NFTs remain highly profitable, but key projects would need a staggering 9.7 times their current earnings to match the unparalleled heights of 2022.
It’s no secret that compared with 2021 and early 2022, this year has been a painful one for the NFT market. Despite prolonged bear market conditions and floor price slumps however, many of the market’s most treasured blue-chip collections have still managed to turnover healthy profits from royalty earnings, a new CoinGecko study shows.
#1 Yuga Labs – $178.8 million
It will come as no surprise that Yuga Labs came in as the highest royalty earner, generating a staggering $178.8 million in royalties from April 23, 2021 to July 12, 2023.
Yuga Labs has three key projects that account for 87% of its royalty earnings: Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC), Mutant Ape Yacht Club (MAYC), and Otherside, a “gamified metaverse”.
Bored Ape, the company’s flagship ape avatar project, raked in the highest numbers, bringing in $59.1 million in royalties from April 2021 to July 2023. This is in spite of the project’s floor price sliding 41% recently as interest in profile picture (PFP) NFTs wanes.
Otherdeed, the NFT linked to owning land in the Yuga Labs metaverse Otherside, was close behind, generating $53.3 million in royalties. A vast majority of these profits (88%) were generated upon launch in May 2022.
Mutant Apes, similar in style to Bored Ape, was the third most profitable collection, bringing in $43.7 million in royalties.
#2 RTFKT – $83.7 million
Many in the Web3 community were dismayed when Nike acquired digital sneaker and wearable studio RTFKT back in December 2021, fearing the legacy brand would dilute the Web3 direction of RTFKT (pronounced ‘artifact’).
In the time since, RTFKT has performed well, accumulating $83.7 million in royalties from March 3, 2021 to July 12, 2023.
The most profitable collection is CloneX, a collection of 20,000 3D avatar ‘clones’ designed for the metaverse in collaboration with Japanese contemporary artist, Takashi Murakami. The collection generated $37.9 million in royalties.
Close behind was CloneX Mintvial, which generated $13.9 million, and MNLTH, which brought in $16.4 million.
Similar to Yuga Labs, these three projects represent 81% of the RTFKT’s total royalty profits, even though it has released more than 20 collections.
#3 Chiru Labs – $59.2 million
LA-based Chiru Labs is one of the newest kids on the block, but it’s grown astonishingly fast. Since launching in January 2022, the company has generated $59.2 million in royalty earnings – coming in miles ahead of more established projects like Doodles and Veefriends.
Chiru’s flagship collection Azuki accounts for 75% of the company’s total earnings, with its new Elementals collection generating $1.5 million in royalties since launching on June 27, 2023. The launch however was disastrous, with buyers flipping their NFT for less than the minting price just hours after a disappointing artwork reveal. The pain point was that the new collection was too similar to the original collection.
Chiru Labs’ Beanz project, a generative collection of 19,950 hand-drawn ‘bean’ PFPs, brought in $12.4 million for the company.
Following the fateful Azuki launch, Azuki enthusiasts launched a DAO with the hope of recovering 20,000 ETH from Zagabond, the founder of the Azuki brand. A resounding 88% of the participants voted in favour of taking legal action against Zagabond of allegedly “rugging”.
Proof Collective and Doodles came in after Azuki in fourth and fifth place, followed by Parallel Alpha and Veefriends.
2023 still lags massively behind 2022 earnings.
While the general cryptocurrency market is on the road to a bullish recovery, the NFT market has struggled. During Q1 2022, key NFT projects earned a total of $303.5 million, whereas in Q2 2023, their earnings plummeted to just $27.3 million, a decline of 91.0%.
In Q2 of this year, the market has also seen a 35% decline in NFT trading volume, falling from $4.84 billion in Q1 to $3.15 billion in Q2.
The current landscape poses a challenge for the top 10 most profitable NFT projects, as they would need a staggering 9.7 times their current earnings to match the unparalleled heights of 2022. What this might signify though is not a loss of interest in NFTs, but a reduced interest in PFP projects in favour of projects that have real-world value and utility.
In terms of royalties, the shift reflects a prevailing sentiment to reduce or eliminate creator royalties.
This study examined the profitability of top NFT projects based on royalties earned from their inception up to July 12, 2023. The analysis solely considers royalty earnings and excludes any other external revenue streams. Royalties were converted to USD according to CoinGecko price data at the time of sale. The study specifically centers on NFT collections built on the Ethereum blockchain and excludes other NFT collections on blockchains.
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