anticipation of a free drop, only to plummet after the new assets have been delivered.

As for locking up an NFT ( staking  , but only in a broad, altered sense) in return for a newly created token, this is an incentive not to sell, but where is the end value, and what is the underlying substance from which the reward token draws its worth?

The same is true of further NFTs being offered. One NFT leads to another, and then where does that lead? And in this case, is supply not being diluted in a sector where scarcity is frequently cited as a critical factor?

Promises to deliver metaverse experiences and games should be regarded in many cases (but not all) as demonstrably unrealistic. The resources, patience and expertise required to make a functioning game, let alone a good or addictive one, are beyond the limits of a typical, relatively small-scale NFT project, and even in the rare cases where a gaming or metaverse project is a real possibility, will take a long time to build out.

Trading on Narratives

None of the techniques used or the trends playing out are, in themselves, negative or damaging. The reality, though, is that they can only work effectively, on a prolonged time scale, for a limited number of projects.

Ultimately, this may all be part of the maturation and streamlining process of a new vertical. For a while, any NFT project with working code and a good-enough landing page could generate interest and profits through hype and dangled carrots.

That situation could never continue indefinitely, though, and we’ll perhaps now witness a shift towards a more discerning market with more sustainable models. However, that said, the turbo-charged FOMO nature of NFTs is deeply ingrained, and there are still likely to be projects for whom current strategies bring growth and rewards.

Perhaps one reason these powerful hype cycles occur more intensely around NFTs is that a strong narrative has developed in which this kind of token (the non-fungible variety), is going to be core to how web3 operates, and so collectors are buying into future utility.

The basic premise is correct, that NFTs can be integral to the future of the web, but the amplification of this narrative has caused a situation in which almost every project begins trading off its proposed future importance. On a meme-pumped merry-go-round as chaotic as the NFT space, such stories and trends can escalate quickly to the point of absurdity.

Is the greatest risk to the value of an NFT project for it to actually ship a product?

That might sound counter-intuitive, but there is arguably no other area of investment in which prices are so dependent on hype and anticipation. FOMO refers to the fear of missing out, and this emotion can be a powerful driver, running up crypto prices. In the world of NFTs, FOMO sometimes seems like the primary fuel, coursing rapidly from project to project, even in recently bearish circumstances.

Corollary to that, there is one thing that is certain to put an immediate end to an exaggerated sense of anticipation, and that is completion, or if the magical thing that was being waited for actually arrives. At this point, if it was the anticipation itself that was holding up prices, and that anticipation has suddenly been removed, then it’s easy to foresee what might happen to the prices.

How Do NFT Projects Build Anticipation?

There are some up-to-now effective techniques that are used to build NFT hype and ramp up the FOMO levels around a project.

  • The reveal process

When a new collection is minted (meaning the new NFTs are launched and sold), it’s usual that the NFTs at first all display an identical placeholder image. At a set time after the sale is finished, a reveal then takes place, when the art (or whatever it is) becomes visible.

If you hold a particular NFT, you might be promised something to come in the future, dropped straight into your wallet. This could be another NFT, or the project might develop its own token, which NFT holders will receive a share of.

  • Spin-off collections

Initial collections can generate further, related collections, which owners of the original will be whitelisted for (meaning they have buying priority at the new launch), or, as mentioned, the new NFT might be airdropped for free.

  • Staking plans

A mechanism may be developed whereby staking your NFT earns the project’s native,  fungible  tokens. However, this is not staking in the usual proof-of-stake blockchain sense. Essentially, you’re simply being rewarded (if the tokens on offer have value) for not selling your NFT.

  • Gaming/metaverse development

It has become common for projects to make mention of metaverse integration, or plans to develop some kind of game or interactive experience, centered around the NFTs in the collection.

  • Closed communities

NFTs may provide access to private communities, usually through Discord servers. This works well if the community has a sense of exclusivity and prestige, is a network where valuable information can be tapped into or if it simply seems like a fun place to be.

  • IRL events/merchandise

NFTs may grant access to real-life events and physical merchandise.

Are These Techniques Legitimate?

All of these strategies can be viable, and some are reflective of what makes NFT technology valuable and innovative. Certainly, the idea of NFTs as keys that unlock membership of networks, communities, or web3 ventures is a powerful premise that fits with the shift towards conducting business digitally.

Furthermore, delivering quantifiable future benefits, including more NFT assets, tokens that are designed with utility, or physical merchandise, can be a reasonable approach, depending on what is being offered and why.

As for integrating with, or even developing, a metaverse or metaverse-like game, there may be a small number of projects that have this capability.

Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC), developed by Yuga Labs, has become the big-money, showcase NFT collection, and it has used some of the patterns and techniques detailed above with tremendous success.

In fact, BAYC may have transcended prosaic investment circuits, as each NFT in its collection now appears to have acquired intrinsic provenance/authenticity value, by which it is desirable to own an ape simply because apes are desirable to own.

Where Do the Problems Lie?

In a saturated market, these hype cycles cannot be endlessly sustained. There are certain patterns that, through playing out repeatedly and without purpose, start to ring hollow.

Frequently, when a collection is still pre-reveal, there will be intense trading and a rise in prices, followed by a post-reveal crash. Something similar occurs around airdrops, whereby prices pump in anticipation of a free drop, only to plummet after the new assets have been delivered.

As for locking up an NFT ( staking  , but only in a broad, altered sense) in return for a newly created token, this is an incentive not to sell, but where is the end value, and what is the underlying substance from which the reward token draws its worth?

The same is true of further NFTs being offered. One NFT leads to another, and then where does that lead? And in this case, is supply not being diluted in a sector where scarcity is frequently cited as a critical factor?

Promises to deliver metaverse experiences and games should be regarded in many cases (but not all) as demonstrably unrealistic. The resources, patience and expertise required to make a functioning game, let alone a good or addictive one, are beyond the limits of a typical, relatively small-scale NFT project, and even in the rare cases where a gaming or metaverse project is a real possibility, will take a long time to build out.

Trading on Narratives

None of the techniques used or the trends playing out are, in themselves, negative or damaging. The reality, though, is that they can only work effectively, on a prolonged time scale, for a limited number of projects.

Ultimately, this may all be part of the maturation and streamlining process of a new vertical. For a while, any NFT project with working code and a good-enough landing page could generate interest and profits through hype and dangled carrots.

That situation could never continue indefinitely, though, and we’ll perhaps now witness a shift towards a more discerning market with more sustainable models. However, that said, the turbo-charged FOMO nature of NFTs is deeply ingrained, and there are still likely to be projects for whom current strategies bring growth and rewards.

Perhaps one reason these powerful hype cycles occur more intensely around NFTs is that a strong narrative has developed in which this kind of token (the non-fungible variety), is going to be core to how web3 operates, and so collectors are buying into future utility.

The basic premise is correct, that NFTs can be integral to the future of the web, but the amplification of this narrative has caused a situation in which almost every project begins trading off its proposed future importance. On a meme-pumped merry-go-round as chaotic as the NFT space, such stories and trends can escalate quickly to the point of absurdity.

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