(CNN) — It seems that every few days, a new star announces their foray into the world of non-fungible tokens, cryptocurrency or some other inscrutable corner of the metaverse — the general term for a nascent virtual space where people can play, meet, and of course, buy things.

This has been a habit for a while now, and every starry-eyed announcement usually promises some form of connection or exclusive opportunity. But for the majority of the population who don’t own cryptocurrency or NFTs (and may not care to), big names and the pricey tech concepts they promote make for strange bedfellows indeed.

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Take some recent examples: Last week, Madonna minted an extremely NSFW NFT collection that featured explicit images of her giving birth to a tree, as well as a 3D model of her undercarriage. Charitably, the reactions were mixed.

Earlier this year, there was the Brie Larson incident, in which the Marvel actress shared a peek inside what she called her “corner” of the metaverse. The 30-second Twitter video featured a blonde avatar with only a passing resemblance to Larson shuffling awkwardly around a virtual museum filled with NFT art.

Countless other stars, athletes, artists and even sports teams have taken similar wobbly steps to promote crypto or NFT partnerships, sometimes to the derision of critics who see NFTs as a money-making venture that doesn’t benefit fans — or at least not ones without plenty of cash to spare.

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Plus, even the sexiest promise of owning digital art or real estate can’t overshadow the volatile fits and starts of the current cryptocurrency market. NFT sales have fallen 92% since September 2021. Panic in the crypto market has reached the ears of US regulators. NFT pieces that were bought for millions of dollars and promised to be stellar investments have fizzled. In fact, an NFT of Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s first tweet, sold for $2.9 million in 2021, attracted a high bid of merely $280 at an April auction.

Have we reached critical mass on the NFT market? Are we in the final days of this influencer or that movie star pushing high-dollar digital wares?

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Where is the crypto train headed?

For Benjamin Behrooz, these growing pains are all part of the long game. Behrooz is the founder of Branding Los Angeles, a branding agency that focuses on, among other things, NFT partnerships. He says the number of powerful clients and companies wanting to develop NFT projects increases every day, and it won’t be long before major retailers accept cryptocurrency payments.

He says what we’re seeing now; the awkwardness and cult-like aggression of cryptospace promoters, is the wheat separating from the chaff.

“Right now, these things may have a very minute audience. But it’s like the beginning of a roller coaster. You’re working, climbing, and going up, up, up, and then the payoff comes,” he tells CNN.

It’s true the cryptoverse is still exclusive. About 46 million people in the US are estimated to have invested in Bitcoin, the most prominent cryptocurrency. Worldwide, there are an estimated 300 million crypto users, or about 3.9%.

Once that cryptocurrency is invested in things like NFTs and the metaverse, the circle gets even smaller. By one count, a mere 360,000 people owned every single available NFT, and 80% of the value of that market is held by just 9% of owners.

While celebrity endorsements may spin a future where people buy and sell exclusive virtual wares as easily as they do at a merch stand, the current world of digital assets is a small pond filled with very, very big fish.

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