The nonfungible token (NFT) sector of the cryptocurrency ecosystem has made waves that splashed across the headlines of even mainstream news outlets in 2021. Celebrities, musicians, sports teams, established auction houses and even fast-food restaurants got involved with the creation and/or sale of one-of-a-kind digital items. With the top NFT marketplaces like OpenSea seeing record-breaking trading volumes as projects like CryptoPunks and Pudgy Penguins see tens of millions of dollars in value exchanged daily. However, it can be challenging to know which projects have the ability to hold or increase in value long-term and which ones are likely to fizzle out once the hype dies down. NFT projects that fit into the growing crypto metaverse and offer multiple ways to engage and earn a yield such as play-to-earn and staking features have been gaining traction, attracting the attention of both average investors and institutional players. Here are some of the top metaverse-ready NFT protocols that have potential long-term staying power, as well as pointers on how to spot these diamonds in the ruff amid an increasingly crowded field of NFT projects. Play-to-earn platforms attract the masses and generate revenueAxie Infinity has emerged as one of the breakout protocols in this bull market cycle, as its play-to-earn style of gameplay allows users to have fun battling with in-game characters called Axies and earn an income at the same time. As opposed to the free-to-play model of apps that are loaded with in-game purchases designed to drain a user’s bank account, funds spent on platforms like Axie Infinity allow for the opportunity to earn an income or decent return on investment, since decentralized finance (DeFi) and economic principles such as staking, inflation and scarcity are designed into the gameplay model. The Axie Infinity ecosystem recently surpassed one million active daily users and has processed $1.373 billion in all-time volume, according to data from CryptoSlam. The protocol has seen the highest rates of adoption in areas of the world like Malaysia and Venezuela, where the economic struggles of the people make the 150 to 200 Smooth Love Potion (SLP) a player can earn each day — worth between $23.70 and $31.60 at the time of writing — an attractive source of daily income. 55 Axies, 18 scholars. 5K USD monthly passive income. Only at @AxieInfinity $SLP $AXS #AxieNiJumong #AxieScholarship— Mr. M (@BlackMambaBitco) August 6, 2021
With the government of Venezuela instituting a monthly income that is equivalent to $2.40 at the exchange rate estimated by the country’s central bank, a daily income of $23.70 could potentially feed a family for up to 10 months.Due to these factors, NFTs in the Axie Infinity ecosystem have a stronger possibility of holding their value over time and maintaining a higher level of liquidity than many of the random NFT projects which are simply glorified jpegs. Token generating NFTs give collectibles utilityAnother project that offers a unique take on mixing DeFi, gameplay and NFTs is Aavegotchi, a platform built on the Aave protocol that enables in-game avatars to be combined with other cryptocurrency assets, which can then be used as DeFi collateral and earn staking rewards.Aavegotchi avatars, known as Gotchi’s, are scarce in number and new ones are only minted a limited number of times per year and released via auction or raffle drawing. HAUNT 2 IS CONFIRMED #AavegotchiDAO successfully voted to welcome 15K new Aavegotchis to @0xPolygon this August!Frens old and new will have the opportunity to snag a Haunt 2 Portal via #Bid2Earn Auctions and #NFT Raffles. GET HYPED! https://t.co/xt5IU3AZ0B pic.twitter.com/Do6ad1NEiT— Aavegotchi HAUNT 2 AUG 26-29 (@aavegotchi) July 27, 2021
Users who stake the native GHST token on the protocol earn rewards in the form of FRENS, which can be used to purchase raffle tickets that are entered in drawings for in-game items such as wearables, consumables, or Gotchi summoning portals. These items can then be combined with Gotchi’s to increase their rarity and value, or sold in the marketplace as another source of income for token holders. The ability to lock up other tokens or assets into a Gotchi adds another layer of value and rarity for each avatar. To extract any added assets, Gotchis are destroyed in the process leading to an increase in scarcity.At the time of writing, 7,760 portals have been opened and 432 Gotchi’s have been sacrificed according to Aavegotchi Stats, leaving a circulating supply of 7,328 Gotchi’s with varying traits and levels of rarity. Cross-asset staking and gameplay complete the metaverse One final project that is newer on the scene but attracting attention nonetheless is Illuvium, an open-world fantasy battle game built on the Ethereum (ETH) blockchain.While this project is still in development, the price of its native ILV token surged 1765% between June 22 and Aug. 13 as excitement builds ahead of its launch. One of the catalysts for its price rise was the introduction of ILV staking, which enables token holders to earn a yield ranging from 43.44% to 86.88% depending on the length of time tokens are locked up. Illuvium has also offered cross-asset staking via flash pools that allows Axie Infinity (AXS) and Synthetix (SNX) holders a chance to earn ILV by staking their tokens on the protocol.One method the team has used to attract attention to the project has been to create unique NFTs representing some of the top crypto influencers, and the team has also provided a steady stream of teasers and updates on characters and NFTs that will be found in the game. We’re just going to leave this right here… We know you all are eager for more leaks on UI, here is the latest peek! pic.twitter.com/8AFzvx7Rr0— Illuvium (@illuviumio) August 19, 2021
The creation of an AAA-rated game on the Ethereum blockchain has been a sought-after goal for the gaming community for years but network limitations have thus far made it impossible. If Illuvium can make good on its goal of creating a highly interactive and visually appealing game capable of attracting users from the traditional gaming community, assets and NFTs within the ecosystem have the potential to maintain or increase in value over time.Gamers spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars per year on some of the most popular free-to-play games that offer the opportunity to purchase rare items, giving them the one-up on their competitors, but little value is left at the end of the day in exchange for all that time and expense. NFTs allow for a new paradigm in gaming that time spent playing and the loot acquired along the way can be transferred into real-world value that has long-term lasting power. Projects that adapt and integrate with the growing decentralized crypto metaverse are in a prime position to make gains in adoption and value. Want more information about trading and investing in crypto markets?The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Cointelegraph.com. Every investment and trading move involves risk, you should conduct your own research when making a decision.