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NFT Ecosystems: Top 5 of 2021 According to BeInCrypto Staff

7 mins
Updated by Nicole Buckler
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In Brief

  • We take a look at the top five NFT ecosystems of 2021
  • Rookie ecosystems WAX, SOLANA and FLOW show unprecedented results
  • Ethereum and Ronin still dominate the NFT industry
  • promo

NFT Ecosystems in review – BeInCrypto’s editors take a look at the five best NFT ecosystems that got impressive results in 2021.

NFT Ecosystem #5: WAX

At number five, we have WAX, a blockchain that was created specifically for NFTs. It has everything companies and creators need to share their collections with the world. WAX supports any spectrum of NFT activities: games, marketplaces, dApps and exchanges can all run on a decentralized blockchain system.

According to DappRadar, WAX supports six marketplaces. The most popular of these is AtomicMarket, which has a trading volume of $312 million since its launch in early 2021. But the most impressive result for AtomicMarket is the number of traders – over 800,000 have traded NFT on the platform, making it the second most popular after Axie Infinity.

The three most popular collections featured on WAX are Farmers World, Farming Tales and Alien Worlds, but only the former manages to make it to the top 20 collections, reaching 13th bestseller of all time.

However, the whole situation may change soon, as WAX has received very solid support from Amazon. The online retailer announced last week that it has invested in Dibbs, a sports card marketplace that is built on WAX. Through this collaboration, WAX could become one of the most successful NFT blockchains in 2022.


NFT ecosystem #4: SOLANA

At number four, we have Solana. This year has seen tremendous growth in cryptocurrency adoption for Solana. Although the project has only existed for a year, a large community has already formed in and around its ecosystem.

At the launch of Solana, it was stated that it would be a blockchain focused on financial transactions, having a faster transaction processing speed and less overhead than Ethereum. While this is still the main feature of the project, NFTs have also become an important part of the Solana ecosystem .

Solana has five marketplaces, two of which are in the top 10 of all marketplaces. Solanart, Magic Eden, Solana Monkey Business, DigitalEyes Market and Solsea provide access to a large number of collections and have attracted around 115,000 users to date. This is the lowest score in our top 5. According to DappRadar, the trading volume in these markets is just over $1bn, while CryptoSlam has a figure of $800m. The Solana markets have attracted the attention of the wealthiest NFT traders, which is a good sign for future collections released on these platforms.

NFT Ecosystems: Top 5 of 2021 According to BeInCrypto Staff
NFT ecosystems: Solana Collections

As for the collections themselves, presented at Solana, they are not very popular. None have managed to make it to the top 20, and many are very similar to those found on Ethereum. Examples are Degenerate Ape Academy and Solana Monkey Business. The Aurory collection has the highest ratings on Solanart and has its origins in the play-to-earn computer game. In terms of all-time sales, Aurory ranks 36th.

However, Solana’s NFTs are gaining traction among celebrities. For example, former US First Lady Melania Trump announced that she will create her own NFT collection on the Solana blockchain, with a starting price of one SOL for each NFT .

Basketball legend Michael Jordan is also set to join the NFT hype. According to BasketballNetwork, Jordan and his partners will launch a new app called HEIR in 2022. The goal of the project is to become the main platform for fans and collectors who want to create and trade NFTs. HEIR will be built on the Solana blockchain, and the project has already raised $ 10 million from early investors like Lonzo Ball and Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.

NFTs will be one of the main driving forces behind Solana’s growth next year, especially with sports celebrities lining up to get involved. And the next NFT blockchain in our list is also aimed at gaining market share in the sports field.

At #3: FLOW

At number three we have FLOW. The design of the Flow blockchain is based on games and digital assets. It was developed by the team at Dapper Labs, which has several successful projects under its belt such as CryptoKitties and Dapper Wallet.

Dapper Labs was founded in 2018 and, like Solana, has several solid partnerships. Their long list includes names such as the NBA, Warner Music Group and the UFC. The similarity to Solana stems from the fact that Dapper has attracted some incredibly prominent investors – Google Ventures, Samsung, and Andreesen Horowitz. And these are just the most famous of them.

However, this is where the similarities end. Flow takes a different approach to development in the NFT space. It relies more on premium and branded content and games.

NFT ecosystems: NFT Markets

The Flow blockchain only has two NFT markets – NBA Top Shot and Starly. Starly is a relative newcomer with under $400,000 in revenue, while the NBA Top Shot is definitely the gem of the blockchain.

The NBA Top Shot ranked third in the NFT market and attracted nearly half a million traders. The NBA-branded collection and design aimed at mass adoption have led to rapid platform growth that shows no sign of slowing down. Flow has the most transactions, surpassing Ronin, which has almost three times as many users.

As a reminder, NBA Top Shots is a Proof of Concept (PoC). The NFL is already building a trading floor called the NFL All Day. If it succeeds in NBA success, then Flow could become one of the top three NFT blockchains.

And that’s not all: European football leagues are also keen to take part in the action, which La Liga is planning to join. If this yields good results, then the Premier League could follow its example, the global reach of which could lead Flow to leadership in the blockchain space.

At #2: RONIN

We are almost at the very top of our list of the best NFT blockchains of 2021. The second place is deservedly taken by Ronin – the Ethereum side chain. Ronin is the basic structure for the Axie Infinity game as gas charges go through it when players exchange AXS tokens.

Ronin itself is made in the same way as many other Tier 1 blockchains. It is no different from Ethereum or even PayPal and eBay.

Many see the move to Ronin as a defining moment for Axie’s growth, as the blockchain has bypassed the Ethereum network and allowed faster transactions and lower fees. Axie is currently the only game on the Ronin network, but in the future, the developers plan to host new games as well as other types of dApps. An example of this is Katana, Ronin’s own decentralized exchange.

NFT ecosystems: Popularity

The Ronin blockchain is not even a year old, but the popularity of the game behind it has attracted nearly 1.5 million traders who traded a staggering $3.8bn. This is by far the largest trading volume for a single collection.

Now the main phenomenon is Axie. It is the leader among all play-to-earn games. At the time of this writing, 2.5 million people play it every month. The Pokémon-inspired NFT game serves as a stable source of income even in less developed economies such as the Philippines and Venezuela. The latter actually accounts for 40% of all Axie users.

But the biggest problem with Ronin right now is that the team only relies on one mega-successful project, Axie. For example, all the other NFT blockchains in our top have several projects in development or rely on the creation of many communities. Time will tell who took the right approach.

First place: Ethereum

First place goes to Ethereum – the original NFT ecosystem and the undisputed leader in the cryptosphere. Over 90% of the digital assets on the network are ERC-721 tokens, including Axie Infinity, which, as we mentioned, is the Ethereum sidechain.

We’re sure we’ve all heard of the Cryptopunks and Bored Apes NFT collections. According to Cryptoslam, the latter has sales of more than $1.8bn, which is an insane figure for a novelty in the crypto space.

Due to the fact that a huge number of NFTs have been created on the Ethereum blockchain over the past year, gas fees have also increased. This led to the rise of Solana, a competitor to Ethereum, as well as the emergence of the Ronin side chain. But Ethereum is working on a solution to this situation and is preparing to switch to the proof-of-stake (PoS) algorithm next year. After that, presumably, the network will become more scalable, and gas charges will decrease.

NFT Ecosystems: Top 5 of 2021 According to BeInCrypto Staff
Building blocks

Now let’s take a look at what the building blocks of the Ethereum NFT ecosystem are.

And we should start with OpenSea – the largest NFT market at the moment . OpenSea’s total trade volume is a whopping $ 13.2bn, more than all other markets combined. Of course, many of them focus on individual collections or don’t actually contain many NFTs, while OpenSea tries to accommodate as many non-fungible tokens as possible.

The Ethereum NFT ecosystem itself is already very strong, because it includes more than a dozen trading platforms, and the total sales volume is more than $11bn. In terms of the number of Ethereum users, only Ronin is second, but their connection is likely to lead to sustainable growth the number of people buying and selling NFTs on the Ethereum network.

Two marketplaces worth mentioning are Decentraland and Sandbox. We already had reviews for both platforms, but now I would like to highlight them as projects of the metaverse. 2022 could be the year of lightning-fast growth in the metaverse, so keep an eye out for these two – they could be the driving force behind the growth of Ethereum’s NFT market.

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Nicholas Pongratz
Nick is a data scientist who teaches economics and communication in Budapest, Hungary, where he received a BA in Political Science and Economics and an MSc in Business Analytics from CEU. He has been writing about cryptocurrency and blockchain technology since 2018, and is intrigued by its potential economic and political usage.