Many people will look at The Sandbox and immediately think it’s a clone of Minecraft. Yes, sure it’s a game with a strong focus on user generated content, but in The Sandbox players can own land thanks to blockchain technology. There are even 36 companies that have already bought land within this virtual world. These companies will be building extensions of their own products or completely new experiences. Potentially these virtual worlds on the blockchain are a digital version of Disney World.
Having a virtual world where you could chat with friends was fun in the late nineties. After that came virtual worlds where players could buy digital clothes or a virtual house. Nowadays you can even run your own Minecraft server and have a complete world at your disposal. Virtual worlds on the blockchain add a whole new layer where players have real ownership and the digital world serves as a bridge between different projects. Insiders often refer to this as ‘the metaverse’, a place where several digital universes collide.
Currently Cryptovoxels, Decentraland and The Sandbox are the most popular virtual worlds on the blockchain. Cryptovoxels is already live, Decentraland opens its doors on February 20th and The Sandbox is aiming for a open beta release this summer. I sat down to have a talk with Nathan Sexer, Head of Growth & Marketing at The Sandbox, about their ambitious game, decentralization and pizza.
Vote for pizza!
One of the most interesting parts of these blockchain worlds is that people who own digital land, can basically build anything they want. They can build on it, lend it to someone or sell it. It will be possible for people to sell any of their owned assets within The Sandbox. So if someone has a racing car for F1 Delta Time, they put it up for sale within the metaverse of The Sandbox.
“They are allowed to sell these assets, because they own them. Because that’s the whole reasoning behind truly owning digital assets. We want anybody to be able to build, sell or buy anything within our metaverse”, Nathan Sexer told us.
The company is very interested in cross-promotional campaigns, which is underlined by all the partners building something within the metaverse of The Sandbox. The marketplace and exchange of NFTs within the metaverse might not be the initial point of collaboration, even though the marketplace of The Sandbox will be open to any kind of asset in the future. They want to build bridges between projects and ‘foster interoperability’, with the only limitation being that all 3D models to be made into voxels.
However, Sexer emphasized that the company is not looking to revamp their marketplace in a virtual version of the dark web. Obviously I understood that position, but the big question is whether they will allow a pizza place to sell me an actual pizza through their digital store in The Sandbox.
“I’m not sure what our position is regarding cross-sell promotions for outside items within our metaverse. But potentially, if the community allows it, then we would allow it. […] If it’s legit and legal, I don’t see why we shouldn’t allow a Domino’s Pizza or an online marketplace”, Sexer said.
So there you have it, if you want pizza, vote for pizza!
This is not the World Wild West
The developers will be working on implementing a curation system that will monitor the metaverse. For now many decisions made are done by the studio. “But decentralized curation by our community is a long term goal. In order for a truly decentralized voting system or curation system to exist, we need consensus from a large community with an interest at stake in the virtual world”, he explained.
At the moment the community already gets a say in some decision making, but he underlined the importance of a decentralized and community voting system. “We can’t be curating forever, so it’s a need for our community to become able to vote and prevent scams or illegal content to be published”, Sexer added.
This need for decentralization could eventually also become reality on a technical level. The Sandbox uses the public Ethereum blockchain for the registration of ownership over tokenized assets. However, most of the game is running on centralized servers. Current limitations of the Ethereum blockchain don’t work with the things The Sandbox is trying to do. Even though some small parts of the website are hosted on IPFS. According to Sexer the game studio could be looking at more decentralized solutions when that market matures.
Staying inside whole summer
The Sandbox will be doing five rounds of land sales in total. At the moment of writing the second one just finished. The studio is planning a major public sale this summer, alongside the beta release of The Sandbox and the opportunity for developers and game designer to create games and experience with the Game Maker development kit.
This Game Maker software is made to make game designing as easy as possible. There’s no need to learn any programming, as everything will be done through visual scripting. This way users get access to building blocks that can be moved around and used to create interactions between assets.
“We are building all this right now, and we want to establish a strong relationship right from the start”, Nathan Sexer told us. Those who are looking for more hardcore coding need to wait a bit, as scripting for advanced developers will be added at a later date.
The Sandbox will be out this summer in open beta, together with the Game Maker and a major land sale. For now the game is mainly meant for desktop and laptop users, but Sexer doesn’t rule out that the game is also coming to mobile. “We could potentially even look at console, but first things first. Our focus right now is on getting The Sandbox out on PC”, he concluded.