Interview with The Sandbox development team

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the sandbox

Just this past month, Blockchain Gamer Connects hit Helsinki. We all remember when Axie Infinity won the pitch contest at Blockchain Gamer Connects San Francisco; and in Helsinki, it was The Sandbox that took the conference by storm and triumphed above all others. They won the pitch contest with an innovative and refreshing product which is an incredible accomplishment.

We had the honor to connect with the team behind The Sandbox and learn much more about their team, their vision, and the road ahead.

Can you tell me a bit of background about your team? What inspired you guys to pursue The Sandbox?

We started our flagship game, The Sandbox, 6 years ago in 2012 as a 2D mobile iOS & Android User-Generated Content game where players could make their own world, games, pixel art, music and more, and then share it in an online gallery.

The game’s success has been phenomenal – we have over 40 million downloads and 70M creations to date, growing at a rate of 100,000 new worlds and 50,000 new elements per day. Over 1 million creators are opening the game each month and we have also built a large community of players over the years, including 750,000 fans on Facebook and other social channels. Creators made over 10M games in categories like Platformer, Shooter, Dungeon, Action, PAC-MAN maze and many others, while artists made over a million pixel art masterpieces that we showcase regularly in the online gallery.

We also announced last month the acquisition of our company by Animoca Brands (https://venturebeat.com/2018/08/26/animoca-brands-acquires-sandbox-game-developer-pixowl-for-4-875-million/) to build leadership in Blockchain Gaming and in non-fungible token (NFT) gaming marketplaces while leveraging their existing publisher position in Asia of several cryptogames including CryptoKitties.

We began the development of the newest The Sandbox game about a year ago, moving from 2D to 3D and introducing a NFT Marketplace, multiplayer gameplay (for the first time in the franchise) and a Token Sale.

Our team has developed expertise over these past 7 years in developing User Generated Content (UGC) games and turning our players into makers. We loved Minecraft, but we saw an opportunity after it was acquired by a single company that applied a stricter control of what players could do or not in terms of mods, running their own servers etc. We saw an opportunity to offer players more freedom to create and to benefit from their creations.

So what is different in this new The Sandbox? In short, The Sandbox is a decentralized, community-driven gaming ecosystem where creators can share and monetize voxel assets and gaming experiences on the blockchain.

We are passionate about Blockchain technology and are speaking at many events and conferences around the globe to evangelize about how Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs) can bring benefits to gaming.

Crypto games market is a new one, where do you see this all going in the next 5 – 10 years? And where do you see The Sandbox?

Gaming will be the main driver of mass-adoption for Blockchain technology – we have no doubt about this. It’s a very exciting moment for the crypto gaming industry – just like mobile gaming in its early days back in 2005. Blockchain gaming is not meant to replace traditional mobile or PC gaming, but it’s a major step forward in many of the aspects I described above.

After the tremendous success of CryptoKitties, the next generation of games is starting to hit the market as of Q4 2018-Q1 2019 and we shall see an increasing number of games leveraging blockchain technology (games such as Crypto Space Commander, Gods Unchained or War Riders to name just a few are precursors). This includes both games that are fully on-chain (meaning that almost all in-game actions involve a transaction on the blockchain) or mostly off-chain with their assets on the blockchain (offering a gaming experience that can be played without any knowledge of what blockchain is).

In this context, our ambition is to become the principal online marketplace for 3D voxel objects and games, and to attract millions of assets and thousands of creators. Our audience is larger than just our own game and extends to the 140M Monthly Active Players of Minecraft or Roblox who could make revenue from their creations, as well as game developers who can utilize the NFTs on the marketplace for their own games, including crypto, PC or mobile titles.

We see The Sandbox as a well-positioned leader in the space of UGC non-fungible token platforms for the next 5 to 10 years.

Tell me about what your platform offers? And what are the features you are most excited about?

The Sandbox ecosystem has four main components: a Voxel Editor, an open online Marketplace, a Voxel Game Engine and the Game itself.

To empower creators, we need to give them tools to create.

The first tool is a 3D Editor that allows anyone to make 3D voxel objects. Voxels are simple and uniform geometric structure that allow a level of granularity and infinite scaling. They’re kind of like digital legos that are simple (even children can create them) yet powerful and flexible enough to form complex objects and environments.

This Voxel Editor allows existing VOX files made with other creation tools available on the market (such as Magica Voxel) to be imported or allows the user to draw new items from scratch. It also allows objects to be animated frame by frame or or via skeleton based animation.

Minecraft and Roblox have trained a whole generation of kids for the past 10 years to use this mode of creation, so we are confident this format will be widely adopted by the makers community.

The second component is the Open Marketplace, where artists and creators can upload their 3D animated voxel models and turn them into NFTs, putting them online on the blockchain to be traded, shared, and sold.

The Sandbox Helsinki

To publish a 3D model as an NFT, all the user needs to do is to provide a title, a description, preview screenshots (that our voxel editor creates) and the VXM file. The NFT will be stored on IPFS for additional decentralization on the blockchain

To put their NFTs up for sale, they only need to provide a price, a duration and following a Dutch auction model their NFT will become available for purchase by other users on the Marketplace.

The Sandbox Helsinki

This open market will allow for the free trading of in-game NFT assets between different platform users (not just users of The Sandbox). External game developers could acquire these assets and incorporate them into their own games, for example.

We will be showcasing, curating and featuring high-quality content on the front page of the marketplace to highlight the best items.

The last components are the Voxel Engine and the Game Creator, which will allow these NFTs to be brought to life within The Sandbox platform. Game Creators will be able to use the ASSETs (NFTs) in their wallets to populate and decorate their game worlds. Along with decorating, creators will be able to attach scripts to these ASSETs and make them come to life. This will allow them to create gameplay with various types of interactions for players to enjoy.

These worlds will have a size limited to 2 square km, giving players room to create something interesting but not making it so large that it’s hard to make the whole space entertaining. It will take a player 8 minutes to walk from one corner to another… if there are no obstacles.

Here is a quick preview video of a sample BOX:

The Sandbox Helsinki

What is your perspective on blockchain technology as it relates to games? Why is this new evolution in games important? Why should game developers put games out in this space?

We believe that blockchain gaming has incredible potential and are particularly excited about Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). They are pushing digital frontiers beyond what has been seen so far in traditional gaming. In the current model of content distribution, games are dependent on platforms for the distribution. Platforms are in charge of discoverability to ensure that their consumers find & purchase content that are relevant to them, and this is an ongoing issue. This often leads to great content never reaching any commercial success because of a lack of discoverability as there are a limited number of visibility spots on store-fronts, even using human curation or AI/machine methods.

NFTs allow content to become the new platform, creating a new paradigm. This is because they offer multiple uses and are not confined to a single game or The Sandbox only. This second-layer programmability gives any developer the power to bring a lasting and ever-growing value to the NFTs items, which can be shared cross-games, cross-platforms and cross-chains.

Blockchain allows creators to have true ownership and thanks to the blockchain we can finally reward players for their time and the hard work they put into content creation, allowing them to monetize and trade freely their NFTs.

These benefits make even more sense when they are applied to a platform like ours, with user-generated content at the core of its model.

There are only 528 crypto-games overall and although this represents the #1 category of dApps in volume (28%), this is just a drop in the ocean in comparison to the millions of PC and mobile games.

Developers will put games in the space to try out, learn the technology and iterate on their learnings – just like soft-launching in the mobile game space – until they find the right formula that will achieve market success.

What are some of the barriers you see ahead for The Sandbox and Crypto Games in general?

Just like any emerging technology, the use of blockchain in gaming also has its challenges to solve and there is a consensus in the crypto-games industry that the 4 key issue can be summarized as follows:

  1. The simplification of crypto-wallets interfaces in general
  2. UI/UX for onboarding players
  3. Gas fees and simplicity of payments
  4. Scalability of blockchain which require higher TPS (transactions per second) to allow fully on-chain experiences

We can see that many companies and developers are already at work addressing these issues, so overall we think it will be only “small bump on the road” as the industry gets more mature and we look at it on a midterm scale.

More specifically to The Sandbox, we are careful not to lose sight of making the tools and voxel engine accessible enough for children to use (just like “digital legos”) but powerful enough to allow power-creators to create more complex experiences. The fun of the game is an essential part to contributing to the engagement as well. We want The Sandbox to remain playable and fun even without the crypto component in it.

What plans do you have for the future for your team and your project?

We believe The Sandbox has all the key ingredients to establish itself as a long-term leader in the User-Generated Content creation games category.

We have a great team with expertise in gaming blockchain and delivering successful games to millions of players. Our product can appeal to the masses, and this is important as we need to bring mass distribution to the blockchain. We also have fantastic advisors, probably among the best in the gaming and crypto gaming industry!

We will be beginning our Private Token Sale in October 2018 and travelling the world to present The Sandbox at conferences as well as establishing collaborations within our crypto-games ecosystem, working with NFT marketplaces, game developers and other potential partners.

At the product level, we are advancing on our development roadmap (see below) and are continuously looking for new talent to join our 10-person blockchain and game engine development team to participate in the making of the new world builder game on the blockchain.

Any key dates or milestones coming up that you would like to share?

Our adoption plan is straightforward: we are planning to launch publicly our NFT Voxel Creator as well as our open online marketplace by the end of 2018. We will also continue developing our unique voxel engine and platform to offer game creators the ability to use and bring to life their NFT assets in any sort of gaming experiences – the only limit being their imagination – later in the first half of 2019.

We are also pleased to announce we are the winners of the Roadshow Pitching at the Blockchain Gamer Connects at Helsinki this month.

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