Cocorico, The Sandbox, one of the biggest metaverses, if not the biggest with Decentraland, was founded by two French people! Admittedly, the Hong Kong company specializing in mobile games Animoca Brands is now the majority shareholder. But let’s not spoil our pleasure: the duo of founders Arthur Madrid and Sébastien Borget is still in charge, and the start-up could, according to the latest rumors, raise 400 million euros in the very next few weeks, which should add value to their platform 4 billion euros while it is still under development! For those, many, who still struggle to understand what a metaverse is, it is a kind of virtual promised land where it will be possible to meet friends, attend concerts, visit museums, to work, to play video games, to earn money…, all, in the long term, thanks to a virtual or augmented reality headset and via an infinitely customizable avatar. For many specialists and professionals, first and foremost the boss of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg, the metaverse is the future of the Internet and even the future of mankind. Sébastien Borget, operational director of The Sandbox has agreed to show us around his “new world”.
L’Express: We’ve only really been hearing about The Sandbox for a few months, yet you already have ten years of existence behind you.
Sebastien Borget : Indeed, we launched the license in 2011. It was then a simple mobile game to easily create 2D games, using the touch screen which was still in its infancy. A concept that quickly caught on. Five years later we had recorded 40 million downloads and players had created 70 million pieces of content. But we were very frustrated because we had no way to pay them. Then in 2017 we “discovered” the potential of the blockchain through CryptoKitties, a game that allows you to breed and cross-breed virtual cats and then resell them outside the game, via a marketplace (marketplace) . We had found the idea to recognize and remunerate the work of our players. We therefore created our own marketplace and confirmed our choice to gradually become a metaverse. A choice that clearly pleased since we have just passed the bar of three million people with a The Sandbox account.
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However, your platform is actually still in the construction phase?
Everyone can already discover the community, collect NFTs and buy Sand (Editor’s note: the cryptocurrency used in this virtual universe) by connecting to the lobby which is open all year round. But we have indeed only opened our metaverse, so far, gradually, via what is internally called Alpha seasons. The first season took place in November and lasted one month, the second in March for the same duration, while the third will open in July. It is also important to emphasize that if in the first season we only offered 18 experiences, we went to 35 for season 2 and that we will exceed 80 for the next one. We hope to fully open The Sandbox at the end of 2022, beginning 2023. The vast majority of the company’s 300 employees are working tirelessly to build this virtual world. We have just signed the acquisition of Cualit, a Uruguayan studio employing 90 people specialized in web3 development. Entertainment will be at the heart of our metaverse and we will use the levers of gamification (quests, rewards, etc.) to push events (concerts, exhibitions, museums, etc.). One could, for example, imagine rediscovering a significant episode in history by immersing people inside.
What is your definition of the metaverse?
I think the metaverse will actually be a multitude of virtual worlds in which people can move freely and which will above all be interoperable. That is to say, you can move from one world to another while keeping your identity, your avatar and the goods attached to it (clothing, accessories, crypto-art, etc.). This is the big difference with virtual worlds as they have existed for 25 years. The metaverse must also be above all experiential: it is not a question of simply creating a shop or a virtual bank there. If we only transpose the physical world into a virtual universe then people will get bored very quickly.
What is The Sandbox’s business model?
We have three sources of income. The first, the most obvious, is the sale of LAND (Editor’s note: digital territories). The Sandbox is divided into 166,464 LANDs. To have an order of magnitude, each LAND is the equivalent of a square of 100 meters by 100 meters in the physical world, which leaves the possibility of building a lot of things on it. We have sold 70% of these territories over the last few years at the price of 1011 SAND, or around 1000 euros. Afterwards, on the secondary market, prices can be much higher, especially depending on their location. Recently, a lot equivalent to 9 LAND, located right next to the virtual house of American rapper Snoop Dogg, sold for 400,000 euros. We keep the remaining 30% to sell them in the next few years depending on the development of our virtual universe.
Our second source of income comes from publishing premium NFTs, like the Snoop Doog avatar. Finally, our third and last income comes from the royalties that we receive as soon as a user transfers an NFT to another. Whether it’s a LAND, an avatar, accessories, a work of crypto-art… we collect 5% of the amount paid. It’s really very little if you compare to other big platforms which take 30 to 50% commission. What matters to us, our real ambition, is to create an environment that encourages the demand for NFTs, which will automatically increase prices and benefit us as much as the creator.
“Adidas, Gucci, Ubisoft… We already have 300 brands and they are very varied”
The construction of your metaverse must have led to the creation of an ecosystem?
In any case, we have largely participated in the creation of this ecosystem. There are now thousands of artists and already more than 35 certified creators working on The Sandbox. At the moment, for example, we see that individual houses are becoming a popular category: this requires virtual architects to build them. We have already seen the creation of a hundred studios that also work to support brands, while the latter are trying to create real experiences around their values. We already have 300 brands, and they are very varied: from Adidas to Warner Music, including Gucci, Ubisoft, The Walking dead, the Hong Kong metro, the Toulon Rugby club, the South China Morning Post…
“Developing our virtual world after a kind of permanent referendum”
Do the French talents also bring their stone to the building?
Yes. And the French are even very well positioned on the metaverse (along with the Koreans). We also see the emergence of a small hexagonal ecosystem with a lot of creators. And we must not forget that we have in France a unicorn like Ledger, one of the largest wallet companies in the world (Editor’s note: “physical or digital wallet allowing to secure digital assets). Ledger is also one of our partners Any holder of a LAND The Sandbox will indeed be assigned a Ledger wallet.They are also in the process of developing an experience to “gamify” the pedagogy around the risks of piracy, which should soon be unveiled.
You plan by the end of the year to gradually adopt a decentralized autonomous organization (DAO for short): concretely, what will change?
The idea is to eventually have a completely open metaverse. The user will be the sole holder of his identity, of his digital assets, and he will be able to vote to influence the main orientations of The Sandbox. Each Land owner will be able to give their opinion on the features to be developed in priority, on the type of experience to set up… Then, the most popular ideas will be put in place. 50% of the income we record is injected into a foundation responsible for developing the platform. We are ultimately like a country, in which the government would have a budget and put in place a number of measures to develop the country after a kind of permanent referendum.
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Metavers: the French giant The Sandbox takes us on a tour of its “new world”
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