Economy · July 3, 2022

Metaverse years from being a global phenomenon, says the pioneer

AFP
Sebastien Borget, French co-founder of the decentralized virtual gaming world The Sandbox, says his creation is a hub for “creativity and experience”

by Yassine KHIRI
Agence France Press

Paris, France (AFP) – Big brands are rushing to the metaverse, but the path to profit is still unclear and mass adoption could be years away, one of the industry’s biggest players told AFP. Sebastien Borget, in an interview.
Borget is co-founder of The Sandbox, a platform born as a mobile and PC game, but which is transforming into a virtual world in which anyone can buy land in the form of digital tokens.

Fashion brands such as Gucci and Adidas, financial companies Axa and HSBC and Warner Music are among those who have already chosen to open a shop in The Sandbox.

“Above all, it is a place of creativity and experience,” said the Frenchman Borget, distancing himself from the idea that it is simply a commercial enterprise.

“Brands don’t go there to monetize, we don’t know how to do it.”

Enthusiasts are convinced that internet users in the near future will shop, mingle with friends or go to concerts on platforms like The Sandbox or its main competitor Decentraland.

Users will wear virtual reality headsets, buy and sell cryptocurrencies, and have all their transactions stored on the blockchain, a kind of digital ledger.

At least that’s the theory.

– digital owners –
The Sandbox is still largely a quest game in which players leap across landscapes illustrated in blocky graphics, collecting treasures and defeating enemies.

Players are also encouraged to build their own worlds and invent games.

The metaverse version – in which players do much of the same thing but can earn cryptocurrency rewards and purchase extra kits for their avatars – has only been open to the public for special events.

About 350,000 people visited during its last opening in March, Borget said, far from his goal of attracting “hundreds of millions”.

“We hope to achieve this within 5-10 years,” he said.

But there is still a lot of public skepticism about the metaverse and the broader web phenomenon3 – an idea for a blockchain-based internet that’s focused on individuals rather than large social media platforms.

Cryptocurrency trading underpins the trading side of web3, but major currencies are extremely unstable and transactions can take a huge amount of energy.

The crypto ecosystem is largely unregulated, has huge security holes, and little in the way of insurance, leaving users open to scams and scams.

But Borget is confident that offering a space where people can crucially socialize, trade, gamble and own their fingerprint will win.

“For the first time ever, users have ownership of their digital content,” he said.

“The avatar, the wearables, the equipment, the land, the houses… it all belongs to them. They can dispose of it however they want. “

– early adopters –
Despite its focus on social and creative aspects, The Sandbox has a clear business motive.

It takes five percent commission on all transactions and pockets the profit from the sale of virtual land. Its revenue was $ 200 million last year.

Lots of large corporations stepped in, Borget pointing out that The Sandbox only has 166,464 plots of virtual land on offer.

“This map has a finite number of textures, which is not the case with all decentralized virtual worlds,” Borget said.

“We have sold 70 percent of them so far.”

The company’s virtual land sales exceeded $ 500 million last year, and Borget said his metaverse had a 64% market share.

But Borget said brands were still looking for the best way to develop their virtual stores and offices.

“Brands have been slow to embrace the web,” he said.

“With web3 they are trying to get in a little earlier so as not to repeat their past mistakes.”

yk-jxb / cdw

© Agence France-Presse