In November of 2021, the digital real estate firm Republic Realm made headlines when they purchased a piece of property in The Sandbox metaverse game. While buying digital land had accelerated at the start of 2021, what caught the media’s attention was the land’s price tag. The public was stunned to discover that Republic Realm had paid a whopping $4.3 million to buy the land from Atari, making it the largest metaverse property sale to date.
Although already well-known among the crypto community, the sale catapulted The Sandbox into the national spotlight and left viewers wondering what made the game so special. In this article, we’ll review the history of the Sandbox, its core features, and try to answer why buyers are shelling out millions to own a piece of the platform.
What is the Metaverse?
In order to understand The Sandbox, it’s important to understand what the metaverse is. Often portrayed in movies and film as as a grim, alternate reality where humans are forced to fight for survival, the metaverse is any 3D, virtual world where users can shop, buy, sell, play, and replicate their own physical experiences by creating an avatar. As Mark Zuckerberg stated in his recent Founder’s Letter, “The defining quality of the metaverse will be a feeling of presence — like you are right there with another person or in another place.”
While the metaverse may sound like a confusing concept, the idea is simply the next step in the evolution of the internet. In the current internet business model, also known as Web 2.0, a select number of corporations control closed economies, where online gamers cannot monetize their investments and efforts outside the platform.
In the user-controlled metaverse, which has been dubbed Web 3.0, capital controls are eliminated. This allows users to own their digital assets, like non-fungible tokens (NFTs), and trade them with other players in-game. These assets can also be transferred to other digital experiences, creating an entirely new Internet economy that can be converted to real world currency.
One of the first metaverse platforms, The Sandbox began as mobile game that gained its title from a feature called “sandbox mode.” When using this setting, a player could take the role of a “Deity apprentice” and use tools to craft their own universe. While the concept was simple (players encountered tasks like using water and dirt to make mud), the initial world-building and non-linear gameplay sowed the seeds of what would become the current platform.
By the time The Sandbox and its updated version, The Sandbox Evolution (2016), had run their course, the games had racked up a combined 40 million downloads across iOS and Android.
Transition to the Blockchain
It wasn’t long before the popularity of The Sandbox garnered outside attention. The game was acquired by Animoca Brands in August 2018, and in the same year developer company Pixowl harnessed their User Generated Content gaming IP to move the game onto the blockchain ecosystem. Animoca’s objective was to provide creators with true ownership of their creations as NFTs, as well as offer them rewards for their participation in the ecosystem.
The new project was an immediate success, and The Sandbox’s interactive gaming experiences and realistic virtual world saw the game compete with larger platforms like Roblox and Minecraft.
According to the The Sandbox’s official white paper, the platform’s main mission is to successfully integrate blockchain technology into mainstream gaming. However, what makes the game unique is its “play-to-earn” model, which allows users to be both creators and gamers simultaneously.
Today, the Sandbox lives on the blockchain and exists as a digital world where players can build, own, and monetize their gaming experiences using SAND tokens. SAND coins power the game’s ecosystem and can be bought on various cryptocurrency exchanges such as Binance, OKX, DigiFinex, FTX, and BitCoke.
What is SAND Used For?
Players can spend SAND in order to play games, buy equipment, or customize their Avatar character. Creators spend SAND to acquire NFT objects and own virtual real estate.
SAND can also be classified as a governance token that allows holders to participate in key platform decisions, such as voting on the game’s product roadmap and in-game features. SAND owners have the option to vote themselves, or they can delegate voting rights to other players.
SAND also allows for staking, which is a way to generate income from LAND holdings. By staking SAND, a player can receive more tokens in the same way that a someone with a compound interest account receives interest from the bank.
As of March 1st, SAND’s market cap stood at $3.53 billion, and it maintained a circulating supply of 1.12 billion. Although the price of SAND fluctuates daily, the current price of one token hovers around $3.14.
Each piece of digital real estate (LAND) comes in the form of a unique, non-fungible ERC-721 token on the Ethereum blockchain. Players buy LAND in order to populate it with games, assets and interactive experiences. Each LAND is a unique (non-fungible) token lying on the public Ethereum blockchain (ERC-721).
A total of 166,464 plots of LAND exist on the site, and each one can be accessed through a virtual map on the platforms’s official website, or on OpenSea’s NFT marketplace under The Sandbox collection.
The proximity of LANDs to large partners and other key positions plays a role in the gameplay, visitor counts, and economy of the games built on those LANDs. Because of this, certain LANDs fetch far more money in the market than others.
Keep in mind that a combination of LANDs is called an ESTATE. Currently, there are 878 land plots listed for sale, with the cheapest plot going for 3.85 ETH ($12,022).
The Sandbox currently has three main products that power the game’s user-generated content (UGC) production. These features not only allow users to create 3D games and NFTs, but to secure copyright ownership of the content through smart contracts and the blockchain.
VoxEdit is a free tool in the The Sandbox that allow players to manipulate voxels on both a Mac or PC. In 3D computer graphics, a voxel represents a value on a grid in three-dimensional space. These 3D pixels are similar to building blocks, and can be moved using VoxEdit’s modeling package to create and animate 3D objects such as animals, vehicles, buildings, tools, and other items.
Once built, voxel assets can be exported into The Sandbox marketplace to become NFT game ASSETS.
The Sandbox marketplace plays a key role as a middleman for users’ finished products. After creating an NFT, a player can then upload, publish, and sell their voxels on the marketplace.
Once these creations are registered, they can be sold by making an initial sale offer on the marketplace where potential buyers can view them and make bids.
Game Maker is another free Sandbox application that allows players to build interactive 3D games. What makes the application so unique is that no coding is required due to the easy-to-use visual scripting tools. The ease with which players can build and monetize their games is one of the main reasons The Sandbox’s virtual world is filled with such diverse and engaging content.
The Future of The Sandbox
In recent months, The Sandbox has signed a number of deals with key developers in order to expand its partnership base and draw customers with the promise of big names.
One company that recently signed with The Sandbox is Ubisoft, which is creating its own Land in the game, as well as offering interactive content with its famous Rabbids characters. The company also plans make these characters available to those using The Sandbox’s Game Maker tools. Most recently, the Sandbox team partnered with Warner Music to make a music-themed world in the platform.
In the coming years, we’re likely to see even larger and more high-profile partnerships as The Sandbox gains players and draws increasing media attention. One thing is certain – The Sandbox isn’t going away anytime soon, and its famous LAND prices will most likely continue to grab headlines for years to come.