For this Games From The Block podcast episode, George Tsagkarakis is talking with Sebastien Borget about the upcoming Blockchain-based virtual world “The Sandbox” as well as the Blockchain Game Alliance, the partnerships with companies like Atari, and the ones that are yet to come.
Sebastien Borget Introduction:
Hey everyone. I’m the COO and co-founder of The Sandbox and president of the blockchain game Alliance. I’ve been an entrepreneur for over 13 years, and I’m also the co-founder and CEO of the mobile game studio, PixOwl, which has been acquired by Animoca Brands in 2018. I’ve been in the gaming user-generated content, IDs, and brand space since 2011. I know how to build great games to engage millions of players. That’s one of the two key expertise from our team.
The switch from traditional games.
At the beginning of 2017, I got personally more and more interested in blockchain technology. And so I started doing some research look into all the different projects. Then at the same time, we launched just about a year before. In 2016, we launched The Sandbox evolution on iOS, and the game was great.
We’ve seen millions of downloads, millions of users creating daily, sharing their creations online. Around the second half of 2017, we started to see NFTs born and rising with CryptoKitties, and we saw a great match between NFT and generated content. By the time on the mobile version, we thought about all the creations made by our players. Instead of having those virtual cats, players could own digital assets, usable in-game, and generate by them.
The Sandbox, the NFTs, and the ERC 1155.
It’s a great game, very accessible. You could make a game without any programming knowledge, just with the touch of a finger, and you can share your creation.
We think blockchain technology, and essentially NFTs, is a strong differentiator, a strong value proposition for the user behind. For the first time, everything they create actually belongs to them.
Around 2018, we started to work on this new foodie version of the Sandbox, and we dive into this blockchain and NFT space being one of the true pioneers since we’ve been in there for more than two years. And we’ve been one of the first project longstanding projects that pushed the whole ecosystem to worlds, learning about NFTs, understanding.
We have contributed to building a new standard for NFTs, the ERC 1155, more efficient transfers, specifically for gaming and more adapted to Sandbox needs where creators could make thousands or millions of game assets.
The Game Maker. Create games, NFTs, have fun with your creations and why not sell them also… 🌕
We are building a very ambitious project with multiple products. We are making sure that we are onboarding new users to discover the benefit of this technology and play with the different sandbox platform tools or even the marketplace.
The game maker is live, but its only an alpha version. We keep updating it every two months. What is fantastic is we already have creators playing with it. They are the foundation of The Sandbox. They are building the future. You can download the game maker and start creating stuff right away. Just play with assets, drag, and drop. We are also showcasing some of the games created by the member of our GameMaker fund.
The users can come and create their own gaming experiences, but this has to have a utility. It’s a game platform. So anything you buy on the marketplace, anything you create, we want you to be able to play with, and playing is not just watching in 3D. There are attributes like attack, power, defense, magic, and understanding its effect in the game. Like, is it going to run faster? Is it going to have more life points?
The Public Beta release date.
The public beta will come around December 2020.
On whether the creations are on the blockchain and players can make a buck or two.
No, it’s not connected (the marketplace) to the blockchain. You cannot yet sell it. When we will connect things with the blockchain and turn your creation into NFTs, we want to make sure that there will be enough demand. We always think both sides, buyer and seller. So as a seller, what I’m going to sell, why would someone want to purchase it? And as a buyer, like if I buy it, what could I do with it?
So that’s where all our gaming background experience building both core loops and meta gameplay comes. It becomes essential because at the end of the day, if you remove the blockchain and you see what The Sandbox is, it has to appeal to just regular gamers. Regular gamers want to enjoy games that are up to the standards of modern MMORPGs.
They are not going to care about the technologies that rent off them, but they will care that there’s a lot of parameters for their characters to evolve for the equipment to change, and focus the games they want to create to be fun and enjoyable.
Monetize your creations with $SAND.
You will be able to monetize in various ways, the game you create, how you’re going to monetize. That’s why we have introduced the $SAND recently, a little bit more than a month ago on Binance first and across many other exchanges. Investing your time, and potentially buying assets on the marketplace should be able to make a return on investment, essentially by monetizing this game that will be sitting on top of your land. Some games can be free. Some games can be paid.
Free Games might require you to own a specific asset from the marketplace to access that particular area or offer an advantage in the gameplay.
About the Monetization systems.
The monetization systems will be inspired by freemium and premium models, which is compelling. It’s like a sandbox. The Sandbox is participating in this new play to earn business model. Players can enter, make no payment at all, participate in the ecosystem, contribute, play, and collect resources. You can earn for your playtime and trade those tokens with older users of the ecosystem, which need them to create new content, improve the games they make, etc.
Where all this success come from?
I think many factors build success. Like you have to be at the right time. You have to have the right team, good vision for the product. Also, the community that’s been supporting The Sandbox has been fantastic.
Another reason for success is how we’re approaching the ecosystem, creating synergies, and partnership with many other games, many other brands.
One of the key successes of the sandbox project has been our land presale. Over the four previous sales, we sold for more than $1.7 million worth of land. The ownership of land is an essential factor.
The fact that we, we gave those projects and partners lands with their logos, we also brought major brands like Atari, like rollercoaster tycoon, like Carebears. And we do have many more to announce. Bertram is joining us as the VP of licensing and brand partnership today will help us onboard many more major brands in entertainment, celebrities, and artists.
The Sandbox is onboarding regular gamers.
We are not yet launching beta to the users. That’s going to come by the end of this year. We are trying to make it as accessible as possible, and we know we can vastly improve. The ultimate loser goal is to have an all in one login account process, rather than sticking only to Metamask. We first integrated Mitski, which allows you to create a wallet with an email and password. And more recently, we’ve introduced Arkane Network.
About the Blockchain Game Alliance.
All the core funding members of the Blockchain Game Alliance include Ubisoft, Consensus, Battle Racers, and a few other companies.
I remember I was at this conference in Europe, in France, where they decided to build together an organization with one goal. And this goal is really clear. We want to help, broadening the awareness about blockchain technology and the benefit of blockchain within the game industry. The gaming industry is a $150 billion industry, which has been existing for certainly more than 30 years.
We used the strengths of some of the founding members like Ubisoft, which helped to shape the vision and start onboarding more and more members. There was a challenge for the BGA and its members because all members are not paid or employed by the BGA. They contribute in their free time while building their project, games, and services.
Is there a concern about the growing Ethereum fees?
Of course, they are concerning me, as well as many actors in the space. Most of the blockchain games with low-priced items, $1 or $2, have been affected by the gas fees. Some of them nearly lost 90% of their transaction volume because it became more expensive.
We are not affected as other projects because the minimum price of the items traded or bought on Sandbox is around $50. Even if the GAS fee becomes $5, $10, it is still manageable and acceptable for some users.
We’ve reached a point where we have to look for another solution. We haven’t yet decided. We know there are many solutions available.
Joking to Sebastien: If we were in the middle ages — you would be the Majesty.
Ha, ha. I wish I would be the Robin hood actually more than the Majesty.
I’m here to redistribute wealth to everyone because The Sandbox is community-based. Everyone who is building value in our ecosystem should be rewarded for the contribution. I’m trained to create that decentralized States where there’s no one deciding everything and taking away all the value for himself. So please allow me to correct that analogy if possible.
Is blockchain the future of Virtual Worlds?
I like to expand the question, like, what is the metaverse? Will there be just one metaverse or multiple? Like there’s a lot of debates around it.
It looks like there will be many virtual worlds that can exist both on a centralized system from companies like Facebook or Epic games, etc.
And at the same time, virtual worlds will exist decentralized, like the Decentraland, CryptoVoxels, and Somnium Space, which use blockchain technology as one of the key advantages.
I can own my assets. I can own my avatar. So my identity, and I can potentially take them out of those and use them in others. Blockchain is a substantial value addition as a layer under those virtual worlds for the ownership and the value system behind that’s going to power the economy of those virtual worlds.
Is there going to be one platform to rule them all?
I don’t think there will be one platform that rules them all. Maybe yes. We see Minecraft and Roblox. They all talking about being the firsts. They have a hundred million users, but there’s plenty of other virtual worlds that can exist. Some of them will be for a particular niche of users. Some of them will be larger. I think the exciting thing is, there’s not just one choice.
Where do you see blockchain gaming in five years from now?
I think it will be mainstream and will no longer be called blockchain gaming. It will just be so seamless that people will not think about it. They will no longer call it a wallet. They will call it, “That’s my account on my account.” I have those tokens and can covert them into Fiat, i can trade my items on marketplaces.
I’m thinking of a straightforward example, like just wireless ten years ago. You could have everything with wires, from your AirPods, listening to your music, or even playing on a console with a controller. If you remember, the PlayStation two was still wire, and with Playstation 3, people realized they could play without cables anymore.
At some point, we’ll even remove blockchain from older marketing wording. It will take a decade to become a nom because everyone will widely accept that what I buy, even if it’s in the game, it’s actually mine.