A Brief History of NFT Marketplaces
Can the STEPN team’s MOOAR overtake Magic Eden?
The NFT marketplace industry is a cut-throat business.
What started out with few players has now blossomed into a flourishing industry, with newer entrants entering the fray every other month, all vying for a slice of the same lucrative pie.
Cue enter stage, MOOAR.
Built by Find Satoshi Lab (FSL), the creators of STEPN.
After releasing the wildly popular web3 lifestyle app that spurred an entire move-and-earn industry, FSL followed up with DOOAR, which quickly became the biggest decentralised exchange (DEX) on Solana.
Now, the FSL team is unveiling its own NFT marketplace.
But how will new entrants like MOOAR have a chance of dislodging competitors that are already so deeply entrenched?
Competition between NFT marketplaces can be a bruising and brutal experience for players who can’t keep pace with the frenetic pace of innovation.
No one is safe.
The largest NFT marketplace — Ethereum’s OpenSea — takes up the lion’s share of trading volume. But in recent months, up-and-comer X2Y2 has slowly sapped volume away from OpenSea to the point of surpassing in the latest quarter.
We bear witness to similar dynamic cycles of dominance in the Solana ecosystem.
Here, Magic Eden currently boasts 70–80% of NFT trading volume, with the next most popular marketplace (Yawww) only making away with 15% over the past month.
Such dominance wasn’t always the case.
Solanart owned Solana’s NFT scene before Magic Eden arrived, exploding into mainstream crypto relevance in Q3 2021 off the back of its massive Degenerate Ape Academy launch that saw 10,000 apes sold in 8 minutes.
That was the moment that began catapulting $SOL towards its ATH of $260 in November. I vividly remember covering this on YouTube at the time.
Note: I still find it amusing that Solana, the blockchain that aspired to disrupt Wall Street with its outrageous throughput ended up becoming known as the ultimate chain for NFTs during the bull run!
Unfortunately for Solanart, the good times didn’t last too long.
How did Magic Eden edge out Solanart in the span of one month, before taking just a few more to become the decisively NFT marketplace leader on Solana?
Will history repeat itself on Ethereum with X2Y2 continuing its strong momentum against OpenSea?
Can the STEPN team’s MOOAR give Magic Eden a run for its money?
To help address these questions, we need to understand why and how these past milestones occurred.
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Many will be familiar with how the NFT craze started on the Ethereum blockchain with the likes of CryptoKitties, CryptoPunks, and eventually the Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) driving the movement.
The Solana NFT scene started around March 2021.
Some OGs in the space were Kreechures and Solarians. These were closely followed by the first generative art-based Solana Monkey Business (SMB) and of course, the Degenerate Ape Academy (DAA) that launched in August 2021, catapulting Solana’s NFTs into the limelight and creating a new genre of “blue-chip” collectables.
Back in those early days (crikey, it was only a year ago!), Solanart was the dominant marketplace on Solana. Launched in only June 2021, it quickly became an honour for a launch to be featured on the platform’s front page.
Rise of Magic Eden
Then Solanart became yesterday’s news.
What? That was quick!
Two words. Magic Eden.
These folks dislodged Solanart from de facto market leader status to barely averaging 3% of Magic Eden’s daily volume a year later. Like I said, brutal.
How did Magic Eden do it?
The ambitious team hit the ground running.
What started out as a very basic marketplace quickly evolved into a holistic NFT platform that made it easy for both creators and traders to flourish.
Easy means adoption.
Magic Eden also leveraged:
- an active Twitter supported by AMAs with the project founders;
- heavy marketing at Solana events;
- constant new features and platform updates;
- in-house account managers for NFT projects.
These bullish factors — along with the tight support of the community — aided Magic Eden’s rise to prominence, and subsequently, dominance.
It was a winning formula.
To be fair, this meteoric rise hasn’t been without controversy.
We saw ongoing technical issues like platform crashes after every mint and the notorious Balloonsville rug that ultimately pushed Magic Eden to fortify their launchpad rules. Then there’s the ongoing creator royalty wars and the debacle over the platform’s recently launched MetaShield NFT tool.
Room for Two Behemoths?
Much like how X2Y2 has rocketed to prominence on Ethereum, now hitting almost 70% of OpenSea’s monthly volume, can there be room for two crowns on Solana?
Or is this a case of Hey…this town’s too small for the both of us, buster!
Multiple marketplaces will always exist.
Humans thrive on familiarity, so there will always be users that end up being loyal to certain marketplaces for the sake of comfort and convenience, not dissimilar to why you go to your favourite grocer even if a cheaper one opens up the road.
I believe two dominant NFT marketplaces to be plausible if their value propositions are unique.
That is, they both have something different from each other to offer.
For instance, OpenSea remains the most liquid NFT marketplace due to its inherent popularity as the OG marketplace. On the other hand, we see a fair number of users flocking to marketplaces like X2Y2 because of the way they ‘gamify’ the whole trading experience — from the ability to stake their native token, to handing out rewards for trading, to providing the novel exemption to bypass royalties for NFT projects that aren’t ‘building’.
This clear differentiation in expectations and features carve out multiple consumer niches that OpenSea and X2Y2 and even LooksRare separately occupy.
Different marketplaces who all have a unique identity and feature sets to offer.
Hence for a new marketplace to challenge the status quo on Solana, it would need to fill the gaps that Magic Eden hasn’t focused on.
Challenger Emerges from the Shadows
Many of you are familiar with STEPN, the M&E lifestyle app built and scaled by the talented team at Find Satoshi Lab (FSL). In less than a year, FSL has drawn more than a million users into web3 across Solana, BNB Chain and Ethereum.
I wrote about STEPN and FSL in detail here.
Now these talented folks are launching their own NFT marketplace, MOOAR.
But what Unique Selling Points (USP) does MOOAR bring to the table?
Creator-Focused Fair Royalty
The industry is heading towards a future where compensating creators fairly for their work may become optional.
MOOAR refuses to participate in this race to the bottom and aspires to be a beacon of light that stands up for the creator, who will be able to set their own royalty fees to a reasonable degree.
This aligns with MOOAR’s focus for becoming a strong platform of choice for projects that wish to launch PFP NFT collections, either stand-alone or as part of their roadmap. PFP collectables are intrinsically art, which warrants royalties for the artist. That’s only fair.
FSL’s goal is to promote a virtuous cycle where as NFT creators become better off under MOOAR, they’ll thrive to create better content for members that encourage them to stay.
This sets up a positive feedback loop that positions MOOAR as a platform known for quality projects with a loyal user base and a loyal creator base who can rely on a passive income to sustain their work.
A form of synergistic loyalty between users, creators and the platform.
Will members really want to pay royalties if they no longer have to with some competitors? Great question!
This motivates the next unique selling point.
Zero Service Fee Subscription Model
How can MOOAR balance the tightrope between creators who appreciate being fairly remunerated for their work against some users who — let’s be frank — probably don’t want to pay any royalty fees?!
I mean, we all love creators but times are kinda tough right?
Enter MOOAR’s first-of-a-kind zero-fee subscription model for NFT marketplaces.
Members will save money by paying 0% service fees trading NFTs on MOOAR and instead pay a flat monthly subscription to use the platform. This means whether you’re doing high-volume trades of cheaper NFTs or swapping a single Bored Ape (60+ ETH), you’ll be saving a small fortune on fees.
Like an exchange that offers very low crypto trading fees or a brokerage that boasts low spreads, a zero-fee regime provides the freedom for MOOAR members to swap NFTs to their heart’s content.
This also opens up the door for great opportunities in the future for FSL to provide extra incentives and fun gamification schemes, like a level-up rewards system.
There have even been conversations regarding integrating MOOAR membership across all FSL products in the future, although I expect this to be much further down the track.
Finally, MOOAR’s unique selling points even extend to their launchpad.
Community-driven ‘Flavour of the Season’ Launchpad
The concept of a launchpad is akin to private equity and venture capital in the traditional finance, except ordinary people like you and I can participate.
Talk about democratising finance for the little guys!
The idea is launchpad participants are afforded the opportunity to buy into new projects before they go public — typically at a super cheap price.
I’ve written and spoken on launchpads for brand new fungible tokens extensively on Medium and YouTube, for example here, here and here.
On a similar vein, many NFT (i.e. non-fungible token) marketplaces offer a launchpad service where creators can launch their new NFTs.
What’s interesting is MOOAR’s unique spin on the launchpad concept.
Instead of waiting for projects to approach them, they’re limiting the projects launch to a given theme each ‘season’. These might span a couple of months.
Web3 teams can ideate projects that conform to the theme and propose it to the MOOAR team for launch.
MOOAR members holding GMT can then vote on their favourite project.
This community-led winner of each season are subsequently afforded the opportunity to launch on MOOAR’s thematic launchpad, which comes with a full suite of marketing and technical support for the project pre and post-launch.
You can find MOOAR’s litepaper here and a bunch of useful links here.
NFT marketplaces are constantly evolving.
It’s only a matter of time before serious contenders arrive to vie with Magic Eden for lucrative market share, especially on Solana — a top destination for the NFT community.
Will it be MOOAR? That remains to be seen.
I will say that the FSL team that built STEPN has the talent, technical chops and track record to build and scale pioneering startups in a short amount of time.
Alongside their considerable war chest from STEPN and DOOAR, complimented by FSL’s ever-expanding team of driven developers, engineers, marketers and content writers, I think MOOAR has the potential to go toe-to-toe with Magic Eden.
The team is determined to hit the ground running by leveraging its set of unique selling points — creator-focused royalties, zero-fee subscription model, thematic community-driven launchpad — that immediately differentiate it from competitors.
Things are about to heat up in the NFT marketplace industry!