The Azuki NFT project demonstrates how exceptional storytelling can transform into a million-dollar NFT endeavor
The tokens sold out within three minutes of launch, generating more than $29 million
. Several factors have contributed to its continued success, including outstanding artwork and an exciting roadmap.
But at the heart of the project, the trick itself boils down to effective storytelling.
What is the Azuki project?
The Azuki NFT collection is an anime-inspired PFP project launched in January, 2022. The collection consists of 10,000 distinctive avatars built on the Ethereum blockchain with 12 traits and 450 unique attributes. The NFTs fall into four distinct types, namely; Spirit, Red, Blue, and Human.
The spirit type is the rarest, with only 97 available in the market. As of writing, the most expensive spirit type Azuki NFT is listed on OpenSea
with an asking price of 1,000 ETH (approximately $1.9 million).
Who Created Azuki NFTs?
The Azuki NFT project was spearheaded by Chiru Labs
— a group of developers and artists from Los Angeles with a passion for Anime and storytelling. This reflects in all their communication channels, whether via website or social media.
What makes this group even more intriguing is that nobody knows their real identities. They're pseudonymous members and we know little about their true identities.
One of the founders, Zagabond came into the limelight for the wrong reasons when he admitted involvement in NFT projects perceived as rug pulls
. A rug pull is an unethical and sometimes illegal practice where an NFT or cryptocurrency developer hypes up a project to attract money and then disappears.
How did Azukis rise to fame?
To begin with, the NFT collection features rebellious skateboarder avatars, which resonated with the NFT market. In many ways it embodied the spirit of an NFT-loving crypto community
The team was very clear about the larger goal and super effective in communicating it. On its website they explicitly mention
the goal is: to be “a brand for the metaverse” built by the community.
The official Azuki Twitter handle mentioned their aim to “create an immersive 3D experience when the time is right,” in a January 2022 Twitter thread
. Each NFT is an avatar that could potentially become a part of this metaverse. From creating the largest decentralized metaverse to even producing an anime series of its own, the project promised an exciting future, capturing the imagination of many.
The creators did a fantastic job developing a high-quality website in terms of functionality, design, and storytelling. For example, they made it easy for potential buyers to find an avatar of their preference using advanced filters like headgear, eyes, and more.
The website gives glimpses of virtual worlds where community members can socialize and learn about upcoming initiatives.
With stunning visuals, background music, and storytelling, the creators gave an experience to the community unmatched by any other NFT project.
In addition to these features, Azuki NFT holders received exclusive perks, which also contributed to its rise to fame.
What Azuki holders get
Each Azuki holder has their own profile that lists the perks they’ve unlocked. According to their official blog post, the profiles are meant to “grow along with the Azuki universe”.
Things like badges owned and upcoming badges are portrayed here. It’s like a “a home base” for everything the NFT holder owns in the Azuki universe. Holders can also connect their profiles to their Twitter handles.
This feature enhances shareability and gives holders a sense of identity, at least in the web2 world. It’s a glimpse of what it would look like in the metaverse.
Currently, Azuki NFT holders gain access to exclusive streetwear, live events, NFT drops, and more. Their first-ever physical drop was a limited-edition Twin Tigers Jacket. Reportedly worth $2,000
, Azuki members received it for free.
All Azuki holders received BEANZ as airdrops on March 31, 2022. There are a total of 19,950 NFTs in the BEANZ collection. They are meant to be sidekicks of Azukis. Many owners have sold them independently in marketplaces
like OpenSea, meaning there are many Beanz holders that do not have an Azuki NFT.
On its website, it creatively describes Beanz as, "Some like to be a sidekick, but others enjoy kicking it alone."
It is currently the cheapest entry into the Azuki metaverse with the current floor price being 1.428, ETH which is significantly lower than the Azuki floor price of 15.29 ETH. Holders also unlock access to exclusive merch and the discord community, among many other perks.
On May 10 2022, Zagabond, one of the co-founders of Azuki, published a blog post
titled "A Builder’s Journey" that revealed he was an integral part of CryptoPhunks, CryptoZunks, and Tendies. All three projects were abandoned by developers and investors lost significant amounts of money.
According to his blog post, CryptoPhunks was nothing but a “parody project” and CryptoZunks had to be shut down because of high gas costs on Ethereum. Tendies had to be shut down because there was no “real substance to create a lasting community”.
This had a direct effect on the Azuki collections, with the floor price falling
from 19 ETH to 10.9 ETH in a matter of hours. Zagabond tried to defend himself in a tweet
, saying the projects “delivered everything that was promised” and unfortunately “there was no product-market fit”.
He then tried to address the criticism in a Twitter Spaces interview by Andrew Wang. But his responses made things worse. He ruled out the possibility of a scam
and claimed that there were “misaligned expectations” between consumers and creators. Despite market fluctuations, the Azuki NFT collection did not suffer a significant setback due to the controversy.
What is the future of Azuki?
Looking at the Azuki Mindmap, the most exciting aspect of the future is the Metaverse.
Each avatar could potentially serve as a metaverse identity and unlock possibilities in the virtual worlds created by the community. Holders of each NFT have non-exclusive IP rights to use the NFT art for commercial projects. As the project grows and explores new mediums for storytelling, members could potentially have multiple avenues to earn income.
If the Azuki NFT project reaches its fullest potential, it will be a great case study on how communities can come together and create complex projects like the metaverse