A metaverse only for the rich?

“The Sandbox” is the biggest hype among Metaverse games on the blockchain. It was worth more than seven billion US dollars at its all-time high in November last year. The digital earth in the virtual world is sold for thousands to millions of dollars. Gucci, Adidas and Snoop Dogg are among more than 200 partners.

Since March 2022, “The Sandbox” has been open access for the first time. How fun is it? And how open and decentralized is the business model really? You will find a report in the next issue of CTB-ECHO magazine. Here’s a taste: because we spoke to Mathieu Nouzareth, member of the board of directors of The Sandbox.

BTC-ECHO: 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 at the time. It was a 2D mobile game. They had the idea: why not make it a 3D game, 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 feels very unfinished to me. What took you so long?

We are ahead of the market. “The Sandbox” is a very complex and large-scale 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 progressing. 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, tweaking and improving it all the time.

LLast year you gained over 200 partners, including Snoop Dogg. How did the collaboration with him come about?

Snoop Dogg is very fond of cryptocurrencies and Web 3.0. involved. A collaboration was essential. We adapt. We did a gig 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 projects together.

There has been a huge amount of hype around 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 hold on?

We are very happy that these great companies have moved to the Metaverse. This caught our attention 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 games and work. There is a crucial difference: we want to enable people to really own digital goods. It’s web 3.0.

Take “Roblox” for example, they also see themselves as a metaverse. Millions of players build and sell their creations there. But they only get 30% or 70% of the revenue, depending on whether they have a VIP pass or not. The Sandbox gives 95% back to its creators.

The old companies cannot follow our path. They should change their whole business model. It’s like changing the engine of an airplane in flight.

My prediction: These companies will launch small site projects to keep up with Web 3.0. to experiment because they can’t stop development. But by the time they have something, it will be too late.

If you can create NFTs for free, what’s the point of a virtual land anyway? You have to buy this. It’s limited, it costs 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. It’s free. The system is very flexible. When you buy land, you have several options: You can rent it. Or you can build your own experiences, virtual concerts, mini-games on it. It allows you to do bigger things.

So landless people have to rent land to build bigger experiments? It doesn’t seem particularly decentralized.

We are building an ecosystem with the 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. Property 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 takes care of the marketing.

But we are not involved, it is important. We only take five percent commission on all of this. Compare that to an app store taking 30%. Our cup is very small. We do not control or own the platform. To that extent, it is decentralized.

You might as well use the Unreal Engine 5 for something like that. It’s free, used by the biggest gaming studios and in Hollywood, Epic Games only takes a commission on a profit of one million US dollars. Sounds like a better deal to me.

You know what? They can [die Spieler] like doing. 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 is a closed ecosystem. And that’s what I mean by true digital ownership. In our world, everything belongs to those who build and sell it, they can own it in Web 3.0. take them where they want. We are completely open.

High-profile game designers say it’s technically not possible to simply take digital possessions with you to 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, pretty much everything. And an action game like God of War needs a different context than Super Mario.”

I think the man is confused. He does not understand the difference between owning and giving back. You actually own something when you buy 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 block-like style of voxel. If you want to jump into a hyper-realistic world with your avatar, we have to do the transfer. We are working on it. 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 entire ecosystem. A study by Chainalysis states: 80% of all NFTs on the Ethereum blockchain are owned by just 10% of accounts. It doesn’t seem particularly decentralized.

I haven’t read the study. You have to differentiate. The number presumably applies to NFT art. They are naturally rather 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.

Yet to me, the Alpha looked like a giant billboard for corporations and the wealthy to display their NFT images. I get NFT images in my face all the time that cost thousands of dollars.

It’s not true. Look in the market. The lowest NFTs start at $10. And we will soon be migrating to the Polygon platform, so it will be even better, the fees will be lower. We are going to have a lot of creators who will make small objects.

But is it the NFTs that are currently displayed in the levels?

We work with big companies, of course. But a big part of our success will come from people being able to create their own NFTs and monetize them. It’s part of our plan. You will see more 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 finished. He is growing very, very quickly. It’s also why I joined The Sandbox. I saw rapid and natural growth. And I’m talking about real users. That’s wonderful. People love to play, build and be 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 you can’t even see them. There is real excitement from gamers on one side and developers on the other.

You insist that you only take five percent commission. It seems very altruistic. But you also earn money through the sale of virtual land.

yes it is limited There are only 160,000 plots, two thirds have already been sold. But that’s not our main business model. It is to activate the community, the creators and the players.

The virtual country belongs almost exclusively to the wealthy and the corporations. You bought it.

It’s not true. Many users bought it when it still cost $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 companies.

You also reserved 50% of the in-game cryptocurrency, the Sand Token, for yourself at the start. If it increases, 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 suddenly, it is distributed more and more equitably, people make a profit. We want it to be in the hands of as many people as possible.

Thanks for the interview.

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