Sebastien Borget is the COO of The Sandbox, a decentralized gaming platform built on the Ethereum blockchain. Originally released as a mobile game in 2012, The Sandbox shifted its focus to web3 development after seeing the success of cryptokitties and how it utilized player ownership.
Sebastien is a veteran in the industry and one of the key influencers and leaders in the web3 space. I had the pleasure of interviewing Sebastien while walking through the sunny streets of Lisbon at the Non-Fungible Conference. In this exclusive interview, we dive into the origins of The Sandbox, its future, and how the societal mainstream intertwines with the platform.
Hi Sebastien, a pleasure to meet you. To start, I want to ask about the origin story of The Sandbox. How did it all begin?
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Jack, as we have this very special interview as we walk together through the streets of Lisbon. Well, the origin story of The Sandbox is pretty simple.“
“We started back in 2011 when we brought it to mobile because we wanted to turn players into creators. And using new technology, such as the touchscreen back then on the iPhone and Android, enabled content creation and user-generated content, making game creation accessible to everyone.”
“We’ve had over 40 million installs over the years, with players making amazing content with 70 million pieces of content created. But ultimately, we saw that we were not able to keep the best creators engaged over the years. Thus, we had no way to actually reward those creators for their amazing content and time spent on our platform.”
“We were always exploring new technology. We saw the first blockchain games, such as crypto kitties. And we were amazed not by the virtual cats but more by the potential of NFTs, which has been this idea that anyone could make content and truly own it and the possibility to put it for sale on a marketplace in a permissionless manner and monetize it. We saw the potential of combining user-generated content with NFTs.”
“And that gave us the idea to start a new version of The Sandbox. This time a 3D multiplayer multi-platform that uses blockchain technology, enabling anyone to make their own 3D asset a remote experience and turn them into NFTs, allowing them to sell and monetize them in whatever way they want. That’s how it was born in 2018, the new sandbox version.”
On this note, how do you try to make The Sandbox sustainable? Many video games without the right game mechanics lose popular interest. So how do you work to innovate?
“Our background is in gaming. We’ve spent almost ten years creating games that engage players and drive gamers back into games. It’s an objective. Why do gamers keep coming back? because they want to complete a goal.”
“That way, we try to bring in new mechanics as well as reusing some of the core mechanics around completing quests while having objectives to complete over a certain duration, for example, our seasons, which have been a great success.”
“When we launched the Alpha season back in December, and the second season in March, we saw a high level of engagement from the community when completing and playing experiences. So what sets sandbox apart from other decentralized virtual worlds is its gaming background.“
“Whereby the game maker enables creators to create without any issues.“
“Thus, the player has the knowledge to drag and drop assets, make their own quest, and create their own narrative story and gameplay. Therefore it goes beyond traditional game experiences. Players can make their own judgments. And use that to enable a more gamified experience with goals for users to engage.”
Will The Sandbox ever use VR, AR, and XR technologies in the future as part of this effort?
“We aim to make The Sandbox as accessible as possible to everyone. We started with PC and Mac, and because of accessibility, we will begin on mobile next. Then afterward, we’re keen to explore other more immersive ways to interact on a 2d screen showing 3d content in AR and VR, which would require additional experiments.“
“But right now, we feel the technology isn’t quite ready at that scale to justify being fully focused on that.”
How does mainstream gaming come into this? Do you think we will see The Sandbox on consoles, or will it be the other way around?
“What is interesting is that we’ve seen the premise of the metaverse on Playstation and Xbox Live services. They even have their own 3d avatars and marketplaces, but they do not incorporate their own notion of ownership of the asset and the free economy. I think the console is definitely a platform we’re looking at.“
“But it’s not yet fitting the definition of the most mainstream accessible platform for the new form of entertainment we are creating. And it’s why we haven’t had those kinds of conversations. As a result, we will continue on our own roadmap.”
But you partnered with mainstream video game IPs like Rabbids! How did that conversation come about?
“The true story is that Ubisoft is probably one of the first IPs we thought about collaborating with. It had also been the longest-running conversation we had with an IP. We had to show them a clear path forward, like how NFTs could benefit the community, through user-generated content, for example: allowing anyone to create their own Rabbids game or Rabbid experience.”
“What is great is that it provides something cool that adds value to their fanbase and community. And so, I’m glad that this is the starting point of our collaboration. We will be announcing more stuff soon.”
Aside from partnered IP, is there any you’d like to see on The Sandbox?
“Yes, I wish Lego. It would be natural. It has such a creative community. It’s played by kids from the age of two. It keeps everyone fresh and young in their mind. It’s incumbent on the idea of easy content, simple content versus very advanced masterpieces. They’ve done an amazing job bringing in IPS and developing content around it. So I wish Lego could be a Metaverse or at least live in The Sandbox.”
Recently, you talked about your partnership with the South China Morning post and the historical and educational value associated with that.
Can you tell us more? How important is The Sandbox as an educational tool?
“We definitely integrated education as part of the content we’re looking to have in The Sandbox. The initiative is that we want to enable everyone to learn the right kind of skills directly because entering the metaverse is not the kind of skill you will learn at traditional schools.”
“If the medium and platform are there, the metaverse enables to earn or learn to earn model through the passion of play. Why do schools and kids go to a Museum to learn history? Because they can see the artifacts, you can feel them, and they can read.“
“Yes, I feel like we can provide a lot of that and even more. And we are glad that the technology allows us to reproduce both historical and the future in a gamified manner that could hopefully bring and help promote education for even more people.”
What about societal and institutional structures, say the media and press? Could we see integrations in the future?
“I’d definitely consider that. The metaverse should be a place for democracy, a place where people can express their own opinions, conduct an interview, interact, broadcast, and share news about interviewees. And we’re already starting a bit of that through our virtual broadcasting newsroom.
“It means that if people integrate their own avatar, they have already understood that this is a place where their voice can be heard.”
Finally, to wrap up, what inspires you to do your job as COO of The Sandbox, and anything you would like to tell our readers?
“The thing that inspires us the most, and I think this is the same for most companies, is the mission to provide the most creative environment where people who never believed they have the skill of creativity could actually enter the metaverse and become another person another identity and a more creative self, and we love to create these opportunities. We recently launched a documentary series titled voices from the metaverse.“
“We’ll be releasing several episodes where we interview people whose lives have been impacted by the platform’s ecosystem. We’d love to hear from you as well. If that’s the case, we look forward to seeing you in person or in the metaverse.”
We would like to thank Sebastien for taking the time to interview with us. For more metaverse releated features, news and interviews, make sure to check out our social medis channels below.