The Sandbox Co-Founder Sebastien Borget on Building a Decentralized Gaming Ecosystem

In this exclusive interview during C2 Montreal, we sit down with Sebastien Borget, co-founder of The Sandbox, a decentralized gaming platform that allows players to create, share, and monetize their own gaming experiences. Sebastien shares his insights on the future of the gaming industry and how The Sandbox is paving the way for a new generation of players and creators.

Special Thank You to C2 Montreal

/I’ve been an entrepreneur since 2007, already over 15 years with my business partner, Arthur Madrid.  We co-founded three companies together, always in new technologies. We spent the last ten years in video games, so that’s a good part of our background and culture, and we’ve been now for a little bit more than four years, like creating The Sandbox as an open metaverse, originally from Mobile, a game franchise that we started ten years ago.  We are today one of the leading decentralized gaming virtual worlds where users can truly own the 3D content they create or earn monetized the way they want. Thanks to blockchain and NFTs, we’ve partnered with more than 400 brands, mostly for the entertainment sector gaming brands like Ubisoft, Atari, Square Enix, music artists from Warner Music, Snoop Dogg, Steve Aoki, Deadmau5  but also fashion brands, Adidas, Gucci, media, music, etc. and we are proud to have a very active, an engaged community of creators of players that now control over 4 million users with a wallet and over an ecosystem that’s rapidly growing with more than 230 billion studios around the world.

The name The Sandbox was originally there in 2011. It existed as a simple game on the platform of a web game Kongregate, and we brought that game to mobile with the idea of enabling anyone to become a creator. And that’s what we’ve done thanks to technology.  We’re using smartphones. And what’s new with a smartphone was this touch screen wanted to be to allow anyone just to build to create by the magic of touching with a finger and I think elements pixels come to life by sharing that creation.  It grew as a rapid success and over eight years we had more than 40 million downloads and 70 million people made creations.  But despite that success, we had also one struggle. All the content that people spend literally hours, and sometimes days to make and share.                     

There’s no way to reward source creators for the content they contributed, other than giving them social recognition featuring them. Social fame. We couldn’t share any part of the revenue derived from the content and the users they brought us to our game. This was frustrating and we were losing those top creators. But still, I was curious. As an entrepreneur, I always look at new technology and we found in 2017 about blockchain and the first blockchain game was CryptoKitties.  And what’s emerging immediately struck us was the idea that we would not just like to do virtual cats and copycats of those, but we wanted to allow anyone again to make their own.  NFTs are another possibility than transferring them to other users to monetize them by selling them on the marketplace outside of the original game.

That was really a moment where combining user-generated content and in a piece, we could actually solve that problem and offer a platform where all trade anyone.  We could empower anyone to be more creative and truly benefit from their creativity, earning revenue and deriving into the creator economy.  From the beginning. Our ideas like we want to reward the users who are contributing to the success of the platform, whether they are creators, providing the content and the experience, or are like engaging and providing life by being present and exploring, growing the community from the network effect, etc…

“I feel like true digital ownership of any digital asset as an NFT will become like the natural rights that anyone will be able to enjoy and any platform that doesn’t provide those rights to the users will be part of the past.”

The Sandbox is a decentralized world that is made and owned by its community and they can earn keep 95% of the value as they contribute goes to those creators, those users, first and foremost. Rather than to the platform that captures all the value, takes it for itself and does on a low like, like really easy community to keep evolving and growing efficiently through that creator economy keeping over 30% of revenue share as a platform in 2022 is outrageous.  It’s definitely something that no creator should any more accept and really look for like which platform is going to be the most respectful of the tenants of our time value that time and reward them properly it is I would say yet way too early to claim that Web2 platforms are going to disappear because those platforms still have millions of users if not billions of users and it still takes time to change all that.  The thing that will be a metaverse native generation that will be born in Web3, that will have benefited from ownership through digital ownership of the content and cryptocurrencies and that generation that will never look back at what used to be the previous business model.  People do not buy it so much more like radio tapes or CDs for music. They are all moving to digital.  So in a way, I feel like true digital ownership of any digital asset as an NFT will become like the natural rights that anyone will be able to enjoy and any platform that doesn’t provide those rights to the users will be part of the past.

Do you collect any Data from your user? 

We’re developing experience spaces where users spend time and interact. They are not being tracked based on their interest. They are not being tracked. We don’t try to find out which community you belong to and which tastes you might have and could be using indeed to provide a tool to target users based on different ways. We don’t do that. We don’t have real-time targeting in The Sandbox for now.  All of that will come only once we have an audience.  Let’s not forget that it’s so early in the metaverse that we have first to build and grow an audience and come back regularly. So it’s meaningful. We are right now we are seeing in terms of interest on the advertising side is users or brands are looking to maybe place banners or portals of content that is much more native within the world, but they don’t have any possibility to track the number of impressions of and the conversion and so on. So it’s highly inefficient in a way.

How should brands interact with users in the metaverse? 

Challenges are how do we make it understood now at a broader scale? So that’s what we’ve been trying essentially educating a lot of brands on one of the top topics they should look at going into the metaverse is like being creative, being native to the format, embracing the NFT culture and embracing user-generated content as well. And all of that combined with the idea that they should reward users, provide them with something of value which could be like NFT or Tokens or whatever it is, and try to extract value from those communities that they’re entering the metaverse with. 

The idea, like very often in a web tool that we’re going to monetize our diligence right now is probably not the right approach. Like we want to build a metaverse and that’s going to be the case in the next few years where users are the ones that receive value from the brands for their attention, and that will create the patterns that define like, yes, we want to spend time in there, we want to engage.  We’re going to interact socialize, play, have fun, learn, etc… Connecting with your fans has been one of the first challenges of music, arts and specifically during the pandemic and COVID. So they’ve looked at new ways. How do we connect with them? We offer them valuable experience. 

Snoop Dogg

As an artist, has a legacy of like songs, and music clips. But he also has created this physical space, what you call the compounds, where like he has his mansion, he has a different location with his car, garage and so on.  That is actually available physically in L.A. But such a few hundred, maybe thousands of people a year can come and visit it. So he had this idea like let’s bring it into the Metaverse so millions of people could access these at any time.

And we’re going to even gamify it and add more like virtual shows, virtual concert element to large. It’s thanks to the technology right now. That’s what we’ve done. We’ve been really one of the first music artists that understood the potential of the metaverse and the potential of NFT as well, and he’s been killing it.

So you see, now that you look at all music artists, if any of the top ten artists that understand and leverage best for their community, we created the Snoop Dogg Pass to Access You, one of the first to access his concert.  We created the Doobies and Avatar Collection, 10,000 of them. If you own that avatar and you play in The Sandbox, you get yours, for example.  That’s pretty exciting. I think it’s definitely pioneering. One of the stories basically as we got connected with his manager, Steve Adler, which also has been kind of visionary.

He’s like, How do I always put Snoop Dogg into the next wave of adoption, into the next technological revolution?

So I always use technology to offer something new to my Fan, and so far has been doing great. When you see his music leave the house. I built it came from him and was amazed that he composed the song and we were able to make the music.  Clip in Voxels using The Sandbox as a creation tool. Maybe our parents had this Woodstock moment in the music industry generation five years ago, more or less this Travis Scott concert in Fortnite. That’s also a start to define what is going to be next for the music industry, I think.  Yes, like Snoop Dogg has been showing like, okay, how we are how music artists can use Metaverse to connect more closely with their fun with Avatar Collection, Chuck Collection, virtual tickets and concerts as well that we are preparing for the end of the year.

What’s new @ The Sandbox?

What’s exciting is like almost every week, there’s always something new coming up in books, whether it’s on the product side updates, whether it’s on like the brands and partners who I’m sharing from all around the world You look at music artists recently, you have like Tony Hawk, Gordon Ramsay, and Paris Hilton, but also like DBS or the first Bank of Singapore who entered Sandbox, we announced Dubai verse recently we have leading media there and each time that’s entered the space. So my takeaways like the metaverse have always something to offer to anyone.

And we’re building it as a digital nation without frontiers, which is both global but also very local. I think that’s one of the strengths of sandbox user-generated content, being local and working with brands that appeal to locals, but then onboard people to the overall rest of the global content. Many people heard about the metaverse. Still, few people really felt what it could be,

It’s really interesting. We’ll have major land sales toward the end of the year, so we’ll keep it not expanding, but we’ll keep revealing new neighbourhoods on the map with very meaningful talents and artists.  And we want to hopefully keep showing the possibilities so people can feel.  Many people heard about the metaverse. Still, few people really felt what it could be, and I think it can lead to opening too many opportunities, jobs, careers, discovery and so on, which we hope to drive up,

What do you think about Facebook changing their name to Meta?

Well, I think is the best marketing trick in the world to rebrand your company as Meta. Definitely.  It does lead to an impact, though. The Metaverse is definitely not tied to a single platform.  So you. Yes, it could be on mobile, it could be on desktop, on PC, Mac, on the Web, in AR, and in VR. It can be and will be accessed in many ways because it’s essentially composed of many virtual worlds and platforms where users can take their identity from one to another.

That’s what we’re pushing for right now. The challenge is how we make the metaverse as accessible as possible. And I feel like VR is not a technology that is mature enough. It’s progressing well. There’s a lot of our energy that’s being pulled.  This new device I’d keep improving this over time, but it’s not yet there in the mainstream to say like Anyone will enter the metaverse just through VR, also it poses
a challenge to like the notion of ubiquity or more specifically like do we want to be physically connected with our avatar into the metaverse, or do we want to be to have our physical self on one side doing a lot of things here and the virtual self-playing at the same time and multiple virtual selves.

I think multiple digital identities, a personal physical identity I think yes, AR, it’s very interesting as a technology to bridge between mobile and the physical world and the virtual world, it can be very creative as well. And ultimately VR will have something to offer value as well as it keeps maturing. But we don’t want to restrict to just it.

What do you think about virtual & augmented reality?

Unfortunately, it seems I’m subject to motion sickness and so I’m not able to carry VR for a long time, which may also contribute a lot to what I keep I’m not able to get. It’s like air is interesting for sure, and it does like definitely has many benefits, the way it’s also still not there yet but that might change with some devices like why do we want to see the world through like a tiny screen? That’s the number one challenge of AR. Like you want it to be fully immersive all around you, not just through that single device screen that you move.