Virtual land sales are the latest craze after rising interest in crypto games and Facebook’s massive metaverse initiative.
But Ethereum-developed metaverse games like Axie Infinity, The Sandbox, and Decentraland have been selling virtual land for years, long before the metaverse hype started to gather steam.
If spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on digital land lots still seems unaffordable today, then imagine the risk when The Sandbox offered them up in 2019.
initial investors now see the benefits of the game’s SAND token and LAND non-fungible tokens (NFTs) have become a lot more valuable recently.
In an interview with Decrypt, The Sandbox co-founder and COO Sebastien Borget said it’s been rewarding to see more people embrace his team’s idea of an online, community-owned, and customizable game world.
Although the game is not yet fully open to the public, people are buying and selling LAND lots in the expectation of building on top of them.
“Every day, the map is different. Now, there are new owners and new communities that arrive and decide to build next to each other”, he said. “I feel like it’s like a digital nation – firm and strong. That’s why it’s exciting. It’s culturally rich, it’s global and it’s accessible.”
The Sandbox looks a bit like the heyday of Microsoft’s Minecraft: a virtual courtyard filled with toy blocks, similar to LEGO blocks.
The difference is in the form of cryptoactive governance, as users can purchase plots of land on a shared online map and build their own gameplay experiences.
Each land is represented by an NFT, which acts as a governance blockchain contract for a digital item. Such NFTs are owned by players and can be resold or transferred at will.
Why would people buy virtual land except as a speculative investment? At The Sandbox, landowners can build in their digital space, whether it’s to create a community hangout, an NFT gallery or even create interactive games.
These games can even be monetized, and users can purchase land to rent to other developers for a fee.
Celebrities and brands are getting into it. Rapper Snoop Dogg, who is already a major collector and creator of NFTs, will launch interactive experiences on The Sandbox, including live shows, NFTs and more.
And fans are paying a buck to live near Snoop in the metaverse, as a collector spent more than $450,000 on LAND for the neighboring land.
Meanwhile, brands such as Adidas, Atari and The Walking Dead have acquired LAND at The Sandbox and have plans to create their own metaverse locations.
Borget has suggested the gradual influx of brands and celebrities over the years, including major additions such as Deadmau5 and The Walking Dead, who have created “network effects” to draw others into the game.
In late November, The Sandbox released its alpha test period to finally allow people to play in their metaverse.
Players who purchase the NFT Alpha Pass can access 18 in-game experiences and get rewards with tokens while anyone who doesn’t have NFTs can test some aspects of the game and not receive rewards.
Borget felt apprehensive about finally releasing the game after years of development and after avid fans had spent hundreds of millions of dollars on NFTs.
The broad concept of the metaverse is still unknown to many people, so this was an initial opportunity for people to try it out and see how The Sandbox works.
“It’s almost this fear of jumping into the abyss and receiving a lot of reprisals and other criticisms,” he said. “Maybe people come in and say, ‘Oh, is that it? The metaverse… Is it really that boring? It’s ugly, full of flaws. It’s not much fun’, maybe. And that didn’t happen.”
Despite fears of negative responses from community members, Borget said feedback on the initial beta test, completed on December 20, was very positive.
Obviously, the game is still in development: there are bugs to be fixed and other feedbacks to consider. But he is encouraged by the general response.
The Sandbox wants to be the “core” of the metaverse
NFT project communities such as Bored Ape Yacht Club, Sup Ducks and Gutter Cat Gang participated in the alpha test, Borget said, suggesting the possibility of The Sandbox acting as a metaverse core for crypto communities.
It’s part of why The Sandbox project spent millions buying NFTs, including a $2.9 million Bored Ape in September.
Borget said the game had tens of thousands of players during alpha testing and that the number of unique LAND owners in the game had risen above 17,000. Other LAND NFTs will become available throughout 2021, and a secondary market is already in full swing.
The Sandbox plans to release similar testing periods for the game every two months in 2022 to get even more feedback from LAND owners.
The team will also migrate the game to Polygon, Ethereum’s second-tier scalability solution, to minimize transaction fees and network congestion when interacting with the game.
It will also launch an autonomous decentralized organization (DAO) in 2022, giving LAND owners a voice over the future of the game.
Borget said the game will be released widely to the public when LAND developers are able to build and share their interactive experiences and the game transitions to Polygon.
At this point, The Sandbox may be more ready to demonstrate its community-owned vision to all potential players, even if they don’t buy LAND.
“The metaverse needs to be developed by people”, he explained.
“When they’re building with our tools and creating experiences that are ready to be made publicly available — and we’re integrated into the second tier to publish experiences in their LANDs — I think it’s a great time to get started.”
*Translated and edited by Daniela Pereira do Nascimento with permission from Decrypt.co.