“The Sandbox” is the biggest hype among Metaverse games on the blockchain. It was worth over seven billion US dollars at its all-time high in November last year. Digital land in the virtual world sells for thousands or millions of dollars. Gucci, Adidas and Snoop Dogg are among the more than 200 partners.
Since March 2022, “The Sandbox” has been openly accessible for the first time. How fun is that? And how open and decentralized is the business model really? You will find a report in the next issue of BTC-ECHO magazine. Here’s a sneak peek, because we spoke to Mathieu Nouzareth, a member of The Sandbox’s board of directors.
BTC-ECHO: Your game “The Sandbox” has been around since 2012. Four years ago you decided to redevelop it on the blockchain. Why?
Mathieu Nourateth: Animoca Brands bought the company behind The Sandbox back then. It used to be a 2D mobile game. They had the idea: Why don’t we make a 3D game combined with a social experience? And on the blockchain.
Since March 2022, their blockchain game has been open to everyone for the first time. After four years of development, it still seems very unfinished to me. What took you so long?
We got to the market early. “The Sandbox” is a very complex and large project. We needed a wide variety of developers and designers. We had the first alpha in December, now the second alpha is starting. We are making progress. We are happy with the state of the game. We know that there is still much to do. But we are on the right track, polishing and improving it all the time.
LLast year you got over 200 partners, including Snoop Dogg. How did the collaboration with him come about?
Snoop Dogg is very interested in cryptocurrencies and web 3.0. involved. A collaboration was obvious. We fit together. We did a concert together at The Sandbox, we sold virtual land around his mansion and a collection of 10,000 Snoop Dogg avatars, we call them Doggies. We still have many plans together.
There has been a lot of hype surrounding the Metaverse since last year. Facebook is now called Meta. Microsoft, Nvidia, Epic Games – they all want to create a Metaverse, they have decades of experience, thousands of employees, billions of dollars at their disposal. How are you going to continue?
We are very happy that these great companies have moved into the Metaverse. It caught our eye and had a positive impact on the price. We all see the Metaverse as a virtual place of social experiences to meet other people, go to concerts, play and work. There is a crucial difference: we want to enable people to actually own digital goods. This is web 3.0.
Take “Roblox” for example, they also see themselves as a metaverse. He has millions of players building there and selling his creations. But they only get 30 or 70 percent of the revenue, depending on whether they have a VIP pass. Sandbox returns 95 percent to its creators.
The old companies cannot go our way. They would have to change their entire business model. It’s like changing the engine of an airplane while it’s flying.
My prediction: These companies will launch small site projects to keep up with Web 3.0. experiment because they cannot stop development. But by the time they have something, it will be too late.
If you can build NFTs for free, what’s the point of virtual earth anyway? You have to buy that. It is limited and costs thousands of dollars.
You don’t need a country to be a creator, or even to play. As a small creator, you can also create and sell a sword. That’s free. The system is very flexible. When you buy a piece of land you have several options: You can rent it. Or you can build your own experiences on it, virtual concerts, mini-games. It allows you to do bigger things.
So do landless people have to rent land to build bigger experiences? That doesn’t sound particularly decentralized.
We are building an ecosystem with the landowners, that is true. They can rent their land to others, for example to set up a pop-up shop or host a concert, for a day or a week. Owners can ask for a commission. And then a creator builds an arena for a concert on top of that, books artists and maybe finds a company that sells tickets. Another company does the marketing.
But we’re not involved, that’s important. We only take a five percent commission from all of this. Compare that to an app store that takes 30 percent. Our cut is very small. We do not control or own the platform. To that extent it is decentralized.
You could also use the Unreal 5 engine for something like that. It’s free, used by the biggest game studios and Hollywood, Epic Games only takes a commission from a $1 million win. That seems like a better deal to me.
You know what? They can [die Spieler] like to do. We do not ask people for exclusivity. We don’t even pretend to be the only metaverse in town. Our vision is a multi-metaverse world. If you go to another Web 2.0 metaverse, you won’t be able to take your digital possessions with you. It is a closed ecosystem. And that’s what I mean by true digital ownership. In our world, everything belongs to the people who build it and sell it, they can own it in Web 3.0. take them wherever they want. We are completely open.
High-profile game designers claim that it’s not technically possible to simply bring digital possessions into all virtual worlds. According to Rami Ismael, “Any game that wants to make this possible would have to agree on a billion things: gravity, size, axes, light, rendering, basically everything. And an action game like God of War needs a different context than Super Mario.”
I think the man is confused. He doesn’t understand the difference between owning and yielding. In fact, he owns something when he buys an NFT. Which is true: in order for you to take him to another virtual world, he needs a transfer. In “The Sandbox” we use this style of voxel that looks like blocks. If you want to switch to a hyper-realistic world with your avatar, we have to make the transfer. We are working on that. We create technical bridges between blockchain games like “Decentraland” and “The Sandbox”.
Your entire game revolves around NFTs. They are celebrated everywhere. And they are subject to the entire ecosystem. A Chainalysis study states: 80 percent of all NFTs on the Ethereum blockchain are owned by just 10 percent of accounts. Doesn’t sound particularly decentralized.
I have not read the study. You have to differentiate. The number presumably applies to art NFTs. They are naturally quite rare and valuable. It’s different in games. We are talking about small objects, swords or avatars. They don’t cost thousands or millions of dollars.
Still, to me, Alpha looked like a giant billboard for companies and wealthy individuals to display their NFT images. I get NFT images on my face all the time that cost thousands of dollars.
That is not true. Look in the market. The lowest NFTs there start at $10. And soon we will migrate to the Polygon platform, then it will be even better, the fees will be lower. We’re going to have a lot of creators doing small items.
But are these the NFTs currently displayed in the levels?
We work with big companies, for sure. But a big part of our success will come from people being able to make their own NFTs and monetize them. That’s part of our plan. You’ll see more of that in the future.
How many active monthly users do you currently have?
They are hundreds of thousands.
I read that there were 30,000.
No. This season there are already many more. We’ll post the numbers once it’s done. It is growing very, very fast. That’s why I also joined The Sandbox. I have seen rapid and natural growth. And I’m talking about real users. It is wonderful. People enjoy playing and building and being in the community. We ask you: ‘What would you do for this brand’? And we get thousands of ideas sent to us. There are so many that we can’t even see them. There is a real excitement between gamers on one side and developers on the other.
You emphasize that you only take five percent commission. That sounds very altruistic. But he also makes money from the sale of virtual land.
if it is limited There are only 160,000 plots, two thirds are already sold. But it is not our main business model. That is activating the community, the creators and the players.
The virtual country belongs almost exclusively to wealthy people and corporations. you bought it
That is not true. Many users bought it when it still cost between $100 and $200. Lots of people like you and me own virtual lands. It will be very diverse. It is owned by many people. Not just famous people or corporations.
It also set aside 50 percent of the game’s cryptocurrency, the Sand Token, for you at the start. If it goes up, you also benefit.
Naturally. It is one of the most valuable tokens in the world today. Many people want to buy it and sell it. And as a result, it is distributed more and more fairly, people make a profit. We want it to be in the hands of as many people as possible.
Thank you for the interview.
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