Home NFTs NFT Highlights of 2023 – The Best and Worst of a Whirlwind Year

NFT Highlights of 2023 – The Best and Worst of a Whirlwind Year

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January 2023: Hacks, Sweeps and Dookey Dash

2023 started off with a bang with massively popular battle royale game PUBG announcing a partnership with web3 gaming platform Banger Games.

It was a big month for big brand adoption, with BMW, Square Enix and the Tribeca Film Festival experimenting with web3.

In a sign of things to come, several gaming-focused collections kicked off 2023 with a bang. Axie Infinity pushed their accessories update, Treeverse held their pre-alpha launch, Neopets netted $4mil in funding, and Yuga Labs launched the wildly popular Dookey Dash.

NFT collectibles had an explosive start to the year. Art Blocks minted their Friendship Bracelets, one collector swept the DeGods floor for $1mil, PROOF launched Grails: Season III, Mocaverse started making waves, Candy Digital raised $38mil, and Doodles acquired Golden Wolf alongside announcing Doodles 2 on Flow.

It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. @NFT_God and PROOF Collective co-founder Kevin Rose were hit by major hacks, Porsche had a rocky NFT launch, ApeFest severed its ties with NFT.NYC, Nifty Gateway’s founders departed the project, NFT Inspect closed its doors, and Yuga Labs co-founder Wylie Aronow stepped down amid health concerns.

February 2023: Ordinals, Controversy and Marketplace War

Amidst Dookey Dash rising to prominence and the release of Worldwide Webb’s MOBA, the OpenSea-Blur war dominated the headlines – the plucky challenger’s $BLUR token picking up speed with the back-and-forth between the two marketplaces raging throughout the month.

Brands continued to experiment with web3 technology, as Shopify released tokengated commerce, Amazon invested $20mil into Superplastic, Sorare signed a $4.3bil deal with the English Premier League, Reddit released free Super Bowl snoos, Rihanna utilised NFTs to share her streaming royalties, Spotify debuted tokengated playlists, Wizards of the Coast backtracked on license changes that prevented derivative NFTs, and free-to-mint Starbucks NFTs hit a $2,000 floor price.

February was busy for Yuga Labs, as alongside Dookey Dash, they had to clarify the rights of Bored Ape holders, landed in hot water over the original Bored Ape Kennel Club logo, and settled their lawsuit with the developer behind the copycat RR/BAYC collection.

Following their January debut, Bitcoin Ordinals picked up pace, with their popularity spilling over into Litecoin. Other innovations made their mark in February, as Uniswap allowed NFT purchases using any ETH-based token, the debut of Porsche’s NFT collection sparked debate on NFT refunds, and Immutable launched their Immutable Passport solution.

This was also the month of Cool Cats’ rebrand, a @ZachXBT tip-off helping the FBI seize $260,000 of NFTs, and World of Women’s inaugural Artfest – but also saw the conclusion of Hermes lawsuit against Metabirkins, Coinbase roll back support for creator drops.

March 2023: Unity, Keys and Bridges

Yuga Labs continued to rule the headlines in March, with the controversial release of Ordinals collection TwelveFold, a Wisconsin-based winery releasing BAYC-emblazoned NFT wine, Dookey Dash winner Mongraal selling his Golden Key reward for 1,000 ETH, the holding of The Summoning, the announcement of Legends of the Mara, the “Second Trip” for Yuga Labs’ metaverse Otherside – which saw over 7,000 participants – and news of a collaboration between Yuga Labs and Gucci.

Blur hit the headlines once again, as amid a rise in phishing scams piggybacking off their success, whales dumped NFTs to capitalise on the upcoming $BLUR token airdrop.

Mainstream brands continued to explore web3. NFT-backed TV show Krapopolis was renewed for a third season (despite being yet-to-air), Lamborghini released their final 60th anniversary NFT, rumours swirled of an Amazon-backed NFT marketplace, Nike released physical RTFKT Air Force 1 sneakers, Starbucks Odyssey debuted their first NFT stamps, the Pokémon Company advertised a C-suite web3 role, Avenged Sevenfold integrated their Deathbats NFT collection with Ticketmaster, and Sony filed a patent for cross-platform NFT trading.

After Animoca Brands waded into the discussion on creator royalties – and launched a members-only club in LA – a Buterin-associated NFT collection raked in millions as Ethereum launched a new token standard, Immutable and Polygon joined forces, Magic Eden launched an Ordinals marketplace as select DeGods bridged to Bitcoin, Christie’s sold a Fidenza for $440,000, and Sotherby’s kicked-off a new NFT-themed auction event.

On the less positive side, Meta u-turned on NFT features for Instagram and Facebook, the UK government backtracked on proposals to issue their own NFTs, a US judge approved the use of an airdropped NFT to serve court papers, Doodles founder @poopie turned heads by claiming the collection is “not an NFT project” following the release of their DoodleMap, and a CryptoPunk was forever lost to the void.

April 2023: Staking, Phygitals and Utility

April kicked-off with news that popular cryptocurrency staking platform Lido would incorporate NFT into their unstaking process.

On the brand front, April also saw Google Cloud open up their web3 Startup Program, Square Enix partner with web3 game launcher Elixir and drop a Final Fantasy VII NFT collection, confectioners Wrigley file a patent for the ‘Juicyverse’, Jack Daniels dip their toes into NFTs, FIFA release an NFT-powered AI football game, Reddit drop their 3rd generation of NFT snoos, Adidas ramp up their metaverse plans, the tokenisation of TikTok videos, The Smurfs hit web3, Donald Trump’s second NFT drop, and Hugo Boss, Nike and Wrangler all explore phygital merchandise.

Web3 natives didn’t stand still. Yuga Labs launched their first Gucci pendants and finally triumphed in their lawsuit against Ryder Ripps and Jeremy Cohen. In their ongoing battle with Blur, OpenSea released OpenSea Pro, which quickly picked up steam. The Proof Collective announced new initiatives for Moonbirds holders, including exclusive artwork and their Talons reward system.

The month also saw Ember Sword run their inaugural alpha playtest, Truth Labs make a controversial statement on creator royalties, Mad Lads trick the bots with a $250,000 fake mint, and one unlucky collector place a 100 ETH bid on a free NFT – which was swiftly accepted.

May 2023: Apps, Chains and Reveals

May heralded the start of Pudgy Penguin’s rise to prominence. They signed with iconic Hollywood talent agency WME, and launched their inaugural line of physical toys in stores worldwide, selling $500,000 of stock within just 48 hours on Amazon alone.

Mainstream exposure continued to grow. The CEO of luxury conglomerate LVMH was revealed as an avid NFT collector, Cryptoys revealed a line of Star Wars, Barbie and Fast & Furious phygitals, Renault released phygital footwear, Ubisoft brought Assassins Creed collectibles to Polygon – and helped Reddit pass 10 million avatar holders with an exclusive release, STEPN enabled NFT trading on Apple devices, Doctor Who and Top Gear entered The Sandbox, Formula 1 experimented with NFT tickets, Sony launched a web3 incubator in Japan, and the Epic Games Store added 20 web3 titles.

On native shores, Sui’s launch kicked up a storm, Dapper Labs gave a select few access to their Top Shots app, Bitcoin Ordinals gained the support of Binance NFT and OKX, Bitcoin Frogs dominated the trading landscape, and Blur introduced NFT lending platform Blend – which saw over $100mil in NFT-backed loans in just 11 days. Milady Maker saw huge traction on Blend, with a shoutout from Elon Musk helping prices rise ever higher.

Yuga remained in the spotlight with the mixed reaction to their HV-MTL reveal, a present to holders for the 2nd anniversary of Meebits, and the appointment of ex-Riot Games & Epic Games Mike Seavers as their new CTO. Elsewhere, Axie Infinity debuted on Apple’s App Store, Moonbirds collaborated with Spotify, Magic Eden introduced $SOL rewards, Doodles released their Pharrell Pack, and Ledger unveiled a controversial new seed phrase recovery feature.

In other news, two basketball giants captured attention, as LeBron James was spotted sporting Nike RTFKT sneakers, whilst on the flipside Shaquille O’Neal received a class-action complaint over his involvement in the Astrals NFT project.

June 2023: Mints, Backlash and Floor Prices Dives

As summer began, Azuki kicked into gear by launching their Elementals collection – though not without controversy.

Brand adoption rode on, as Mercedes-Benz created their debut NFT collection, Louis Vuitton dropped at 5-figure NFT trunk, Puma went head-to-head with Nike, Warner Bros crafted a Superman web3 movie experience, GameStop tabled a proposal to issue company shares as NFTs, Sotheby’s sold ‘The Goose’ for $6.3mil, Nike’s .SWOOSH collaborated with Fortnite – but without using NFT tech, and Binance collaborated with Cristiano Ronaldo on an NFT collection.

Within web3, FEWOCiOUS had a busy month, unveiling his FEWOS collection and collaborating with Adidas on an exclusive release. Doodles joined forces with US retailer CAMP on a retail entertainment experience, Oracle Red Bull Racing brought digital fan experiences to Sui, Illuvium raised $10mil, Blankos Block Party saw game assets available via Amazon’s Prime Gaming service, and Kraken’s NFT marketplace saw its official launch as LooksRare looked to compete by hosting a CryptoPunk raffle.

As one Punk was given away, another Punk left Ethereum’s shores for a home in Bitcoin. They weren’t the only blue-chip to star, as Yuga had an up-and-down month. Their HV-MTL Forge game moved towards its Season 1 launch, and a BAYC holder signed a groundbreaking movie contract – but floor prices dove as holders looked to capitalise on the upcoming $BLUR airdrop.

Meanwhile, NFT Inspect crowned its rebirth by launching an NFT tracking tool for X (formerly Twitter), Only Up’s explosive debut put Goblintown in the limelight, the Proof Collective unveiled plans for an IRL community hub in LA, Zora rose to prominence, NFL Rivals shot past 1 million downloads, Gods Unchained debuted on the Epic Games Store, Pixel Penguins creator did the unthinkable, and @ZachXBT turned to the community in his hour of need.

July 2023: Opepen, Ice Cream and Gaming

Opepen was the name of the game in July, as an act of kindness from Jack Butcher drove his latest collection to new heights.

Looking at brand adoption, Warner Music Group partnered with Polygon, Dior released phygital sneakers, Wimbledon created Andy Murray NFTs, Starbucks Odyssey worked with former MLB star Micah Johnson, 7-Eleven distributed free Slurpee NFTs on Polygon, Puma returned with even more phygital sneakers, Warner Bros brought The Flash to the blockchain, Louis Vuitton and Pharrell collaborated on an NFT, Gucci and Lacoste followed in LV’s footsteps, Snoop Dogg lent his Bored Ape to create Walmart ice cream, and Google Play made a web3-positive change to its store guidelines.

Speaking of Bored Apes, in positive news, Yuga Labs’ HV-MTL game went live – but on the flipside, many Bored Apes were sold-off, driving the floor price to new lows. BAYC wasn’t the only collection to struggle, as Azuki fell from 17 ETH to 6 ETH after their Elementals mint, with founder @ZAGABOND fleeing X in the fallout. Furthermore, The Gutter Cat Gang fell victim to a two-pronged attack, and Ether held one of the most disastrous mints of the year.

As blue-chips fell, web3 gaming began its rise. Epic Games continued to onboard more web3 games to its store, The Sandbox announced that user-generated content was finally around the corner, Futureverse closed a whopping $54mil Series A, Cool Cats announced a trio of games anticipated to arrive in 2024 – alongside appearing in Reddit’s Gen4 avatar drop – and Axie Infinity released dynamic NFTs as parent company Sky Mavis brought CyberKongz to Ronin.

It wasn’t all doom and gloom however. DeGods launched a cryptic website hinting at their strides in IP licensing, Moonbirds began to reveal their 20,000-piece Oddities collection, Ethereum Layer-2 Linea held a successful alpha, and AI-driven marketplace Jungle secured $16mil in funding.

August 2023: Royalties, Crocs and Kevin Returns

Creator royalties took a big hit in August, as OpenSea took the decision to roll back on their royalty enforcement tool – a move which attracted considerable community backlash, and affirmations from rivals that they wouldn’t follow the same path.

Starbucks continued their web3 journey with a new 5,000-piece collection, Formula 1 experimented with circuit-based NFT rewards as Williams Racing put select PFPs on their rear wings, Etihad Airways and Manchester United launched web3 loyalty programs, Coca-Cola brought us their Masterpiece NFT collection, McDonalds brought shake-lover Grimace to the blockchain, Adidas worked with BAPE on all-new phygitals, Snoop Dogg’s Bored Ape made its sneaker debut, and Zynga brought their first web3 game Sugertown to the fore.

Speaking of web3 games, Yuga Labs acquired Roar Studios to work on Otherside, Animoca dropped three new games alongside revealing Wreck League, Mojo Melee partnered with Amazon Prime Gaming, Bandai Namco announced a web3 “virtual pet adventure”, WAGMI Games struck a partnership with OpenSea, Sky Mavis enabled Greenlight on their Mavis Hub and dropped their Project T playtest.

On the collectibles front, Pudgy Penguins released another batch of toys alongside the launch of an in-house clothing line, a glitch led to Jack Butcher issuing refunds on his Infinity Checks collection, ‘Kevin’ made an infamous return, Sotherby’s was on the receiving end of a lawsuit from BAYC holders, and Recur shut down despite raising $50mil. DeGods started the month off strong with a trio of surprises, but quickly nosedived amid their rocky DeGods III’s reveal, the lukewarm reaction to its launch, and the stepping down of co-founder Finn.

Blue chips didn’t all suffer. Doodles hailed a new partnership with Crocs, PROOF went live with Grails IV, and Azuki worked with NFL star Patrick Mahomes on a collectibles release – with the collection also being at the centre of a trading bot situation that gifted one shrewd trader 800 ETH in profit.

September 2023: Penguins, Punks and Legends of the Mara

September saw Pudgy Penguins meteoric rise continue, as they flipped both DeGods and Azuki amid chaotic market conditions, and saw their toys debut on Walmart’s shelves across the US.

Yuga Labs trajectory continued to swing wildly, as amongst hiring an ex-Nike VP of Apparel and Lifestyle, a BAPE x BAYC collaboration, a HV-MTL hunt event, and the announcement of Legends of the Mara’s impending open beta, excitement led to disappointment with LoTM’s underwhelming launch and a block on trading Legends of the Mara assets on marketplaces such as OpenSea, Blur and LooksRare.

Elsewhere, Lufthansa launched an NFT-based loyalty scheme, MoonPay unveiled MoonPay Ventures, Adidas created an NFT residency program, PSG partnered with Crypto.com for a free NFT release, Casio dropped free G-SHOCK NFTs, Honda worked with Animoca to release NFTs at F1’s Japanese Grand Prix, whisky giants Glenfiddich launched a partnership with BlockBar, Justin Bieber followed Rihanna’s footsteps with a royalty-sharing NFT drop, and Google dropped its long-standing ban on advertising NFT games.

The month also saw Vitalik Buterin’s X account be hacked, resulting in the loss of the first publicly-claimed CryptoPunk. This was followed up by the U.S. SEC declaring the Stoner Cats NFT collection a security, with major marketplaces halting trading of the assets. Controversy wasn’t over however, as Milady Maker saw a rogue developer siphon $1mil from the project, and Nakamigos Cloaks was met with cynicism from the community at large.

Through all the mud, there were some positives. Cool Cats revealed their balloon for Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, Moonbirds prepared for a journey into space, Aavegotchi unveiled their Game Center, Blankos Block Party announced their switch to mobile-first development, My Pet Hooligan launched on Epic Games, Zynga distributed free NFTs that quickly hit $1mil in volume, and Pixels began its march to the top of web3 gaming by announcing a switch to Ronin.

October 2023: Monopoly, Lattes and 6,000 Days

After months of debate, the Open Metaverse Alliance for Web3 (OMA3) – led by several top industry leaders – established a working group alongside Magic Eden, Yuga Labs and others to create a community-developed solution for defending creator royalties.

Yuga kept themselves busy, partnering with Avant Arte to bring CryptoPunks into the real world. Speaking of innovations, Phantom released their “one-tap” NFT creation feature, OpenSea Studio hit the blockchain, World of Women launched their own official Monopoly board game, y00ts transitioned to Ethereum, and a $5mil liquid fund drove Bitcoin Ordinals trading ever higher.

On mainstream brand adoption, Steve Aoki partnered with STEPN for an NFT sneaker raffle, Marvel and Funko brought Iron Man to VeVe, Starbucks dropped a Pumpkin Spice Latte open edition, MoMA launched their Postcards NFT project, PayPal unveiled a royalty-friendly marketplace patent, Sotherby’s announced a partnership with Ledger, and Nike released a new line of RTFKT phygital sneakers.

In gaming, Immutable revealed a strategic partnership with AWS, Shrapnel developers Neon Machine announced a $20mil raise, Deadfellaz and MetaMask celebrated Halloween in Decentraland, Peter Molyneux’s ‘Legacy’ saw its long-awaited release, and Animoca released the officially licensed ‘Formula E: High Voltage’ web3 game.

Away from gaming, Boss Beauties acquired BFF, Bybit’s Head of Partnerships came to the defence of NFTs, a CrypToadz sold for 1,000x its estimated price, and Beeple hit the 6,000-day mark in his quest to create one piece of art every single day.

November 2023: Drama, Deals and Blast

After fighting to become the #1 NFT marketplace, the developers of Blur set out to create the next big blockchain with the release of Blast, an Ethereum Layer-2, in November.

Major brands continued to experiment with web3. Adidas worked with Bugatti on phygital football boots, Crossmint tokenized AC Milan’s San Siro stadium, NFT platform Authentick partnered with TikTok and Shopify, Dairy Queen struck a bizarre deal with Weirdo Ghost Gang, Nike released yet more RTFKT sneakers, and Louis Vuitton revealed a €6,000 phygital trunk for their existing web3 community.

Inside web3, Cool Cats acquired a top-draw hire, Yuga Labs announced an upcoming royalty-compliant marketplace with Magic Eden, the Decentraland Music Festival took centre stage, Taproot Wizards raised $7.5mil to empower Bitcoin and Ordinals, Pudgy Penguins geared up for Art Basel Miami Beach, CoinGecko acquired web3 data intelligence company Zash, and Bioniq unveiled the “world’s fastest” Bitcoin Ordinals marketplace.

Web3 gaming ramped up further, as Animoca partnered with Ubisoft’s Strategic Innovation Lab (with the gaming giant also partnering with Immutable), and both Illuvium and Phantom Galaxies hit the Epic Games Store – whilst on the flipside, Shrapnel found itself mired in C-suite drama.

December 2023: Security, Innovation and Fresh Crowns

As Pudgy Penguins continued their unprecedented rise with the reveal of Pudgy World and an appearance on Kai Cenat’s livestream, the headlines were dominated by the news that Blur had captured 80% of all NFT trading volume, and a series of major security breaches as Ledger’s Connect Kit Library was compromised, leading to a renewed focus on eliminating blind signing.

Gods Unchained had a tumultuous month. After riding high following an Amazon Prime Gaming partnership, the web3 TCG was removed from the Epic Games Store following an AO rating from the ESRB – only to return the following week.

Whilst we’re discussing web3 gaming, Animoca raised over $11mil to support its Mocaverse ambitions, Valeria Games secured IP deals with prominent BAYC, CryptoPunks and Azuki holders, and. Axie Infinity announced their Stage 2 evolutions – on top of announcing their 2024 Creator Awards – as Ronin approached 1 million daily active users thanks to Pixels. The Sandbox shifted their marketplace from Ethereum to Polygon, Nifty Island unveiled their upcoming Play-to-Airdrop beta phase, and Ubisoft’s free Warlord NFTs gathered over $4.5mil of trading volume in 48 hours.

Elsewhere, Megadeth dropped a 5,000-piece NFT collection, Michael Jackson’s first studio track hit the blockchain, Reebok united with Futureverse, Funko brought Disney’s Mickey & Friends into the phygital game, Donald Trump held his third NFT drop, Starbucks rewarded their top Odyssey holders with trips to Costa Rica alongside announcing an NFT loyalty initiative in Korea, Minecraft gave the green light to an integration with ChatGPT chief Sam Altman’s Worldcoin project, FIFA offered a web3 way to earn tickets to the 2026 World Cup Final, and Bored Apes made their way to Roblox thanks to Universal Music Group’s all-BAYC ‘Kingship’ band.

December also saw Rainbow emerge to challenge MetaMask’s wallet dominance, Yuga Labs unveil a much-needed CryptoPunks wrapper, an upcoming $150,000 NFT treasure hunt, and Cool Cats expand into specialty coffee, as we wrapped up a jam-packed year by discussing 2023’s top 10 NFT sales, and revealing our picks for the top 5 web3 games of the year.

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Phew! There we have it, our rundown of the most memorable moments in NFTs in 2023.

As we close in on 5,000 articles and counting, we’re striding into 2024 as motivated as ever to bring you the latest news on the industry we love. Join us here at NFT Plazas, and follow our socials below, for daily coverage of all things NFTs as we embark on what’s bound to be a thrilling year ahead.

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