The Sandbox: Developing an NFT-Powered Game

Sébastien Borget, Co-Founder and COO of The Sandbox, has told us about the developing process behind the upcoming game, explained why they decided to use NFTs, and talked about the company's future plans.

Introduction

I’m Sébastien Borget, co-founder and COO of The Sandbox. Together with The Sandbox CEO Arthur Madrid, I have co-founded three companies, two of which have been acquired. I’ve been working in mobile gaming for 10 years, managing production and marketing for top-grossing titles including The Sandbox, Snoopy's Town Tale, and Addams Family: Mystery Mansion. I’m a passionate speaker and evangelist for blockchain technology, gaming, and education, as well as the opportunities Non-Fungible Tokens bring to gaming. I’ve also been President of the Blockchain Game Alliance, a non-profit organization of 230 key members of the industry, since 2020.

My main project now is building The Sandbox metaverse, which offers players and creators a decentralized platform to create immersive 3D voxel worlds and game experiences. Building on the existing The Sandbox IP originally launched in 2012 with 40M global installs mobile, The Sandbox is a virtual gaming world where players can play, build, own, and monetize their experiences on a virtual LAND they own using NFTs and SAND, the platform’s utility token. SAND enables players to play, own, govern, trade, and earn by playing and gathering resources through The Sandbox’s play-to-earn model.

In The Sandbox, every creator is free to share, trade, or sell their creations while retaining full ownership and revenue. Our platform scales from simple games to ambitious experiences ranging from theme parks to virtual concerts to RPG worlds.

The Sandbox

We originally built a very successful user-generated content (UGC) experience on mobile, called The Sandbox. Players built millions of pieces of content and hundreds of thousands of playable games and experiences they could share. But this happened in a closed-economy system where the creators who contributed to the game’s success received nothing in return, partly because of platform restrictions.

Flash forward to 2017 when we saw the first NFTs with CryptoKitties and CryptoPunks. We immediately realized that blockchain was a key technology to support our vision and provide true ownership of digital assets. This meant we could combine UGC and NFTs, allowing any creator to make their own NFTs, use them in games, and monetize them.

That was the first spark, and by designing a content ecosystem with authorship and ownership securely tied to the blockchain, we’re making big steps toward achieving these goals in our gaming metaverse.

Fundraising

Our $93M Series B round was led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2 and represented their first investment into crypto assets. Along with SoftBank Vision Fund 2, other investors included Animoca Brands, our parent company, and a number of leading technology investors and funds.

The round perfectly aligns with our vision, and this investment empowers our team to scale The Sandbox platform’s growth as a prime entertainment destination where brands, IPs, and celebrities can engage with their fans through virtual experiences including games, live performances, and social experiences. Specifically, the funds will help scale up our growth strategy, operations, and player acquisition so we can continue accelerating our expansion as an entertainment platform for players and creators.

The Vision

The promise of the metaverse is to offer a more social and immersive set of experiences – including games, virtual concerts, shows, art exhibits, and social parties – to connect global culture between player communities, brands, IPs, and celebrities. 

The Sandbox offers a unique way to play and interact with your NFTs – whether they were created on The Sandbox platform itself with VoxEdit, our 3D editor, or they come from the external NFT ecosystem. Users can encounter NFTs, see them in action, and decide to buy them to add them into original experiences they create. Our game engine and tools are simple enough that you can create a #nocode experience by yourself and powerful enough to build large-scale games and social experiences from a full studio team.

Our play-to-earn model empowers players to monetize time spent in the metaverse, creating a circular economy with supply and demand where resources collected by one player category are sold to another category, rewarding participants for their time. The SAND earned is an Ethereum-based cryptocurrency that can be used to purchase NFTs on The Sandbox Marketplace or traded on blockchain trading platforms. This allows players to potentially earn income while of course creators can do the same by creating game ASSETS and minting them as NFTs or building experiences on in-game LAND parcels they own.

The Sandbox is designed as an entertainment ecosystem that can provide a huge range of digital jobs. You can be a virtual architect, designing and selling buildings. You can be a farmer, collecting and selling resources. You can be a concert promoter, discovering musical talent and staging shows, for which you sell NFT tickets. These and other jobs we haven’t even thought of yet can come into being in The Sandbox, allowing people to earn cryptocurrency while following their passion.

Why NFTs

We use NFTs not because they’re a hot trend right now but because NFTs and blockchain make possible a new, revelatory proof of authorship (who made an item) and proof of ownership (who owns it). This combination makes the trading of digital assets truly work for the first time, kickstarting a digital economy where assets and services can be valued, held, traded, and monetized. This powers our UGC system and play-to-earn model that rewards players and creators for having fun in our metaverse.

Working with Investors

Our investors see our potential in a growing market, and they are coming on board because they believe in our vision. They see that The Sandbox is constructing an open NFT metaverse and unlocking new economic opportunities by empowering people to build and monetize their creations. By leveraging blockchain technology and decentralized governance, we are putting control in the hands of our users to build a decentralized global community. The creators’ economy we are building offers a new digital economy with massive room for growth.

Future Users

The Sandbox is open to everyone and the barriers of entry are very low. If you’ve played Minecraft or Roblox, you’ll feel at home with our colorful 3D voxel aesthetic and you’ll know how to build and place voxel ASSETS. And regardless of what your favorite game genre is, you can find it – or build it yourself – in The Sandbox.

Our play-to-earn model offers players and creators alike the opportunity to be rewarded for the time they spend in the game. As a player, you can transform your playtime into an activity that, whether you call it work or play, can generate potential revenue for you. Your playtime can become a job while also providing entertainment value. It’s a powerful hook for new players.

Our strong growth has been organic so far, based on the appeal of our decentralized metaverse. As we move toward launch, we have more activation programs including marketing and leveraging our global brand partners who will be bringing their fans to see the interactive experiences that will be going live.

Future Plans

We envision that within the next 10 years, the metaverse will have transformed profoundly how we’re thinking about the way we’ll be working, socializing, playing, and earning through the economic opportunities and jobs it is creating. 

As we work toward that goal, The Sandbox has generated tremendous growth in 2021. Reactions to our vision have gone from, “Wait, what are you doing?” to “Now I see how the metaverse is taking shape!” as we’ve built out our ecosystem ahead of our 2022 launch. Our players and LAND owners are excited – we’ve generated over US$216M in GMV to date and over 1,000,000 users now have a connected wallet. This includes high profile LAND owners in The Sandbox like Zed Run, Republic Realm, Binance, Bored Ape Yacht Club, CyberKongz, and the Winklevoss twins, showing that The Sandbox is the place to be.

Our investors are excited, and they’ve given us nearly $100M to make it a reality. Major brands, IP, and talent are excited, and we’ve partnered with over 165 brands and IP including Adidas, Snoop Dogg, The Walking Dead, deadmau5, Atari, Rollercoaster Tycoon, Care Bears, The Smurfs, Shaun the Sheep, and Binance to create voxelized versions of their worlds and characters in the metaverse. A new generation of players and consumers are interested in virtual goods and brand experiences, so it makes sense for Snoop Dogg to have his virtual mansion in The Sandbox and to perform live concerts there for his fans. An IP like The Walking Dead can empower its fans to put unique items, zombies, and characters into their own original experiences based upon that world.

Speaking directly to the audience of talented game developers who read 80 Level, more and more game studios, artists, and developers are also excited by The Sandbox’s potential. We take 50% of The Sandbox revenue from selling LANDS and immediately transfer it to The Sandbox Foundation, which supports creators, players, and stakers to accelerate the growth of our ecosystem. The Foundation has already distributed more than 80M SAND tokens to support the community. This includes funding over 55 game projects and 50,000 creators and distributing grants to 100+ artists to produce NFTs, most of which can be seen here.

Aside from our grants to help subsidize original content, the commercial possibilities that already exist are powerful. Just recently, the Metaflower Super Mega Yacht, a yacht ASSET created by an artist, was sold to a LAND owner for 149 Ethereum, which currently equates to around USD $650,000. The artist, who created and fully owned the asset they created, received all that money. That’s a great sign of the potential for creators to benefit from creating ASSETS and experiences in The Sandbox as we go forward.

Sébastien Borget, Co-Founder & COO of The Sandbox

Interview conducted by Arti Sergeev

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