Nonfungible tokens (NFTs), have made a significant stride in a short time. In 2017, the NFT project CryptoKitties made headlines as the largest decentralized application on the Ethereum network. While CryptoKitties accounted for a notable portion of Ethereum transaction volume in 2017, these NFTs mainly served as digital collectibles geared toward the crypto community.
It wasn’t until March 2021 when NFT artwork started gaining traction due to the financial potential behind these creations. This was demonstrated when digital artist Mike Winkelmann, also known as Beeple, sold his NFT piece titled “Everydays: The First 5,000 Days,” which raised over $69 million through Christie’s auction house. After Beeple’s sale, NFT artworks became more popular and attracted a wider audience.
Web3 enables community storytelling through NFTs
Fast forward almost a year later, and the rise of Web3 has given creators additional opportunities to make nonfungible tokens that have utility in virtual ecosystems. NFTs can now be used for more than just aesthetic purposes. They also allow for community building by allowing users to create new types of storytelling in different media.
To put this in perspective, Yat Siu, co-founder and chairman of Animoca Brands — a Hong Kong-based gaming and venture capital company — told Cointelegraph that collaborative narrative forms, like fan fiction and YouTube videos, became quite popular with the development of Web2. “But, there was a way to efficiently share collaborative efforts for economic benefit and recognition in a scalable manner that was equitable.” Siu believes Web3 could help change this.
Siu believes Web3 has made it possible to collaborate with content creators like writers, artists and film directors on various creative projects. Siu shared that this is partly due to the fact that Web3 content contributions to be tracked on-chain:
“This opens up so many possibilities for collaborative creativity across virtually all media formats. Imagine interweaving stories constructed by a myriad of end-users in a user generated content manner, but with full tracking of each contributor and narrative origin.”
To Siu’s point, a number of Web3 projects are coming to fruition, which are utilizing trackable NFTs to enable project creators and fans to collaborate on various forms of storytelling. For instance, the billion-dollar comic book industry has taken an interest in using NFTs for storytelling. Palm NFT Studio recently launched an NFT project with Warner Bros. Consumer Products’ DC Comics known as “The Bat Cowl Collection.” This project features 200,000 unique 3D-rendered Batman cowl NFTs that allow fans to shape the stories of future comic book narratives.
Josh Hackbarth is the head of NFT Commercial Development for Warner Bros. Entertainment. Hackbarth said that Warner Bros. was looking for new ways to bring Batman alive for its fans. Hackbarth also stated that each NFT would be integrated into the stories of future DC Comics.
Straith Schreder, executive creative director for Palm NFT Studio, told Cointelegraph that each “Bat Cowl” NFT serves as part of the storytelling process:
“This allows for fans to become protagonists, which makes this project exciting because it enables an opportunity for shared experiences and co-creations. Their bat cowls will be integrated into future DC Comics projects. This is the promise of Web3 and generative art, as it allows fans to shape their own superheroes and tell their own stories.”
In order to get fans’ creative juices flowing, Hackbarth said that each “Bat Cowl” NFT will also contain unique traits. This is called “badging,” which allows fans to wear their cowls in different places. This will help create the stories behind the various cowls.” Hackbarth further pointed out that while some comic books in the early 1990’s allowed fans to dial a 1-800 number to vote on how comic books may end, Web3 finally allows users to be an integral part of the storytelling process.
“This is no longer about conducting an anonymous vote or dialing a 1-800 number. Fans can become verified authenticated participants in this whole process by using NFTs. He said that this is what he was most excited about.
DC Comics aren’t the only comic-book publisher to be aware of Web3’s potential. HeroMaker Studios, an NFT-native comics book studio, is now allowing fans to create their own stories. Gareb Shamus, founder of HeroMaker Studios and Comic-Con International, told Cointelegraph that HeroMakers recently launched a project called “Kumite.” According to Shamus, this is the company’s first character franchise series featuring an NFT collection of 9,600 generative superheroes and villains. Shamus stated that these characters would be featured in a comic book, game, and merchandise drop. All driven by our community.
Shamus added that HeroMakers has over 30 character franchises, noting that Kumite is the first to be released. “Kumite is based on the backstory of a fighting tournament among villains and heroes. HeroMakers is currently working on a story about “Kumite”, but the backstory will be told in a comic book by our NFT holders.” he stated. Shamus believes it’s important for fans to be a part of the storytelling process when it comes to NFTs since it allows for constant engagement:
“We will continually have comic books coming out to tell these stories. We are also going to license fans with commercial rights to allow for users to take this concept and the world behind these characters to create their own stories based in the HeroMakers universe.”
Shamus said that there is also potential to do this through film, television and gaming models moving forward.
Given Web3’s potential within gaming, Siu believes that preferences will emerge from user-generated content that will inspire and inform professional game developers to create new narrative opportunities for indie game studios. Web3 allows for a more collaborative approach in content creation. Siu noted that this is similar to fan fiction.
Web3 has created artwork NFTs which allow users to create their own visual stories. Cointelegraph spoke with Kira Bursky, a filmmaker who is also a NFT artist. She said that artwork NFTs can be a powerful tool for community building. NFTs give me the opportunity to create a new world around my art. She said that she isn’t just selling the pieces, but that there is meaning beyond that.
Based on this belief, Bursky launched a NFT collection called “Magic Mind” recently to raise awareness and celebrate mental health and self-care. She explained that “Magic Mind” is about looking within and reflecting on our lives. In order to evoke this, Bursky explained that each art piece in the ‘Magic Mind’ collection contains various mental traits that can be expanded upon by the NFT holders:
“For example, an NFT may contain the ‘ADHD’ trait. To help people better understand the meaning of each trait and to guide them in their storytelling, we created the ‘Mindopedia’ resource. With mental health, there is such an array of experiences and I wanted to reflect that to help people tell and better understand their personal stories.”
Bursky shared that down the line, she plans to create a short film based on the different NFT artworks. “We plan to animated this art and bring it alive to tell a story on mental health and self-care. The overall goal here is to create a foundation within the Web3 community that encourages a healthy lifestyle.”
Engagement encourages fans to collect rather than sell
Since Web3 has given rise to new mediums of storytelling, it’s interesting to point out that NFT collectors may be more inclined to hold nonfungible tokens rather than sell them for profit.
Commenting on this, Hackbarth explained that the “Bat Cowl Collection” released by DC Comics is intended to engage with fans long-term. Hackbarth commented that the “Bat Cowl Collection” is not about increasing prices, but that it was intended to make Batman fans feel part of the community in a new way. Hackbarth explained that a Bat Cowl Non-Follower Pass (Bat Cowl NFT) allows members to access different content and create new stories.
Schreder is responsible for the narrative development of “Bat Cowl Collection.” He said that more meaningful NFTs will be created by fans and that they will treasure them over time. “I love that stories feel exponential and that the endings aren’t written. As a participant in this project, it has been rewarding. It also allows us more opportunities to bring in fans and their creativity,” she noted.
Shamus explained that HeroMakers aims to build long-lasting relationships with its fans through its character franchises. We designed it so that it could work in multiple dimensions. There is, for example, a gaming system that controls how the ‘Kumite universe works. “The concept is timeless, which allows for endless stories.” Shamus said that HeroMakers will only publish a handful of comic books each month, but that HeroMakers will allow fans to create their own stories using NFT characters. Siu also knows that Web3 narratives can be ongoing because of the inclusion these models inspire. He said, “No matter how complex or complete a work or experience may be, someone can always choose o to compose on top to create an even greater or different experience.”
Will Web3 storytelling resonate with the mainstream?
While it is clear that Web3 is changing storytelling in many mediums, it is important to remember that Web3 is still in its infancy. Mainstream adoption might take longer than anticipated.
According to Siu, mass acceptance will only occur when the entire world understands the potential and significance of Web3. Siu says that Web3 must be mainstreamed in order to make it mainstream. We’re not there yet, but we’re all working on it.”
Indeed, innovating is clearly underway, as Hackbarth remarked that he is optimistic about the future. We are trying to attract both comic book fans and people in the NFT space. We have to balance both the comic book and NFT worlds. This is a difficult task. He said that he believes we will see this moment in the future as a shift in how people view Web3 models. Shamus added that he believes storytelling elements enabled by Web3 will attract the mainstream over time:
“Storytelling is at the heart of everything we do. It is the foundation of all relationships that people have with their characters. It eventually forms an emotional bond that lasts for a lifetime. Web3 allows people to actively participate in different ecosystems, which is a huge opportunity.”