Dive into the most successful open metaverse
The Sandbox is a virtual world powered by the Polygon blockchain where you can create, experiment, and play with 3D voxel assets. The game allows for full asset ownership and monetization through its integrated marketplace. We were lucky to play the Alpha version of the game, and here are our impressions and insights into this renowned yet ever-expanding virtual universe.
This article was authored by Nicola Fraccaroli and Unbound.
- The Sandbox is an immersive digital world, but also a creation platform, where users can play, create, own and monetize their game assets and experiences.
- The game is currently in Alpha phase, but already counts four million unique players and partnerships with 400 major brands such as Adidas, The Walking Dead, Atari, Paris Hilton, Snoop Dogg, and Rabbids.
- The game embraces blockchain technology to reward players, creators, and artists for their efforts and time spent on the platform, and to expand the game experience to include external games and brands. It also represents a use case regarding digital real estate ownership and trading.
What is the Sandbox?
The Sandbox is best known for its two smash mobile hits The Sandbox (2011) and The Sandbox Evolution (2016), which combined generated 40 million downloads across iOS and Android.
In the simplest sense, The Sandbox is a metaverse, a virtual gamified world where players can move their avatars across the map, complete missions, meet other players (or celebrities), and enjoy sharp pixelated graphics.
NFTs enable ownership in The Sandbox
The ground you play on, the objects you interact with, the items you purchase on the game marketplace, and the quests you perform in each area, are all being created, owned, or even sold by other players. A digital economy is enabled by implementing NFTs.
The Sandbox is in fact designed to be a community-driven metaverse, or as Sebastien Borget, COO, would say “an open metaverse platform”.
The more quality game assets you create (equipment, experiences, missions) and quests you complete, the more you can get rewarded by the other players or by developers.
User-generated content and ownership fuel The Sandbox
The current player-driven model grew out as an evolution of The Sandbox’s older mobile experience, due to limitations provided by app stores, which did not allow active players and creators to be rewarded for their efforts in creating their own metaverse experiences.
Combining user-generated content with ownership and real monetization was the turning point for this game title, a leap of faith and vision that had made The Sandbox a unique adventure with four million users and 400 major partners to date.
What does The Sandbox look like?
The game map extends now for 15,000 virtual square kilometers, making it the largest metaverse real estate in existence.
It is made of small or big, or huge squares (166,464 parcels of LAND in total), each playable, purchasable, or rented out by players. Each of these squares is called LAND.
The map and the LAND
The game map extends now for 15,000 virtual square kilometers, making it the largest metaverse real estate in existence. It is made of small or big or huge squares (166,464 parcels of LAND in total), each playable, purchasable, or rented out by players. Each of these squares is called LAND.
You’ll recognize very familiar logos, to which the respective LAND belongs. Each brand there has been building its own experience, missions, perks, and shows. Up to the player which one to start with based on affinity or enter one of the many portals and join an “independent” experience.
What experiences can you find in The Sandbox?
The environments you’ll play into in each game area (experience) are vastly different. We found ourselves jumping on floating piano keys, running through BAYC museum, chilling at the saloon in the Far West, and waiting until 1 pm for the daily adventure in shiny music clubs.
With diverse LANDs come also very diverse experiences. During our gameplay, every 45 minutes or so we would play through very different puzzles and quests (find, kill, solve, visit). The dynamicity makes playing engaging, although not everyone might get used, at first, to the sharp yet pixelated (voxels) graphics.
Also, given a lot of experiences and quests are likely not done by professional game developers, expect some of them to be harder than expected, or not completely well-thought.
How do you climb up the game leaderboard?
The more and the faster you’ll complete quests within each area, the higher your position on the game leaderboard, which rewards the most performant players with $SAND (the in-game currency), used to purchase game assets, customize your avatar or play specific experiences.
It is important to note that quests in each area must be finished all in one playing session. Otherwise, you’ll have to restart them all, while you can replay them to rank up on the leaderboard (upon account verification).
Moreover, all the quests we tried on The Sandbox are Free-to-play, but individual creators are allowed to place a “paywall” to be able to play on their LAND.
How can gamers create ASSETs in The Sandbox?
Definitely, the biggest value added for you, as a gamer, is the creator part. Each player can create game ASSETs on their own: avatars, objects, and cosmetics which can potentially be purchased and used in-game by other players.
The voxels-based graphics and tools allow for a no-code building experience, enabling even beginner creators to contribute and monetize their efforts. The Sandbox, in this sense, not only embraced the creator economy but also decentralized the revenue coming from it.
It rewards the creators and brands that invest time and effort in the game. And we do believe it has been successful at it, especially when compared to other major metaverses.
There are three main tools to create, sell and monetize game ASSETs and experiences:
This a 3D modeling and animation program designed for creating voxel-based assets for The Sandbox. It is totally free to use. Players can model, animate, edit, and export anything to build their own game experience or sell on the marketplace.
Those who apply and get accepted for The Sandbox’s Creator Fund are tasked and rewarded for producing very high-quality voxel art-based ASSETs, which are then published on the game Marketplace.
So far, 100+ artists have been supported through the fund.
The Game Maker
This is a simple and easy-to-use tool that allows you to design, test, and share experiences, such as games, within The Sandbox’s metaverse. It provides a drag-and-drop interface, giving you the power to place different elements and objects into an environment, define how elements interact, and share them with the community.
Through the Game Maker Fund, rewards and incentives are given to those who have proven game design or digital world design skills to help them produce and publish excellent games and experiences for players of The Sandbox to play.
So far, 18 games have been subsidized through the fund.
This is the first initial step to monetizing voxel ASSETs created in VoxEdit, and buying LAND, for example. It allows the trading of player-owned or created ASSETs, which are interoperable between different games and different platforms (for example, you can purchase avatars by Snoop Dog, BAYC, Moonbirds, and many others).
You only wish to wander around The Sandbox completing quests as a casual player? You can do so. Instead, do you wish to use your creative skills and create whatever you’d like to, from very simple objects or entire buildings to animated dragons or full-on games? The tools enable you to do so, with no code experience. Finally, do you wish to earn $SAND and real-world money from your creations, or purchase avatars by Steve Aoki and other renowned celebrities or brands? The marketplace allows you to do just that.
Given the importance given to creators, one of the key priorities for The Sandbox Development team in the upcoming months will be to keep updating and refining creator tools accordingly.
We heard concerts would be added to the Game Maker building capabilities by the end of the year..just saying!
How The Sandbox embraces Web3
Oh boy, here comes the scammy part…NOT
The Sandbox can be played as a full-fledged metaverse, for free. Its gameplay is enjoyable and dynamic, we did find ourselves curious each time we would enter a new experience, especially if from a brand or celebrity we always heard of.
Furthermore, thinking that all we see and interact with was created ad-hoc by studios or other players (and that we could do the same easily) makes it a unique world to be explored at least once.
But given The Sandbox is, by design, a community-driven project, it means players are no more passive actors, but instead are the ones bringing about and expanding the boundaries of the game.
Besides the tools outlined above, in the Alpha phase, these Web3 elements have so far allowed to reward players and spurring engagement and growth:
This is The Sandbox’s ecosystem currency and it also grants you voting rights (staking) in the way the game develops and evolves, along with other players and developers.
$SAND is also required for the buying and selling of tradable in-game items, such as LAND and ASSETs, from The Sandbox’s marketplace.
You can either gain it by completing quests, through community initiatives and contests, by becoming a game ambassador, or by purchasing it on external exchanges. The total circulating supply of $SAND is 3,000,000,000 units.
Each land plot visible on the map, is among the first-of-its-kind use cases of digital real estate, considered to be already a billion-dollar market given the opportunity major brands and celebrities saw by purchasing or renting it out, an innovative way to reach and entertain younger generations of gamers.
For example, celebrities like Snoop Dog purchased LAND (Snoopverse) on The Sandbox in early 2022 to host some of his shows there, increasing the value of neighboring LANDs up to $450,000 each, thanks to the increased gamers traffic in that area.
Owning LAND also gives each gamer or creator many opportunities, including governance/voting rights, which you can exercise when small or key matters concerning The Sandbox arise from the community. Allowing LAND owners to further monetize their estate is among the top key priorities on the game’s roadmap.
These will define ASSETs’ attributes. The more attributes your ASSETs have, the more useful you´ll find them within the Sandbox, thus incrementing their value. They are given as rewards for staking $SAND on LAND, although distribution is foreseen for the moment just for land owners.
These define both the number of GEM sockets that your ASSETs have as well as their scarcity. They will be distributed at first only to LAND owners.
Alpha Season 3 is a great step also towards interoperability, where 130,000 certified avatars from existing collections such as BAYC have come to life within The Sandbox. Imagine a Bored Ape interacting with Snoop Dogg or Steve Aoki, merging their lands and co-creating initiatives for their communities. Interoperability at its best!
How to play The Sandbox?
Currently, the game is in the Open Alpha phase. Alpha season three just started, and all its experiences are accessible to anyone. However, in order to earn $SAND, you’ll need an Alpha pass, which can be won through raffles and contests on The Sandbox Official channels.
The game is available for now just for Windows and MAC OSs, but mobile is already on the team’s roadmap, with different approaches and solutions.
As gamers, we found The Sandbox Alpha to be not only an engaging, varied, and ever-evolving metaverse experience but especially a platform where we can play an active role, or better the only role that counts: one of content consumers and creators. We found an impressive number of renowned brands and gamers that believed in the project and keep supporting it.
Using blockchain technology to enhance the game experience is a constant debate within the gaming industry. At the end of the day, embracing web3 philosophy and implementing its capabilities depends on developers’ vision and the response from respective game communities.
Metaverse platforms like Minecraft or Fortnite or Roblox adopted interoperability, as a way to enrich the game experience based on players’ liking, but it remained confined without “real” spillovers that would concretely reward players.
On the other hand, other elements, such as player-driven economy have so far not been accepted, as an approach, by these major metaverses. For example, tradeable game assets (NFTs) have been seen as a means of exclusion and speculation.
Instead, The Sandbox saw blockchain technology as an enabler for user-generated content, allowing the game to expand infinitely based on creativity and rewards. It was bold enough to embrace it fully as a key differentiator and core model, reaching top2 metaverses by assets trading volume.
The corresponding flywheel of brands and creators that this decision so far generated validates a major assumption preliminarily: gamers are gamers first, but they do wish to own assets and get rewarded for their in-game efforts if developers enable them to.
Of course, the digital economy as a whole is not exempt from speculation. As we have seen also in other emerging game titles such as Big Time, as long as tradable assets are engrained and conducive to a more enjoyable game experience, speculation is minimized, as gamers decide its market price, based on intrinsic asset value (objects, weapons, cosmetics).
Elements in The Sandbox such as tokens, LAND or art showcased in each experience might be more subject to speculation, true, like in the real world, but that is only the tip of the iceberg of an economy where everyone can be a creator, choose to own or monetize their creative efforts and join developers in defining their favorite game’s roadmap. At least now players can make real choices.
The development team was also bold in adopting from the beginning specific terminology, such as NFT, crypto wallet, exchange, and play-to-earn, which have had a mixed reception among the broader gaming community, especially in 2022. Yet, thanks to major partners and a growing user base, it was able to build a self-standing experience with players and brands that understood the opportunity given by web3, instead of rising against it.
The more the gaming space and The Sandbox evolve, the more blurred the lines will have to become between a pure gaming experience and the way capabilities enabled by blockchain are communicated.
No more need for specific technology-related game guides or terminology, calling NFTs for being NFTs rather than game assets that can be owned and sold for real-world money.
We look forward to seeing where the community will lead The Sandbox to!