NFTs: redefining the meaning of value through user-generated content in The Sandbox
Since the earliest of times, civilization has given value to items that are unique and irreplaceable, such as paintings, statues, and memorabilia. What makes those items and not others susceptible of acquiring such value? As a general rule, what humankind considers worthy of assigning value fluctuates over time, but two important concepts behind value are scarcity and uniqueness. Scarcity is the limited availability of such a thing. People love to collect scarce things and we usually make a hobby out of it: from old coins that are no longer in circulation or tradable cards; we’re inclined to give special attention to things that aren’t easily replaceable. The other key feature that potentiates value is uniqueness. If something is unique, there is simply nothing in the whole world to replace that one thing; it is one of a kind.
The creation of blockchain brought a whole new digital world where digital assets could be tracked for uniqueness and scarcity, providing the perfect platform to create a one-of-a-kind type of digital asset.
Within the blockchain world, these digital assets are known as NFTs (non-fungible tokens), virtual tokens built on a cryptocurrency platform and created in compliance with Ethereum’s ERC-721/1155/1337 token standards. As such, by definition, NFTs are units of value that are non-fungible, unique and therefore digitally scarce. Non-fungible tokens can’t be replaced by another equal part or quantity. These tokens can adopt the form of debt, software licences, collectibles and so on.
A key aspect of The Sandbox game is this User-Generated Content where you can find NFT collectibles such as swords, terrain, cars, mythical creatures and many others — made by players themselves. What this means is that the majority of the terrain and assets inside the game are created by the players themselves. What The Sandbox developers have accomplished is to design a gaming experience where players can create their own assets, and sell or trade them in the game’s Marketplace. It’s been proven by games like Roblox that assets created by a normal player are much more worthy and valuable than purchasing an item made by a game developer — and this process allows players to profit from their creativity.
Besides the amazing potential of User-Generated Assets, in The Sandbox these items have extra value thanks to cross-application interoperability. Every single gamer knows that everything he accomplished, conquered and acquired can’t be compared to or interchanged with anything else. Cross-application interoperability has come to solve what used to be a big problem: true ownership of items that gamers buy. While you can easily use the same item in totally different blockchain games, we can now talk about real ownership. There is a reason after the transportation of the same asset to a different platform: you own that asset and can transfer it to other games.
Aside from getting greater value from ownership, if after spending hours using a specific avatar, item or asset in a game you become emotionally attached to it, you can bring that emotional attachment with you across various games. Maybe you have won several battles with it, or even defeated a big opponent. Maybe you have spent weeks, months or even years playing with a specific asset, putting your heart and soul in it in order to overcome every obstacle you encounter, and when you finally do, you just don’t want to leave that asset and let it fade into oblivion. You want to take that beloved item with you to your next adventure.
This is why NFTs in The Sandbox are so alluring: no single item bears the same history or legacy. There is an inherent power in every asset which is strictly connected to its background based on who owned it before and who created it. Let’s face it: it’s just not the same to buy an NFT previously owned by a John Doe than an NFT that belonged to Elon Musk or Vitalik Buterin.
In addition, as NFTs are supported by the blockchain, a record of ownership is created together with a token. As a result, the owner, the potential buyer and the general public can access to that record and check, for instance, who owned the asset before and in which games it was used. This way, the value of each NFT is constantly redefined and with that, the appreciation of such value can change depending on the personal evaluation of each individual.
Unfortunately, as digital worlds are still relatively new, they still have their downsides. At the present, there is a big discrepancy between the value assigned to real world creations and digital-world activities. It could happen that you start playing a game and you design a great house. The design is impeccable and it has taken you weeks to finish it. However, the time spent online is — for the time being — not compensated like the time you spend in the real world, because the result is not palpable, it’s not physically tangible. But, with blockchain based assets, the time spent online could generate much more value. Just bear in mind that a single CryptoKitty was sold for USD 140,000.
The good news is that blockchain-based games like The Sandbox are changing this current reality and paving the road to a future where virtual economies will be the transformative platform to correctly appreciate the value of game items. Blockchain is the future, and blockchain games are beginning to transform our present. Sooner rather than later, we may live a reality where kids will beg their parents to buy them NFTs and will collect those assets as they used to collect action figures, and creators and gamers will be fairly compensated for their hard work. And, above all, regular people like you and me will be able to make a living out of doing what we like the most: playing video games. I mean, what’s better than playing and making money at the same time?
This reality may come sooner than we expect: blockchain has appeared to redefine technology as we know it, and the redefinition of digital value may follow right behind it.
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