Funko reveals NFT plans but not everyone is happy

Funko, makers of ridiculously popular pop culture toys, is wading into the NFT market, with plans to launch its first non-fungible tokens in June. Though NFTs have been controversial, not least for their focus on digital ownership rather than physical collecting, Funko argues that its strategy will combine both more affordable tokens with the vinyl toys it's known for.

If you've managed to ignore non-fungible tokens until now, bad news: it's looking like they're not going away any time soon. Basically built on the same sort of unique digital asset technology that underpins bitcoin and other cryptocurrency, NTFs effectively represent digital files associated with art and other items, that only one person can own at a time.

While they're becoming increasingly popular among digital artists on the cutting-edge, they're also divisive. For a start, there's no shortage of confusion among buyers (and artists) about just what "ownership" of an NFT implies. There are also concerns about the ecological impact of NFTs, since – as with cryptocurrencies – farming the tokens themselves requires significant amounts of electricity.

All the same, it's proving to be catnip to organizations wanting to leverage their branding to more affordable options. We've seen sneaker brands like Nike apparently consider how it could use NFTs for virtual shoes, and now Funko wants to do the same with its vinyl figurines.

It's bought a majority ownership stake in TokenWave, which is responsible for the TokenHead app and site. That basically acts as a gallery for NFTs. Funko has not disclosed how much it spent in the deal.

From June, Funko says, it'll begin offering its first NFTs. They'll start with a unique property each week, priced from $9.99, and be sold on the WAX platform.

"Our strategy in this space is clear," Brian Mariotti, Chief Executive Officer of Funko, said today, "bring the value-added NFT opportunity to our licensing partners to leverage our broad range of existing pop culture content across Television, Movies, Sports, Music, Anime, Video Games and Comic Books."

What Funko is counting on to set itself apart from others in the space is the combination of physical and digital. "Our ability to combine Funko Pop! digital NFTs with exclusive Funko Pop! Vinyl Figures has the potential to be a game changer," Mariotti insists. "By backing the rarest of the Funko NFTs with exclusive redeemable Funko Pop!s, we are poised to enter the NFT market in a very unique manner."

Whether Funko collectors feel the same way remains to be seen. Response to news of the deal on social media has ranged from accusations that it's an April Fool's Day hoax, to dismay that the toy-maker is embracing the NFT concept. Still, with the figurines – notable for their oversized heads and pop-culture tie-ins – in such high demand, the prospect of a more affordable route into ownership, even if it's not a traditional form of that, may swing it come June when the first Funko NFTs are released.