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With NBA Top Shot, CryptoKitties and Flow, how Dapper Labs made its mark on web3

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By Webb Wright, NY Reporter

February 17, 2022 | 6 min read

Founded in 2018, Canadian company Dapper Labs has quickly climbed the ranks of the NFT market to become both a pioneer and a leader within the industry. So how did CryptoKitties and NBA Top Shot, as well as its Flow blockchain network, rise to the top? We explain.

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NBA Top Shot is the No 1 dapp in the world, according to Dapper Labs

There sure is a lot of noise surrounding web3 – as well as plenty of poseurs. But for every wannabe, there’s also the real thing. At the moment, one of the hottest commodities is NBA Top Shot. It’s the No 1 decentralized application – or ‘dapp’ – in the world.

How did this come to be? Its creator Dapper Labs in many ways defines what it means to be a successful and pioneering brand in the web3 space. The Canadian company, founded in 2018, prides itself on being innovative, unbound by convention and committed to the core principles of the movement itself (transparency, free and equal access to information, distributed ownership and control of assets).

NBA Top Shot is a marketplace for NBA-themed NFTs, which feature specific players, teams or ‘Moments’ (footage from particularly memorable plays). The NFTs can be purchased individually or in packs; the latter option taps into the dopamine rush that a fan might experience when they buy a pack of physical NBA trading cards and eagerly rip open the package to find out if they’ve scored anything rare.

Jayne Peressini, Dapper Labs’ vice-president of growth and a longtime collector of baseball cards, says that Top Shot’s success can be traced largely back to clear, concise and uncomplicated marketing. “We wanted this to feel like an experience where a fan would connect with the teams that they love and the players that they love, and not make it feel like this is a project or an experience that takes away from the entertainment,” she says. “If a fan is watching a game, they don’t want to spend two or three hours trying to figure out how to acquire an NFT.”

Top Shot’s marketing strategy strives to meet consumers at the fundamental, emotional level of being a fan. It provides a product that allows them to express that fandom in a unique way (by buying an NFT) without overwhelming them with technical details. According to Peresseni, brands often attempt to wow consumers by using lots of technical language. This, however, creates the risk of making their product or service seem unattractively complex and inaccessible. “Sometimes brands get excited about entering web3, and so they want to show off, ‘hey, we’re in this really innovative and technical space,’ but in doing so it turns off people from the actual utility, the actual benefit of engaging with their brand.”

Want to own a $1.8m CryptoKitty?

Dapper Labs also owns CryptoKitties, the web3-based game in which players can collect and breed digital cartoon cats. According to the company, it’s the second-most popular dapp in the world. CryptoKitties, like Top Shot, is based on the theory that digital goods can be as rare – and therefore as valuable – as the most prized physical trading cards or works of art. That theory has thus far been borne out: at the time of this writing, there were around 2m CryptoKitties for sale on OpenSea, a major online NFT marketplace. One listed CryptoKitty named Dragon had sold a few years ago for 600 ETH, or $1,791,948.00. Again, this is a digital cartoon cat we’re talking about.

Although NFT launches can certainly generate profit, Peressini says that this should not be their guiding purpose. “It’s not just another revenue channel. You’ve seen some of the backlash with NFTs within gaming – it felt very much like microtransactions. That’s not the premise or the core use-case for NFTs or for leveraging web3. Don’t lead with the technology – lead with what you’re trying to accomplish, and then back out from there.”

It’s all about the Flow

Dapper Labs is also famous for Flow, its “developer-friendly blockchain.” Blockchain is, of course, typically regarded as being an environmental scourge – primarily because of the vast amount of energy that’s required to mine cryptocurrency. But according to Peressini, Flow is an eco-friendlier option. “Flow is a case where it was built to be efficient, and to also be one of the greener ones out there. So once you get over that hump of ‘okay, as a brand, I’m not destroying the universe by getting into web3,’ [you can ask yourself] ‘now what do I want out of web3? Do I want to connect with our existing base? Is this for new users? Are we rolling out some more content consumption for something?’ Focusing on [those questions] first, before you focus on the commercialization of it – like, ‘how are we going to make money?’ – is more powerful.”

Alongside its clear and concise product marketing, Dapper Labs stands out in its alignment with some of the most cherished core values of web3. At the end of the day, web3 – at least in its more idealistic portrayals – is all about transparency, equal access to information and the empowerment of individuals. Digital creator and co-founder of the Stationhead app Jace Kay sums it up: Dapper Labs is “not coming from ‘the man’ perspective, they’re not Meta ... they have legitimacy in the space.”

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