Meta version: Ubisoft, Sorare, The Sandbox… The French take over the new world

More than 600,000 euros was spent to become the owner of a virtual thumbnail of Haaland, a Norwegian footballer who wanted to join Real Madrid… This is one of the indicators of Sorare’s success among football fans. In this transfer window-inspired online game, football fans can purchase images of their favorite players through the auction system and the Ethereum exchange platform. And they are the only holders of it with the help of the so-called NFT (non-fungible token), digital ownership certificate. Then, with these old-fashioned Panini cards, they form teams that compete online.

Rave? I think no. Last March, Sorare had 350,000 active users in 170 countries. And for the whole of 2021, the French startup recorded a trading volume of $325 million on its platform. Investors made no mistake, starting with Japan’s SoftBank. Last September, founders Nicolas Julia and Adrien Montfort, who pride themselves on their profitability since launching in 2018, raised 580 million euros, valuing their company at 3.7 billion euros. At the moment it is the most expensive French startup. Not bad for a game that only seems to sell trite images of players that anyone can see online and print out…

Sorare’s success is another example of French Tech’s breakthrough in Web3, the third generation Internet. In this new virtual world, our avatars can meet, play, work, create objects or earn money. Ideally, go there in a virtual reality headset to achieve full immersion in 3D. However, France has the know-how and culture to facilitate this new Internet. With its pool of video game companies like Ubisoft.

One of the main players in the nascent metaverse, The Sandbox was founded by the French, admittedly living in Hong Kong. A startup cloud hosted on a blockchain is an essential tool for creating legal documents or exchanging cryptocurrencies. And finally, what is called the French touch. “To offer experiences that delight consumers, to sell images and products that inspire envy, to develop the art of living, to take care of design – this is what companies operating in the field of luxury, fashion or leisure do,” say Joel Hazan and Thibaut Genouville, consultants at the Consulting BCG strategy firm.

Behind its apparent simplicity, Sorare’s business turns out to be more difficult to copy than it seems. First, the startup has signed exclusive agreements with 230 football clubs to capitalize on the image of players, including heavyweights like Bayern Munich and Real Madrid. Then he can count on the network effect of his community, which gives a premium in the digital sector to the leader who was able to clear the new market earlier than others. “We want to build an iconic NFT-based brand in sports, and we will continue to accelerate to stay first,” CEO Nicolas Giulia promised.

Last January, co-founder Sorare thus began to leave the football field, announcing the appointment of Serena Williams as an adviser. In this new role, the tennis champion must support Sorare’s promotion to other sports disciplines.

This is a whole ecosystem that is born in this world without borders. Illustration: Thanks to the blockchain, Sorare has partnered with Ubisoft to allow collectors to use their images in the latter’s OneShot League game. “This project provides an opportunity to apply the compatibility of elements between different games. If the test is final, we will move on,” explains Nicolas Giulia.

In parallel and in the same perspective, Ubisoft launched Ubisoft Quartz. Already, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint players can purchase body armor, weapons, vehicles, VR helmets, and more with cryptocurrency to lead the fight. This hardware, certified by the Tezos blockchain, can then be resold on third-party marketplaces, making it more liquid and therefore higher in value. Much better than exchanging orbs or Dragon Ball Z cards at recess. “Players will take back control of the value they have been able to create by playing and that will be a sustainable way for our industry,” says Nicolas Poiret, vice president of the Strategic Innovation Lab at Ubisoft.

To rake in as much as possible, the French publisher is also part of The Sandbox, a French metaverse that houses all sorts of games and characters. Through this partnership, The Sandbox players will soon be able to interact and experience the iconic Rabbids, taken from Ubisoft’s game of the same name. Who will explore the possibilities of using their licenses in the metaverse. And this is where compatibility should ultimately make it easier to monetize these characters and their attributes…

However, this shift is not unanimous across publishing teams. “NFTs add complexity, increase the risk of fraud and player dissatisfaction, whose complaints we will then have to consider,” said Pierre-Etienne Marx, head of the trade union section of Ubisoft Paris STJV (Union of Video Game Workers). ) This financialization of games interests shareholders, but not players or employees.” To defend his strategy, CEO Yves Guillemot had to speak on December 15 during an online meeting with the staff of the Paris studio Ubisoft.

For his argument, he can rely on the equally maddening numbers of The Sandbox, founded and run by Arthur Madrid and Sebastian Borge, which raised $93 million. Still in the majority, the duo opened up their capital to Animoca, a Chinese video game company… in which Ubisoft owns a stake. The universe under construction The Sandbox (sandbox) attracts all kinds of actors. He would have already sold over 17,000 plots of land, limiting the number of lots to 177,000 to create an effect of rarity and exclusivity. There would be $70 million in real estate transactions recorded. And the current currency (sand) would be valued at 2 billion.

Buyers? Geeks, profiteers, a few personalities like rapper Snoop Dogg, as well as dozens of brands… So besides Ubisoft, The Sandbox welcomes Warner Music Group, Axa France, Gucci, Havas, Carrefour to its metaverse, even if many remain evasive . about your projects. “As a leader in insurance, we have a responsibility to take part in major technological advances to envision the insurance of the future,” explains Patrick Cohen, CEO of Axa France, in a press release. The sandbox is now claiming 2 million users in its metaverse and wants to speed things up by creating an incubator with $50 million to be used to support a good thirty startups that will likely break new ground for it. .

In this fictional, permanent (nothing disappears) and shared space, the participants are much more than mere players. Together they create decor, characters, objects, NFT-certified buildings, as if in real life they opened a business or an art gallery. The result looks a bit sketchy at the moment with pixelated characters reminiscent of 1990s arcade games, but there’s nothing to fix. “This is just the beginning, the first black-and-white TVs didn’t produce a very terrible picture either,” relativizes Mathieu Gastal, deputy director of digital agency Adveris, who believes that Facebook’s strong ambitions will accelerate progress in the metaverse by spurring competition.

Some French players are already creating metaverses intended for professional use. So Inetum has assembled a team of about twenty researchers to work on a platform project that will see 27,000 employees immerse themselves in virtual reality headsets to meet and take training courses. “This metaverse, which will be rolled out internally by the end of 2022, will then be offered to our customers if it delivers on its promises,” explains Nicolas Perrier, innovation consultant at Inetum.

Simango, a Rennes-based SME that specializes in digital nursing education, also believes in this. She is working on a hospital metaverse in which helmeted students will move their avatar around to learn hygiene and safety skills. “We’re going to include animation, ‘gamification’ elements that will grab attention,” promises Vincent-Dojval Bagot, a co-founder who plans a new fundraiser later in the year. This type of immersion, only Meta, Facebook’s new name, has already begun rolling out in North America as Horizon Worlds. It is currently prohibited for those under the age of 18.

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