Just when the world in general was getting to grips with the concept of cryptocurrencies along comes another milestone in the digital roadmap to create mystery and confusion.
When media like the New York Times reported that Beeple’s “Everydays: The First 5000 Days” had sold for $69 million at Christie’s auction house in March it would be fair to say that more than a few people were left struggling to grasp how this could be.
Yes, we’re used to hearing about works of art changing hands for inconceivable sums of money. But at least the buyers have a tangible object to display in their multi-million dollar home or lock away deep in a bank vault somewhere.
But here is a piece of art that can only be viewed on screen unless it’s printed out, and whose provenance would, on the surface, be very hard to confirm.
Of course, it’s all thanks to Non-Fungible Tokens that Beeple’s work managed to achieve this remarkable sum at auction. And all the signs are that we’ll be seeing a lot more of NFTs in the future.
Video games have already jumped on the bandwagon with in-game assets represented by NFTs which are now being widely traded on sites like Tokenzone. More and more artists are also set to start using them both to copyright their work and to secure the payment of royalties each time a particular piece is sold on.
As an industry that is always adopting new and innovative technology, it seems likely that the online casino sector is also looking on with interest at how they could be incorporated into their customer offering.
While all of the big players have been reluctant to adopt cryptocurrency to date, possibly due to its slightly dubious reputation, NFTs could be a different matter. For example, anyone playing at the live casino at William Hill could possibly start to use NFTs in place of the chips that are used in physical casinos. Whether playing the live-dealer versions of roulette, blackjack, baccarat or dice it would be a very secure way to place bets.
The broader sports world has also already been involved with NFTs with the NBA leading the way through its Top Shot platform. Fans can now buy authenticated digital cards of top players in action, many of which are already trading for six-figure sums.
So we can sure expect to see all kinds of collectables being traded in the future, backed by the NFT stamp of authenticity. But, to return to the original point about investing in a digital rather than a physical object, it does beg the question as to what people will actually be buying.
Will it be for the prestige of ownership or the intrinsic value and worth of the objects themselves? This is a complicated question to answer and one which is sure to have cultural observers and economists alike scratching their heads in search of an answer for a very long time indeed.