“The Sandbox” is the biggest hype among the 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 is sold for thousands to 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? German outlet BTC-ECHO spoke to Mathieu Nouzareth, a board member of The Sandbox.
Your game “The Sandbox” has existed 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 out of it, combined with a social experience? And on the blockchain.
Since March 2022, your 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 much time?
We’re early at the market. “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 there is still a lot to do. But we’re on the right track, polishing and improving it all the time.
Last year you gained over 200 partners, including Snoop Dogg. How did the collaboration with him come about?
Snoop Dogg is very into cryptocurrencies and web 3.0. involved. A collaboration was obvious. We fit together. We did a concert together in The Sandbox, 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 huge amount of hype surrounding the Metaverse since last year. Facebook is now called Meta. Microsoft, Nvidia, Epic Games – they all want to create a Metaverse, have decades of experience, thousands of employees, trillions of dollars at their disposal. How are you going to keep up?
We are very happy that these big companies have made the move to the Metaverse. It got us attention and had a positive impact on the price. We all see the Metaverse as a virtual place for social experiences to meet other people, go to concerts, play and work. There is one crucial difference: we want to enable people to truly own digital goods. This is web 3.0.
Take “Roblox” for example, they also see themselves as a metaverse. It has millions of players building there and selling their creations. But they only get 30 or 70 percent of the revenue, depending on whether they have a VIP pass. The Sandbox gives 95 percent back to its creators.
The old companies cannot go our way. They would have to change their entire business model. It’s like changing an airplane’s engine while it’s flying.
My prediction: These companies will launch small site projects to keep up with Web 3.0. to experiment because they cannot stop the 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 land anyway? You have to buy that. It’s limited, costing thousands of dollars.
You don’t need a country to be a creator, not even to play. As a small creator, you can also create and sell a sword. That’s for free. The system is very flexible. When you buy land you have several options: You can rent it out. Or you can build your own experiences on it, virtual concerts, mini-games. It allows you to do bigger things.
So landless people have to rent land to build bigger experiences? That doesn’t sound particularly decentralized.
We’re building an ecosystem with landowners, that’s true. They can rent their land to others, for example to set up a pop-up store or organize a concert, for a day or for a week. The landowners can ask for a commission. And a creator then 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 five percent commission from all of this. Compare that to an app store taking 30 percent. Our cut is very small. We do not control or own the platform. To that extent it is decentralized.
You might as well use the Unreal 5 engine for something like that. It’s free, used by the biggest studios in gaming and Hollywood, Epic Games only takes a commission from a profit of one million US dollars. That strikes me as a better deal.
You know what? They can like to do. We don’t 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’s a closed ecosystem. And that’s what I mean by true digital ownership. In our world, everything belongs to the people who build and sell it, they can own it in Web 3.0. take them wherever they want. We are completely open.
Very prominent game designers claim that it is not technically possible to simply take digital possessions with you into every virtual world. 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 rendering. You actually own something when you buy an NFT. Which is true: In order for you to be able to take it to another virtual world, it needs a transfer. In “The Sandbox” we use this voxel style that looks like blocks. If you want to switch to a hyper-realistic world with your avatar, we have to do the transfer. We’re working on that. We create technical bridges between blockchain games like “Decentraland” and “The Sandbox”.
Your whole game revolves around NFTs. They are celebrated everywhere. And are subject to the whole ecosystem. A study by Chainalysis states: 80 percent of all NFTs on the ETH blockchain are owned by just 10 percent of the 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 rather rare and valuable. It’s different in gaming. We’re talking about small objects, swords or avatars. They don’t cost thousands or millions of dollars.
Still, to me, the Alpha seemed like a giant billboard for companies and rich people to display their NFT images. I get NFT images in my face all the time that cost thousands of dollars.
That’s not true. Look in the marketplace. The lowest NFTs there start at $10. And we will soon 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 making small items.
But are these the NFTs that are currently displayed in the levels?
We work with big companies, 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 will see more of that in the future.
How many active monthly users do you currently have?
It’s hundreds of thousands.
I read it was 30,000.
No. This season there are already many more. We’ll post the numbers once it’s over. It’s growing very, very fast. That’s also why I 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 we can’t even see them. There’s a real excitement from the players on the one hand and the developers on the other.
You emphasize that you only take five percent commission. That sounds very altruistic. But you also make money from virtual land sales.
yes it is limited There are only 160,000 pieces of land, two thirds are already sold. But it’s not our primary business model. That is activating the community, the creators and the players.
The virtual country belongs almost exclusively to rich people and corporations. You bought it.
That’s not true. Many users bought it when it was still $100-$200. Lots of people like you and me own virtual land. It will be very diverse. It is owned by many individuals. Not just famous people or corporations.
You also reserved 50 percent of the game’s cryptocurrency, the Sand Token, for yourself at the beginning. If it goes up, you benefit too.
Naturally. It is one of the most valuable tokens in the world today. Lots of people want to buy 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.