Key points to remember
- Azuki is a collection of 10,000 anime-inspired NFTs that gained popularity in 2022.
- With airdrops, private events and ambitious plans for the future, the project shares some similarities with the most successful NFT collection, Bored Ape Yacht Club.
- Like Bored Ape Yacht Club, Azuki’s NFTs trade at a high price on the secondary market.
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Several bullish catalysts reminiscent of Bored Ape Yacht Club’s early track record contributed to Azuki’s rapid rise.
Climbing the Bored Ape Yacht Club
CaliforniaRtoon Monkeys and Pixelated Punks Aren’t the Only Wanted Avatar Collectibles in the Metaverse Today—NFT enthusiasts also spend a lot of money on anime-inspired artwork for their online identities.
Since the NFT avatar scene exploded in 2021, many collections have come and gone. A few, however, became so-called “blue chips”, in turn attracting huge interest and high prices in the secondary market. While there’s no formula for what makes a winning NFT project, space leaders have all thrived on building passionate communities and executing their roadmaps.
Bored Ape Yacht Club, a now-iconic collection of 10,000 cartoon apes launched by Yuga Labs in April 2021, was arguably the first NFT avatar project that did everything right. There was a fair launch with a low price of admission (monkeys are around $200 mint). There was no fancy marketing or paid advertising in sight. There were promises of a full Metaverse experience and generous rewards that enriched those who remained loyal to the brand. And there were even exclusive product drops and private parties featuring guest appearances from the likes of Questlove and The Strokes. By the end of 2021, Bored Ape Yacht Club was so big that some of the biggest celebrities and companies in the world were into it. Shortly thereafter, Yuga Labs hit a $4 billion valuation in a raise led by Silicon Valley giants Andreessen Horowitz and acquired what was previously known as the world’s most prestigious NFT avatar. collection, CryptoPunks, signaling that times have changed and monkeys are now sitting on the NFT throne. The ApeCoin token was then released to power the Bored Ape Yacht Club’s Otherside Metaverse. Today, the cheapest monkeys cost Ethereum users around $375,000, a price that only the rich (or crypto-rich) can rightfully afford for a JPEG.
Azuki’s NFTs Go Parabolic
If things are moving fast in crypto, they are moving lightning fast in NFTs. New drops land daily. Archival collections that everyone has forgotten can explode out of nowhere. What is hot today may die tomorrow. And just as Bored Ape Yacht Club was the star of 2021, Azuki may well take his place in the spotlight in 2022.
Launched by Los Angeles startup Chiru Labs in January 2022, Azuki’s 10,000 Ethereum-based NFTs quickly sold out upon release. Similar to how monkeys are considered members of a yacht club, Chiru Labs sold a vision for Azuki in which the holders would have access to the garden, “a corner of the internet where art, community and culture merge to create magic. Members of the community were dubbed “internet skaters.”
Then there was the artwork. The collection stood out from many of the animal-based avatar projects that saturated the NFT market with its distinctive anime style, drawing inspiration from the popular Pokémon trading card game. “Most of Azuki’s core team members entered NFTs via NBA TopShot, where opening an NFT pack invoked the same emotions as opening that first Pokémon card pack at the ‘era’, a note on Azuki website bed. Beyond the crypto space, the anonymous team also claims to have experience at Big Tech companies like Google and Facebook.
As the wider community began to get wind of Azuki, prices for the collection began to skyrocket. In early February, the entry price to “take the red bean” jumped above 15 Ethereum, then saw a slight pullback amid market panic over the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. However, even when the floor price fell, trading volume remained high (trading volume is generally considered a strong indicator of the health of a project). Azuki traded nearly $300 million in its first month; then, activity resumed when Forbes had run a characteristic on collection. He revealed the project’s plans to create an anime series, games, and merchandise similar to recent Bored Ape Yacht Club developments (Azuki has since teased merchandise with a shop on its website that promises an update “soon”.)
In the project’s ambitious “mind map”, Azuki promised to focus on partnerships, launch a BEAN token, and explore a DAO setup. The team also reveals that it plans to launch a game and an “interactive brand” alongside other yet-to-be-announced ventures.
While a market meltdown characterized February in crypto, Azuki prices began to rally in March as Bitcoin, Ethereum and other assets began to show signs of life. Azuki’s hype was lifted with the release of Bobu the Bean Farmer, a sister collection whose intellectual property will be managed and story set by the owners.
Azuki’s floor price then doubled before the announcement of “Something”, a mysterious collection of 20,000 NFTs for the Azuki community. Azuki revealed the airdrop at a private NFT LA party for the Holders on March 30; Wiz Khalifa also appeared as a special guest at the event. Each holder received two NFTs which traded above 3 Ethereum at launch, equating to a payout of around $20,000. NFTs turned to dust on April Fool’s Day, and the collection has since been renamed BEANZ, with a full reveal coming soon. They are worth over 5 Ethereum each at press time.
As the buzz around the collection grew, so did the big sales. Azuki #9605, one of the rarest pieces in the collection, sold for $1.4 million last week. After his Bored Ape was stolen, Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou also purchased the collection. After Justin Bieber and a wave of other stars joined the Bored Ape Yacht Club, Chou announced he’d taken the kidney bean and joined the garden in a not-so-subtle hint to his 7.1 million Instagram followers. Soon after, the collection went parabolic as “FOMO” swept through the market, briefly hitting a price floor of 34 Ethereum.
The road ahead for Azuki
With one of the most ambitious roadmaps in the NFT space, Chiru Labs will have to do a lot to deliver on its promise for Azuki. But it’s on the right track so far. By offering a full community experience, including airdrops, exclusive in-person events, and innovative DAO structures, Azuki draws several parallels with Bored Ape Yacht Club. In some ways, the teams behind both collections have so far successfully executed their plans, as they operate more like established companies than fledgling decentralized projects. The Bored Ape Yacht Club is frequently compared to fashion houses like Supreme, and the buzz surrounding Azuki is no different. While the artwork might be a cut above the rest, there’s more to being a skater than having a killer profile picture. Like Bored Ape Yacht Club, Azuki is now a lifestyle brand in its own right. Teams hoping to create the next six-figure blue chip avatar would do well to take note.
Disclosure: At the time of writing this article, the author of this article owned ETH and several other cryptocurrencies.
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