Hong Kong-based blockchain gaming company Animoca Brands, best known for championing non-fungible tokens (NFTs) in video games, saw its valuation soar to US$5 billion on Tuesday as investors continue to bet on the potential of NFTs and the metaverse. Animoca Brands said on Tuesday it had completed a fundraising for US$358.89 million, giving it a private valuation of US$5 billion. Animoca Brands has garnered increasing interest with its popular, open-world game The Sandbox, and its valuation is now up five-fold since the company reached unicorn status last May. The round was led by Liberty City Ventures, with other investors including Mirae Asset, Sequoia China and crypto-focused firms such as 10T Holdings and Gemini Frontier Fund. Hong Kong-based Gobi Partners Greater Bay Area also took part in the round. Scion of Hong Kong’s real estate giant invests to sell land NFTs The successful fundraising by Animoca Brands indicates the strong investor appetite for two of the tech sector’s biggest current buzzwords: NFTs and the metaverse. It also comes after blockchain game Axie Infinity, in which Animoca Brands is an investor, saw its valuation skyrocket to US$3 billion last October. NFTs refer to units of data stored on a blockchain, which guarantees each digital asset to be unique and immutable. As such, NFTs can be owned and traded much like physical items in the real world. Companies like Animoca Brands now allow gamers to own and trade video game items in the form of NFTs on the blockchain. The metaverse meanwhile, typically refers to a shared, immersive 3D virtual space where people can interact and trade their assets, and is seen by many as the next iteration of the internet. Some analysts expect companies like Animoca Brands to disrupt the incumbent video games business model by combining these two emerging trends. How a big bet on blockchain and NFTs minted Hong Kong’s latest unicorn Founded by Hong Kong-based businessman Yat Siu, Animoca Brands was previously listed on the Australian Stock Exchange but decided to delist in 2020 as it made a pivot towards cryptocurrencies and blockchain gaming. The Sandbox, a game which is still in its “alpha test” stage, has received widespread attention among the crypto and investment community after pledging to become an open metaverse for its users. Last November, one virtual plot in The Sandbox was sold in the form of an NFT for a record US$4.3 million. Adrian Cheng Chi-kong, the third-generation scion of Cheng Yu-tung who founded Hong Kong conglomerate New World Development, personally invested in The Sandbox. Animoca Brands said that the new capital raised will be used to continue funding strategic acquisitions and investments, product development and licences for popular intellectual properties. Yat Siu has said that Animoca Brands wants to build “an open metaverse”, in contrast with the tightly regulated and closely guarded ecosystems that exist on many current big internet platforms. “In 2021, we saw tremendous growth in this space and Animoca Brands has been one of the leaders at the forefront of these developments in the industry,” said Yat Siu in the statement. “We believe we are still at the initial stages of a new internet revolution, and there are tremendous opportunities ahead of us in 2022 and beyond.” The company voluntarily released an unaudited financial report last month in which it said it had received about US$140 million in bookings between January and September 2021, marking a record 9 months for the company.