The Sandbox, a rising star in the metaverse ecosystem, positions itself as a play-to-earn virtual world where players can own, build and monetize virtual assets and gaming experiences. The project has partnered with many influencers, brands, and artists, the likes of which include Snoop Dogg, Atari, and Deadmau5.
The Sandbox recently launched their alpha season and boy oh boy was it an experience. While the event was available to everyone, the holders of the exclusive Alpha Pass were the only ones who could access the ‘play-to-earn’ aspect of the game. There was a total of 5,000 Alpha Passes and they were distributed for free to the community via Twitter and other contests. If you were one of the few lucky ones who won an alpha pass through their contests, you could have made a sweet profit as these Alpha passes sold for as high as 2.7 ETH on the secondary market, that’s a whopping $11,000 at current prices.
If you are anything like me, you’re probably wondering why anyone would trade such large sums of money for access to a gaming metaverse. This question led me down the deep rabbit hole of trying to understand what the sandbox is, and how to be a part of it. And trust me, it’s not something you want to miss. Keep reading to find out.
This review of the sandbox will guide you in understanding how to be a part of the sandbox and kickstart your journey towards mastering the game mechanics, along with offering a glimpse into the sandbox’s journey and its vision for the future.
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The Sandbox Journey
This is the tale of a classic game that ascended into blockchain heaven. That’s right, the Sandbox, had its humble beginnings as a regular cross-platform game-builder, not on the blockchain. This version of the sandbox was a 2D pixel-art world creator and it was officially launched in 2012 for mobiles and later expanded to Steam for PCs in 2015.
Animoca Brands, a blockchain game development company, acquired The Sandbox in 2018 and announced its plans to bring the sandbox to the Ethereum blockchain. This new version of the sandbox on the blockchain is a voxel-style virtual land and game-experience building platform. This expansion to the blockchain aimed to solve certain key issues with traditional gaming, namely; true ownership of in-game assets and a free open market economy for creators and players without interference from centralized institutions.
The Sandbox is designed with a comprehensive economy and is suited for artists, investors, gamers, and game designers. The Sandbox has three main pillars which help it run this economy, they are; the Marketplace, the VoxEdit, and the Game Maker.
The Marketplace is built on the Ethereum blockchain where ASSET owners and creators can freely trade. The primary currency to trade on the marketplace is $SAND. To access and use this marketplace, you must be connected to the Ethereum mainnet and have an account created at the sandbox website. Once you have satisfied these requirements, you can buy and sell NFTs on the platform for $SAND, provided you have a little bit of $ETH in your wallet for gas. For all assets sold on the marketplace, 95% of the proceeds go to the seller and 5% goes to the Sandbox Creator and Game Maker Fund.
Currently, there are four categories of ASSETS that can be purchased in the marketplace; Entities, Equipment, Wearables, and Art. Some of these categories are purely cosmetic and some offer additional utility to your game experience. In the future, The Sandbox plans to add more categories to the marketplace such as Blocks, Games, and Avatars.
The Marketplace helps fulfill the brand’s vision for a truly decentralized and open marketplace. Well, somewhat decentralized. As of writing this piece, for your assets to get published to the marketplace as NFTs, they need to be vetted by the marketplace curation team and you as the artist need to be a part of the ‘Creator Fund’.
The VoxEdit is a Voxel Editing software developed by the Sandbox team and is an integral part of The Sandbox ecosystem. It helps artists create the ASSETS for The Sandbox metaverse. The Voxel, in simple terms, is a 3D-pixel and is the building block for all the ASSETS on The Sandbox.
VoxEdit offers three key functions, Modelling, Animation, and NFT Conversion.
With the Modelling function, artists can design and create the 3D voxelated versions of the particular design they have in mind for their asset, or import an earlier work made for another game like Minecraft. With the Animation function, artists can ‘rig’ and animate various parts of their ASSET and create unique movements for various scenarios in the game. Finally, once the artist is satisfied with his creation and has tested its interaction in a game, he can choose to mint his ASSET into an NFT with the VoxEdit platform. If you have exported your assets to the Sandbox, they will be visible on your profile. You can then choose to share it via the marketplace as a virtual asset on the blockchain.
The VoxEdit also has preset templates that artists can work on top of. These templates greatly reduce the amount of time it takes to create an ASSET and is quite beginner-friendly. The Sandbox team has a tutorial series on how to use VoxEdit, which I found quite useful and simple enough for beginners. Don’t believe me? Well, look at the masterpiece I’ve made after watching a few videos.
The Sandbox Creator Fund was launched in 2018, with a fund pool of $2 Million. It focuses on developing the talents of its users in Voxel Art to produce high-quality ASSETs for the game. The program is limited to the first 1000 participants, it will help the artists in creating and publishing the ASSET to the Sandbox Marketplace in addition to rewarding the artists monetarily for their creation based on the complexity and quality. The artists that are a part of the Creator Fund are the only ones who can publish their assets during the Sandbox’s Alpha and Beta stage. This provides them with much better exposure, making them be able to stand out from the list of artists creating on the platform post public launch.
The Game Maker is the third and final pillar of the Sandbox Ecosystem. Game creators and gamers create and test various game experiences made using the ASSETs developed by the Artists. The Game Maker allows users to place and use their ASSETS within a piece of LAND (an ERC-721 token) that they own in The Sandbox. As of this moment, to publish a game you’ve created you must own a parcel of LAND in The Sandbox or partner with someone who owns a LAND in the Sandbox.
While ASSETs can be used as decorative items on LANDs, they can also be used to construct fully immersive and fascinating gaming experiences and mechanics. Based on the player’s actions within the game, the ASSETs can be programmed to behave in a certain way using visual scripting nodes, this transforms a LAND from a decorative experience to an immersive game experience. The Game Maker allows you to make games without any coding. So, if you’re interested in making your own games in The Sandbox but aren’t sure how to, then you must check out the official tutorial playlist by the Sandbox and this tutorial by one of the members of the Sandbox team.
The team hosts regular events called ‘Game Jams’ with a pretty attractive reward pool. Game Jams are events where Game Creators are encouraged to create an interactive and engaging game with the use of the Sandbox Game Maker and submit it for the competition. The games are judged according to pre-announced criteria and the first 10 places receive rewards from the reward pool. The most recent Game Jam is a partnership between The Sandbox and Round21 with a theme centered around a sports-related gaming experience.
Game Maker Fund
The Game Maker Fund is an exclusive fund that focuses on developing the talent of its users in game creation and development on The Sandbox. It rewards and incentivizes those who have proven skills in game design or digital world design by sponsoring them with the $SAND tokens required to create and publish their game design. Admission into the fund has a very thorough selection process, this is to ensure that the games published via the Fund are only the best of the best. This focus on quality will enrich the experience of players playing the game and bring in more people to the platform.
The token economy of the Sandbox features five types of Tokens; namely:
- LAND (ERC-721)
- SAND (ERC-20)
- ASSET (ERC-1155)
- GEM (ERC-20)
- CATALYST (ERC-20)
LAND in The Sandbox is an ERC-721 NFT token that grants its holders rights over a 96×96 meters parcel of virtual land in The Sandbox metaverse. LAND owners can build unique experiences using ASSETs for users to visit and experience. There is a total of 166,464 parcels of LAND in The Sandbox, and no more will ever be minted. This makes LAND an incredibly scarce NFT within The Sandbox.
- 123,840 LANDS (∼74%) are available for sale in total.
- 25,920 LANDS (∼16%) will form the Reserve, which will be distributed to partners, creators, and gamers as rewards.
- 16,704 LANDS (∼10%) will remain the property of The Sandbox. They will be used to host special events, feature exclusive games and ASSETS.
There are 2 ways owners of LANDs can monetize them.
First, by creating gaming experiences on their LAND and charging players in $SAND to play the game experience. This method is especially effective if the gaming experience is very high quality and/or if it offers players a chance to earn some $SAND in the process.
Second, by renting LAND to other Game Creators, artists, or players to build their own experience on the LAND that they can display and monetize. This method provides the LAND owner with steady passive income from the user renting his LAND.
Estates– Estates are a combination of multiple adjacent LAND parcels. They come in 4 different sizes (3×3, 6×6, 12×12, and 24×24). Estates can be owned by one single person or by multiple different owners. They offer great visibility to owners as they can be seen quite distinctively (due to their size) by players who click on The Sandbox map. Estates are usually desired by big brands and companies who want to establish a digital presence in the Sandbox metaverse.
Districts– Estates that are made of LAND parcels owned by multiple different people are called Districts. They are essentially a congregation of LANDs that ally to self-govern and build towards a common purpose. While Districts are yet to be released in the current version of the game, they should be available with the full release of the game to the public. The Sandbox team envisions that ‘districts’ will give rise to DAOs within the Sandbox metaverse. LAND owners within a district must stake $SAND to create and be a part of the district.
$SAND is an ERC-20 token that serves as the primary currency of The Sandbox metaverse. $SAND is a utility token that can be used by all participants within the Sandbox economy for various purposes such as:
Transacting on the Sandbox Platform– Artists and Players can buy and sell ASSETs with $SAND. Users can only purchase LAND with $SAND during the primary sales and for all sales done through the Sandbox Marketplace. Artists must also spend $SAND to upload their ASSETs to the marketplace.
Governance– The Sandbox will follow a DAO structure and $SAND is the governance token. Holders of the token can take part in key decision-making regarding the future of the platform. Such key issues include Foundation grant attributions to content and game creators and feature prioritization on the platform Roadmap. SAND owners can also delegate voting rights to other players of their choice.
Staking– The token can be used for staking on the platform allowing the user to gain passive income in $SAND during the holding period of the token. Staking is also the only way for Artists and other players to farm Gem and Catalysts, both of which are key elements in ASSET creation.
Fee Capture Model– The 5% fee charged by the Marketplace will be utilized towards strengthening the treasury and foundation of the Sandbox.
Foundation– The foundation can be regarded as a collection of funds that are used towards the development of the economy and its participants. The foundation will be offering grants to deserving artists and game projects. All the grants offered by the Foundation will be in $SAND.
Price History- To say that the $SAND token has given its early investors amazing returns, would be an understatement. The $SAND token had an IEO back in Aug 2020 and was sold for just $0.0083 per token. With the current price of $SAND sitting at $5.91, that’s a 72,050% return since launch. The token began publicly trading at $0.086 in Aug of 2020 and hit an all-time low of $0.028 in November 2020, just a couple of months post-launch. Most of this dumping in the price was due to IEO investors booking profits as the token had already achieved 10x in the launch.
The token traded at a consistent $0.03 to $0.1 until the start of the 2021 bull market. During the early half of the bull cycle this year, the SAND token hit an all-time high of $0.84 in March, but this pales in comparison to its all-time high of $8.44 in the second half of the 2021 bull cycle in November. Most of this price action is thanks to a big inflow of money from institutional investors into metaverse projects. This coupled with Facebook’s announcement regarding its rebranding to ‘Meta’, sent the crypto markets into a frenzy around blockchain gaming and metaverse projects in particular. While the token is currently seeing a healthy correction, we can expect a better upside with the full launch of the game and public marketplace, sometime in late 2022 to early 2023.
The $SAND’s total supply is 3 billion and current circulating supply is 919,498,319 (i.e 30.64% of total supply). The Sandbox’s token unlock schedule indicates that 100% of the supply will be unlocked by 2024. The founders of the project have also indicated that their vision for the Sandbox is to be a fully self-governing community-run DAO, this could mean that the team would slowly be selling all its tokens to the community. This sell-pressure coupled with Sandbox’s token unlock schedule could mean that while an upside is likely for $SAND, it may not be as meteoric as compared to its previous pumps.
ASSETs refer to the voxel creations of artists and other creators. ASSET can be minted into NFTs which follow the ERC-1155 standard. ASSETs are the tokens that build the actual experience in The Sandbox metaverse. Artists create ASSETs which are used by Game Creators to build immersive experiences for the players and citizens of the Sandbox. As explained earlier, Artists use VoxEdit to create and publish an ASSET. Once the artist has created and selected the desired ASSET, he will be able to mint and ‘publish’ the ASSET as an NFT on the Marketplace. During this stage, the artist can determine the scarcity of the NFT by deciding on the number of copies to be minted of that particular asset. The NFTs will either be common, rare, epic, or legendary, depending on the number of copies minted.
- Common has a maximum of 20,000 copies
- Rare has a maximum of 4,000 copies
- Epic has a maximum of 1,500 copies
- Legendary has a maximum of 200 copies
The ERC-1155 Standard – The Sandbox went with the cautious decision to follow the ERC-1155 standard for their ASSETs instead of the ERC-721. This can often seem puzzling to users because the ERC-721 is touted as the gold standard for NFTs. However, in a gaming metaverse such as The Sandbox, where gamers will use the NFTs for various interactive gameplay and artists will be selling multiple copies of the Same ASSET, it makes more sense to use the ERC-1155 instead of the ERC-721. Artists and gamers can save on gas fees by being able to trade NFTs in one flexible contract.
ASSET Categories: Currently, there are five different categories of ASSETs in The Sandbox. They are; Entities, Equipment, Wearables, Art, and Blocks.
Entity – Entities are functional environmental ASSETs. They give interaction to an experience and help bring the environment to life. Typical examples of Entities are animals, birds, avatars, landmarks, etc. Entities are often animated and can be programmed to interact with the user in different ways for different scenarios.
Equipment – Equipment is functional player ASSETs. They are accessible from the inventory and can be worn by the player. Equipment often offers boosts to the player in a particular gaming experience. Typical examples of Equipment are swords, shields, gloves, helmets, etc.
Wearables – Wearables are cosmetic player ASSETs. They can be used to customize the player’s complete Avatar or specific body parts. An avatar is typically composed of four different body parts, that consist of the head, torso, legs, and feet. Each of these wearables can be customized at will to create a unique avatar. Cosmetic wearables will be fashionable to customize avatars and give them unique styles.
Art – Art ASSETs are cosmetic environmental ASSETs and are used mainly for their visual aspects. Art can often be used to add a certain uniqueness to the gameplay visually. Typical examples of Art ASSETs are voxelized versions of traditional works of art, stylized items, buildings, landmarks, statues, etc.
Blocks – Blocks are cosmetic environmental ASSETs that change the look of the landscape. Typical examples of blocks can be water, mud, sand, and lava, etc.
GEM is an ERC-20 token that is burnt during minting an NFT. NFTs that are minted this way, gain special attributes that grant the ASSET a boost when used in a game experience. By burning GEM, you can boost the ASSET’s stats. One GEM will be able to provide up to 25 attribute points to an ASSET and, with the help of CATALYSTs, you’ll be able to socket up to 4 GEMs, meaning up to 100 attribute points. As of now, the only known way to obtain GEM will be through staking $SAND on LAND.
There are five types of attributes that can be obtained with GEM, they are;
These attributes will have functionality within the Game Maker, allowing the creator to create even more engaging and interactive games.
CATALYST is an ERC-20 token that is burnt when used during minting an NFT. CATALYST help determine the rarity of an ASSET and provides slots for storing gems. As of writing this article, it has not yet been revealed how Catalysts may be obtained.
Catalysts are divided into four tiers; they are-
- Common- 1 GEM socket- up to 20000 ASSET copies can be minted
- Rare- 2 GEM sockets- up to 4000 ASSET copies can be minted
- Epic- 3 GEM sockets- up to 1500 ASSET copies can be minted
- Legendary- 4 GEM sockets- up to 200 ASSET copies can be minted
How to get started in The Sandbox Today
The easiest way to get started with The Sandbox today would be as an Investor. LAND prices have almost 200x from their initial sale price of $48 a couple of years ago. The $SAND token has also seen an incredible pump from the metaverse craze in the current bull market. But The Sandbox as a project is yet to be fully deployed and launched. One might say that there is still incredible potential ahead for $SAND.
The second way to get started with The Sandbox would be as a Creator or Artist. I would argue this is the best way to get involved with the project. Even with the incredible hype surrounding Metaverses, the creator economy for such metaverse projects is still ripe for the picking. The Sandbox has incredible incentives for artists and game creators alike to be involved through the grants offered by the Creator Fund and Game Maker Fund.
The Sandbox Alpha was a special multi-week event that took place between Nov 29th – Dec 20th. It offered players the chance to experience 18 game experiences created by The Sandbox Team as well as the chance to win 1000 $SAND and 3 special Alpha NFT ASSETs. While the play-to-earn aspect of the event was only available to Alpha Pass holders, everyone could experience some open-world gameplay in the Alpha HUB along with 3 full game experiences.
There was a total of 5000 alpha passes available that were distributed to the community for free via various contests. While the first season of the Alpha has ended, the team seems to have plans for a potential second season. If you don’t want to miss out on the second season, make sure you’re glued to their discord and medium.
Future Sandbox Plans
According to the roadmap, the next on the list for The Sandbox seems to be the gradual opening of the Marketplace to public artists to create and publish their ASSETs along with the adoption of the DAO system. The Sandbox team also plans to host the first virtual concerts by Q3 of 2022. More events such as public LAND sales, launching of multiple gaming experiences across LANDS, more Partnerships and NFT collaborations, and launching of periodic play-to-earn events are planned for the end of 2022.
The Sandbox seems to be the strongest metaverse project with active collaborations and periodic updates and events. While it might seem all fine and dandy, the most troubling concern seems to be the lack of decentralization when it comes to the server hosting The Sandbox platform. The game is currently hosted on AWS and this leads to a single point of failure. Secondly, the platform and the Marketplace are currently on the Ethereum blockchain, with the recent spike in the gas costs for Ethereum it has become almost impractical for gaming projects to transact on the chain. Unless of course, you’re ETH rich. On a positive note, the team is considering a layer 2 for the marketplace in the future. Layer 2 solutions like Polygon and Immutable X will significantly lower gas costs and make the project much more viable to mass adoption.