Blockchain game developer Dapper Labs has launched a closed beta version of its NBA Top Shot digital collectibles platform that it developed in partnership with the NBA and NBPA. Dapper’s full consumer-facing NBA Top Shot mobile app is expected to launch later this year.
Top Shot’s closed beta version is available to users who registered online for the app’s waitlist, which currently has more than 10,000 fans. The beta version is a web-browser experience and allows users to buy packs that consist of digital tokens representing specific NBA moments, such as a LeBron James’ chase-down block against Andre Iguodala in the 2016 NBA Finals or a 3-pointer from Kobe Bryant’s historic 81-point game against the Toronto Raptors in 2006.
«The idea is that we’re creating a product that lets fans own a piece of that on-court action and participate in a basketball economy,» says Caty Tedman, VP of Partnerships at Dapper Labs. «You own these moments and these tokens and you can then either keep them, you can organize them, [or] you can go out and sell them on the marketplace and maybe make a profit.»
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Design of the Top Shot tokens themselves (teased on Dapper’s YouTube channel) resemble 3D dynamic cubes that carry a player’s name and image, plus video of the specific moment that owners can watch on their smartphones. The NBA’s official data provider, Sportradar, is providing metadata such an individual player’s stats line and boxscore from the game captured in each token. Some tokens include multiple camera angles of the play.
Users will have «trophy cases» in the app to showcase their collection. Fans can buy packs directly from Top Shot, or use the platform to sell or trade with other users in the app’s peer-to-peer marketplace via credit card payment or cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ether. The peer-to-peer marketplace launched as part of the beta version.
Fans can search the peer-to-peer marketplace to find tokens of a specific player, team or time period—including all-time moments throughout league history. Top Shot will also entertain users with daily and weekly challenges. «We might say today we want you to put together this set of nine amazing dunks and if you do that, your reward is the 10th amazing dunk that you can’t buy,» Tedman says.
Another feature set to appear in the mobile app is a free-to-play game that lets users build teams using NBA players from their Top Shot tokens and then compete with them in a swipe-to-shoot basketball game on their smartphones. By winning games and completing in-game challenges, users can climb Top Shot’s in-app leaderboard. This game is known internally as «Hardcourt» and is currently in development but not available in the closed-beta version.
The NBA announced its licensing agreement with Dapper Labs last August. Dapper is also making UFC-branded digital collectibles after partnering with the MMA league earlier this year. The company is known for developing CryptoKitties in 2017, which allows users to collect and trade virtual cats. While the NBA is currently attempting to return to the court, Tedman thinks the COVID-19 induced suspension will make fans even hungrier to engage with Top Shot, even if it’s only in beta for now.
«I personally am mourning not having live sports, but from a product perspective it’s great to have a way that we’re going to be able to engage fans while they can’t engage with on-court action, but then stay with them as that on-court action starts again,» Tedman says.
Outside of the digital realm, sales of traditional sports memorabilia and physical trading cards have boomed during the pandemic. A rookie card of Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout sold in an online auction for $922,500, breaking the record for the highest-priced modern-day trading card. «We’re seeing really unprecedented demand […] I think a lot of collectors are getting nostalgic. A lot of folks are at home sifting through their old baseball cards… and going out and purchasing more,» Topps VP Michael Leiner recently told Yahoo Sports.
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While crafting the experiences behind blockchain-backed digital sports collectibles, Tedman monitors the traditional trading card industry to learn what distributors get right and www.printondemand.fun wrong when trying to connect with consumers. Physical trading cards are bent by technological trends as well—just take the recent Topps baseball card set that commemorates MLB’s recent esports tournament.
Tedman specifically admires the Topps 2020 Project. Topps commissioned 20 artists—including renowned jewelry designers, tattoos artists and street artists—to reimagine historical cards of 20 iconic baseball players such as Trout, Derek Jeter, Jackie Robinson and Ted Williams. Paper card or digital token, a collectible’s creative ingenuity is not lost on the blockchain, according to Tedman.
«We can interject interesting different fun visual assets on the tokens in our [digital] construct that’s been put together,» she says. «This may be things that we design, it may be artist collaborations, or it could be player choice. It could be all sorts of different ways to especially make the more scarce tokens feel different and really special.»
Another source of Dapper’s inspiration when developing Top Shot’s digital marketplace? Sneakerhead culture.
«Sneakerheads and sneaker trading is something that we drew a lot of inspiration from and the activities that those fans participate in. We’re trying to bring that all into a totally digital space where you can have that same collector experience but in a digital environment.»
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