Are Fortnite cards worth money

57,000 euros for a virtual Mbappé trading card: The hype about NFT collectibles

Non-Fungible Token, NFT for short - behind the bulky term is a technology that uses the Ethereum blockchain to transform digital objects into unique and guaranteed forgery-proof collectibles. So far it has been an ultra-small niche for geeks, avant-garde artists and brave collectors. But NFT-based games and trading cards are currently growing rapidly. OMR explains: Why do people invest in virtual Formula 1 slopes? Why are even toy manufacturers now using NFTs? And why are FC Bayern Munich and 100 other football clubs getting involved in license deals with a startup that is just two years old?

The anonymous boss

“The boss” - that's what they call Mr. Karrupu in the German-speaking Sorare Telegram group. Sorare is a fantasy football game. The participants put together fictional teams from trading cards from real football professionals. In addition to ordinary white cards, there are also special colored variants that are auctioned. The rarer one of the digital cards, the higher its price.

Mr. Karrupu has bought his reputation as the boss over the past few months: Time and again, the collector behind the pseudonym has trumped all bidders at auctions of rare collectibles. Mr Karuppu has bought over 850 trading cards so far, including many with the status "Super Rare" or even "Unique", which are only available ten times or even only once per season at Sorare.

Excerpt from Mr Karuppu's Sorare collection including card value. The brown ones are unique, there are ten of the blue ones. Screenshot: Sorare

His most valuable Unique card with the Brazilian soccer player Neymar was bought by Mr. Karrupu in October, cost: 74.4 ether. At the exchange rate of the cryptocurrency at that time, this corresponded to 24,000 euros. A record - which has since been pulverized again. For the equivalent of 57,000 euros, a Unique card with the Paris-St.-Germain player Mbappé changed to a fan’s Sorare squad at the end of November.

Obviously, Sorare fights with a very unequal budget. On the one hand, the "normal" participants who put their teams together, compete against each other in different fantasy football leagues and treat themselves to trading cards for small to medium double-digit euro amounts. If they don't go away empty-handed again because people with seemingly inexhaustible resources are trying to get their noble squad together. Bosses like Mr. Karuppu, who don't speculate on a victory at Sorare, but on increased value.

Multi-million dollar fund for valuable NFTs

In fact, one of the currently most active NFT collectors is behind the pseudonym Mr. Karrupu. An assessment of the portfolio of Metapurse, a fund specializing in valuable digital objects, shows that Mr. Karuppu is identical to MetaKovan. This is the name of a crypto investor who is known little more than that he has a tech background, has been in the scene for a long time and obviously has a lot of money. Since 2017, he has been investing this broadly in NFTs via his Metapurse fund - digital works of art, properties in virtual worlds, various digital racing cars - with a total value of over four million US dollars. His Sorare trading cards, now worth several hundred thousand dollars alone, were not included in the evaluation for technical reasons.

MetaKovan's account is also of the deal that made the scene rumored at the beginning of December. In a bidding competition for the NFT game F1 Delta Time, he drove the price for a five percent share in the virtual version of the Formula 1 racetrack in Monaco to more than 180,000 euros. The losers included the Lithuanian poker player, businessman, politician and blockchain enthusiast Antanas Guoga known as Tony G. He came back a few days later and bought a racing car worth around 64,000 euros for his “Super Fast” racing team, which he is currently setting up in the game.

The poker professional and his virtual racing team

"I am currently investing in this field on a large scale," said Gouga in the chat with OMR. He is convinced that NFTs have enormous future potential - and with them Animoca Brands, the company behind F1 Delta Time, in which Gouga has also invested money. In 2017 she launched Crypto Kitties, a game about breeding and selling cats. Since some of the digital pets were traded for over 100,000 euros, Crypto Kitties attracted the topic of blockchain-based gaming for the first time.

Gouga does not speak of investments without reason, also with regard to his racing team within the game. Because F1 Drive Time is not just about competing against each other in car races. The in-game crypto currency Revv changes hands at many points in the game: it is used to pay for parts for the cars, pay entry fees for time trials, and pay out winning bonuses. Starting next season, racing circuit shareholders will also receive Revv whenever someone uses their circuit. With NFTs, people like MetaKovan will soon be able to earn money directly in addition to the potential increase in the value of their virtual possessions.

At F1 Delta Time, shares in routes can be purchased. The higher the quality, the higher the share of the startup fees that the owners receive. Screenshot: Animoca Brands

As soon as blockchain and gaming come together, the FAQ sections get out of hand with explanations on how exactly they work. So at this point only the essentials about the NFTs: As mentioned at the beginning, the abbreviation stands for “Non-Fungible Token”. Unlike fungible, i.e. exchangeable tokens such as Bitcoin, NFTs are unique, usually indestructible and can be traded on special platforms such as Open Sea or Super Rare. Put simply, thanks to NFTs, the authenticity, price and owner of an object can be guaranteed and tracked via a blockchain. This object can be a trading card or a work of art, a piece of land in a virtual world, a sneaker that only exists on the Internet, or a crypto cat for 300,000 euros.

Back to F1 Drive Time. The game has not even been fully released yet and it is uncertain whether it will find so many players that people like MataKovan and Tony G. can recoup their investments through route tolls or bonuses. 2021 will show whether the NFTs in their possession will increase in value - or the opposite will happen. MetaKovan knows that too, of course. In a podcast the other day he spoke about his investment in an F1 Delta-Time racing car studded with (digital) diamonds, which he bought for $ 111,000 in 2019: “Either this game will be big. Or that was the worst purchase of my life. "

50 percent growth every month

What it looks like when an NFT game gets big, that can currently be observed at Sorare. The fantasy football game, which was officially launched at the end of 2019, now has 10,000 active players, according to Sorare founder Nicolas Julia. The current growth is being driven - by up to 50 percent per month - primarily through license deals with top international clubs. Depending on how well they are known, each deal brings between 300 and 3,000 new users in one fell swoop.

Most recently, Sorare was able to acquire licenses for a whole series of big shots: Paris Saint-Germain is there, Juventus Turin, Atlético Madrid, since a few weeks also FC Bayern Munich, very fresh Fenerbahçe SK. Bayer 04 Leverkusen and Schalke 04 are also from the German Bundesliga. The French start-up's goals are ambitious: by the end of 2021, founder Julia wants to have signed contracts with all the clubs in the 20 leading global soccer leagues.

Gamification of the Panini album

In the summer of 2018, Julia and his later co-founder Adrien Montfort discovered NFTs for themselves - and the associated opportunity to create limited digital objects. “We were immediately fascinated by it,” says Julia. As a child he collected Panini pictures. “I had tons of it.” Later he played the French football manager game “Mon Petit Gazon”. “With Sorare, I am now mixing both for adults,” says Julia. "Most of the people who play and collect cards at Sorare have a similar story to mine."

At first the two founders only thought of digital trading cards, then the idea came up to make these cards usable in a game. The fantasy football concept was created as a gamification framework for an NFT collectibles case. "Our goal is to push the blockchain aspect into the background as far as possible, but to retain its special characteristics: scarcity, authenticity, transparency and traceability of the origin," says Julia.

Because Sorare can only get really big if significantly more people are interested in it than just the manageable crypto community. When the beta version started as invite-only in June 2019, the blockchain geeks still made up the majority of the players, according to Julia. After the opening of the beta test and the announcement of the first license deals with clubs, however, "unprecedented growth" occurred. “That was the confirmation of our idea,” says Julia. "That's when we noticed that we were on the right track."

Collecting at speed: Since all NFT trades are documented in a blockchain, market data can be tracked in real time. Screenshot: Soraredata

The blockchain makes all trades traceable. There is even a platform of its own, so the success of Sorare can also be expressed in numbers: 104 clubs and more than 3000 footballers currently make up the French license deals. Over 93,000 trading cards have been issued so far, around ten percent of them as "super rare" and a little more than 801 as "unique" cards (the "common" cards that can also be used in fantasy football games are not included here). Last November alone, Sorare trading cards worth 1.2 million euros were traded, the average price is now a little more than 88 euros.

Mia collect Mia

It is quite possible that these numbers will soon increase significantly. Because many of the really big names in the football world are still missing. This is why our recent AAA club deals are so important to Sorare. "The deal with FC Bayern Munich opens many doors for us in Germany and around the world," says Julia.

Since the beginning of November, the FC Bayern Munich team has been the third Bundesliga club to be represented in the fantasy football game Sorare

How long it has been for the Sorare founder to get here can be heard when you talk to the other side. FC Bayern Munich is not a “first mover”, says Benjamin Steen, Head of Customer Care and Digital Licensing Media at the club. In addition to the concept idea, they were also influenced by the fact that many top-class clubs have already entered into a partnership with Sorare. That was "definitely" an indicator for a professional and promising platform, according to Steen.

Another factor that coincides with Julia's vision was decisive. Ultimately, Sorare convinced as a product, according to Steen, that the digital trading cards “can not only be bought, sold and exchanged, but they can also be used in the Fantasy Football Manager”.

New source of income for the clubs

Since Sorare managed to get at least one top club from four other leading European leagues to sign in addition to FCB, Julia has been looking confidently into the future: “Being represented at Sorare gives the clubs and leagues visibility in our global and growing world Target group and a new source of income. ”Steen shares this point of view and sees the marketing effect for his club. He speaks of a "win-win situation", since one can reach different target groups together with the common product.

This design by Robbie Tilton, designer and founder of Wonders Assembly, a start-up for "digital toys" shows how stylish virtual trading cards can be (source: Robbie Tilton on Twitter)

But what about Julia's second argument: Sorare as a source of revenue for the clubs? However, the founder does not want to reveal how lavishly this gushes. As usual in business, you pay an annual license fee. In addition, there are special agreements with every league and club, depending on their size and popularity.

That at least suggests that here - similar to F1 Delta Time - the possibilities of the NFTs could be used to let the clubs participate in the trade or the use of the trading cards in the game. No details can be extracted from Steen either. "We have agreed not to disclose the content in the contract and of course we would like to adhere to it," he says diplomatically.

Captain Kirk discovers the blockchain

Wax deals with this question a little more transparently. The US company is a kind of blockchain infrastructure service provider that wants to simplify the creation and trading of NFTs. In addition, Wax acts as a partner of the rights holders and published trading cards. There are no figures for specific deals here either. But at least the information that a fee of eight percent is paid for trades on the secondary market. The will then be divided between the operator of the marketplace, the publisher and the rights holder.

The prospect of steadily flowing income was perhaps also an argument for William Shatner to fetch his old photo albums from the attic. In June, an edition of wax trading cards was published by the actor who became famous as Captain Kirk in the science fiction series "Star Trek". The cards show some unpublished images, such as a recording from the moment Shatner found out about the birth of one of his daughters, another an intimate hug with Spock actor Leonard Nimoy.

Sold out in nine minutes

Wax has divided around 125,000 digital photos, including a brief note from Shatner, into 10,000 packages. The buyer can then open it, which triggers a smart contract and allows them to see the individual cards. Or they leave the virtual bags closed and speculate on an increase in value. After nine minutes, all Shatner card packs were sold out. This is not the only reason why Wax is satisfied, but also because a calculation worked out: “There were many middle-aged women among the buyers - not exactly the usual blockchain audience,” says Arielle Brechisci, Content Manager at Wax.

Animation when opening a virtual sachet with wax trading cards

Behind the company, which according to Crunchbase is solidly financed with 42 million US dollars, are two veterans of the blockchain scene. Before that, they set up a marketplace for digital game content. Now they want to repeat the success on a much larger scale and establish a universal marketplace for NFTs as well as an easy-to-use platform for collecting digital objects. It is no longer just geeks who should get along with the technology, but also middle-aged women with a weakness for Captain Kirk. “Mainstream customers don't want to deal with things like wallets, public and private keys,” says Brechisci. That is why they could log into Wax with their Facebook or Google data and create an account with just two clicks.

Beat’em Up and Deep House

In addition to the easy-to-use infrastructure, the content ultimately decides whether Wax can lead the NFT trading cards into the previously analog collector mainstream. The majority of the editions - from trading cards with animated boxes of old Atari games to the "Blockchain Heroes", which are currently in their second edition - still exude plenty of nerd appeal. But the perspective is clearly directed towards the mainstream.

On December 12th, Wax is launching a series of cards with DJ Deadmau5. A “Street Fighter” set and a collaboration with a major US toy manufacturer are in the pipeline and should go live shortly before Christmas. Brechisci cannot provide details about the product yet, but that it is a product with “a huge fan base” that has so far had little contact with the topic of blockchain.

Gaming giants in wait

The pattern of the deals is basically always the same: Wax looks for partners with target groups that have not yet been covered. They are addressed via the partners' channels. New users then land on Wax. The cards go on sale as part of a drop. And then everyone earns on every future trade.

"At the moment we are the kings of the NFTs," says Brechisci. And the empire that Wax wants to rule is getting bigger and bigger. According to Brechisci, the volume of traded virtual items from computer games, i.e. digital objects such as “World of Warcraft” axes or “Fortnite” skins, is currently 100 billion US dollars. "We expect to surpass that."

Another NFT trading card project will soon show how quickly the leap into the mainstream can be achieved. The official start of "NBA Top Shots" was in October.Dapper Labs announced at the launch that its cards worth over US $ 2 million had been traded during the closed beta phase. The company, which is also behind Cryptokitties, has developed so-called "Moments" - animated 3D NFT collectibles in which special scenes from the current season are captured - for the NBA.

Most valuable NFT game in the world

Just in time for the start of the 20/21 season on December 22nd, “The Hustle” had the latest figures: So far, almost 100 virtual trading card pouches have been sold. The total turnover is now over 5 million dollars, which makes "NBA Top Shot" the largest blockchain product. Superstar LeBron can be seen on eight of the ten most valuable cards. And of course the one that is currently most expensive on the marketplace for collectors - for US $ 7,300.

Compared to the prices called up at Sorare, that sounds cheap. However, so far only cards of the three lower rarity levels have been sold at “NBA Top Shots”. The auctions of the two highest categories, of which only three or one card will be available, have not yet started. So it is quite possible that a few NFT professional collectors have already stocked up on Flow - the crypto currency from Dapper Labs - and that the happily collecting NBA fans will soon see what a real boss in the NFT game looks like.