According to data from DappRadar, the sales volume of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) reached a record high in February, surpassing levels not seen since the onset of crypto winter in May last year. NFT trading totaled $2.04 billion last month, up 117% from $941 million in January. The surge in trading activity can largely be attributed to Blur, an emergent NFT marketplace that surpassed OpenSea in trading volume this month. Blur’s rapid rise to dominance has been fueled by an incentives program that rewards users for trading high-value NFTs and refraining from trading on any other platform. However, the majority of Blur’s trading volume was generated by a small number of whales who engaged in frequent buying and selling of NFTs to accumulate BLUR tokens.

The question of whether to count this trading as legitimate volume is a controversial issue in the NFT ecosystem, with leading NFT tracking platforms taking different approaches. While Cryptoslam has removed $577 million worth of Blur trades from its data due to market manipulation, DappRadar has chosen to count Blur’s trading volume as legitimate, for now. The debate over the legitimacy of Blur’s surge in activity has implications for the NFT market, as it could significantly alter marketwide figures if it were discounted as wash trading.

Furthermore, the phenomenon sparked by Blur’s incentive structure highlights the increasing financialization of the NFT ecosystem, which now resembles the volatile and cutthroat world of DeFi. Despite the controversy surrounding Blur’s explosive growth last month, rival OpenSea continued to perform well, with its monthly trading volume increasing by 18% to $587.22 million. OpenSea also boasts a larger user base, with over 316,000 unique traders compared to Blur’s 96,000. OpenSea’s success can be attributed in part to the excitement generated by Dookey Dash, a web game launched by Yuga Labs that required a Bored Ape or Mutant Ape NFT to access. The game boosted trading volume for these “blue chip” collections, with the winner selling their winning key for $1.63 million in ETH on Monday.