Metavers: Ubisoft, Sorare, The Sandbox… The French are taking over the New World

More than 600,000 euros were spent to become the owner of the virtual thumbnail for Haaland, a Norwegian footballer who is close to joining Real Madrid … It is a sign among other things that Sorare has succeeded with football fans. In this online game inspired by the transfer window, football fans can get pictures of their favorite players via the auction system and the exchange platform Ethereum. They are the only holders of it, via what’s called an NFT (non-fungible token), a digital certificate of ownership. Then, using these old Panini cards, they form teams that compete online.

delirium? I think not. Sorare counted 350,000 active users in 170 countries last March. And over the entire year of 2021, the French startup recorded a trading volume of $325 million on its site. Investors were not wrong, starting with Japan’s SoftBank. Last September, co-founders Nicolas Julia and Adrien Montfort, who pride themselves on making profits since launching in 2018, raised 580 million euros, valuing their company at 3.7 billion euros. It is the most expensive French startup at the moment. Not bad for a game that seems to only sell normal pictures of players that anyone can see on the internet and print…

Sorare’s success is another example of French Tech hacking into Web3, the third generation of the Internet. In this new virtual world, our avatars can meet, play, work, make things or earn money. The ideal is to go out there wearing a VR headset for full immersion in the 3D view. However, France has a favorable knowledge and culture for this new internet. With its group of video game companies such as Ubisoft.

One of the main players in the nascent metaverse, The Sandbox, was founded by the French people, and admittedly based in Hong Kong. With cloud startups centered on the blockchain, the primary tool for creating equity or cryptocurrency exchanges. And finally, the so-called French touch. “Providing experiences that delight consumers, selling images and goods that evoke envy, developing an art to live, and an interest in design—that’s what companies in luxury, fashion or entertainment do,” noted Joel Hazan and Thibault Genuville, consultants at BCG, a strategic consulting firm.

Behind its apparent simplicity, mimicking Sorare’s work turns out to be more difficult than it seems. First, the startup has signed exclusive agreements with 230 football clubs to exploit the image of players, including heavyweights such as Bayern Munich and Real Madrid. Then, she can count on the network effect of her community, which gives a premium in the digital sector to the leader who was able to clear a new market before others. CEO Nicholas Julia promised, “We want to build a reputable brand around NFTs in sports and we will continue to accelerate to stay number one.”

This past January, the Sorare co-founder began leaving the football field by announcing the appointment of Serena Williams as a consultant. In this new role, the tennis champion must support Sorare’s expansion into other sports disciplines.

It is an entire ecosystem that is born into this world without borders. Clarification: Thanks to the blockchain, Sorare was able to conclude a partnership with Ubisoft, which will allow collectors to use their photos in the game OneShot League fired by him. Nicholas Julia explains: “This project provides the opportunity to implement the interoperability of elements between different games. If the test is decisive, we will go further.”

In parallel and in the same perspective, Ubisoft launched Ubisoft Quartz. Indeed, players Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint Bulletproof vests, weapons, vehicles, virtual helmets, etc. can be purchased to lead the fight. This device, which is approved by the Tezos blockchain, can then be resold on third-party markets, making it more liquid and thus increasing its value. Much better than trading balls or cards Dragon ball Z at rest. “Players will take back control of the value they were able to create through play and this is in a sustainable way for our industry,” stresses Nicholas Poire, Vice President of the Strategic Innovation Lab at Ubisoft.

To set the fire as wide as possible, the French publisher is also entering The Sandbox, a French Metaverse that hosts all kinds of games and characters.. Thanks to this partnership, The Sandbox players will soon be able to interact and live new experiences with the popular Rabbids game, taken from the eponymous game from Ubisoft. Which will explore the possibilities of exploiting its licenses on metaverses. Here again, interoperability is supposed to eventually make it easier to monetize these characters and their traits…

However, this shift is not unanimous within the publisher teams. “The NFTs add sophistication, increase the risk of frauds and resentment of the players whose complaints we will have to deal with, estimates Pierre-Etienne Marx, head of the union division of the STJV (Confederation of Video Game Workers) Ubisoft Paris (Confederation of Video Game Workers). Funding for games matters to shareholders, but not players or employees.” To defend his strategy, CEO Yves Guillemot was to speak on December 15 during an online meeting with Ubisoft’s Paris studio staff.

For his argument, he can count on the equally crazy characters of Sandbox, founded and directed by Arthur Madrid and Sebastian Borg, which raised $93 million. The duo, which remains in the majority, has opened its capital to Animoca, a Chinese video game company … in which Ubisoft owns a stake. The universe is under construction, Sandbox (Sandbox) attracts all kinds of actors. He had already sold over 17,000 plots of land by limiting the number of plots to 177,000 to create the effect of rarity and exclusivity. $70 million of real estate transactions were recorded. The value of the current currency (sand) is estimated at $2 billion.

buyers? Geeks, speculators, a few personalities like rapper Snoop Dogg, but also dozens of brands … In addition to Ubisoft, The Sandbox thus welcomes Warner Music Group, Axa France, Gucci, Havas and Carrefour into its metavour track. , even if many of them remain elusive on the verge of their projects. “As a leading insurance company, it is our responsibility to participate in major technological developments to imagine securing the future,” explains Patrick Cohen, CEO of Axa France in a press release. Sandbox now claims 2 million users in its metaverse, and wants to speed up the movement by creating an incubator that was awarded $50 million that will be used to support thirty good startups potentially breaking new ground for them. .

In this continuous (nothing disappears) and shared imaginary space, the participants are much more than just players. They have been involved in building decoration, characters, objects and buildings, all approved by NFT, where one would open an art company or gallery in real life. The result, for now, feels a bit sketchy with pixelated characters reminiscent of arcade games of the 90s. Things don’t fix it. “It’s a start, the first black and white TVs didn’t present a horrific picture either,” said Matthew Gastal, associate director of digital agency Adveris, who believes Facebook’s strong ambitions will speed progress. Transformations by exciting competition.

Some French players are already building databases intended for professional use. Thus Inetum brought together a team of about twenty researchers to work on a platform project where 27,000 collaborators would be immersed in virtual reality headsets to meet and follow training sessions. “This metaverse, which will be deployed internally before the end of 2022, will be delivered to our customers if it delivers on its promises,” explains Nicholas Perrier, Inetum’s innovation advisor.

Simango, a Rennes-based small and medium-sized company that specializes in digital training for paramedics, believes in it, too. She works in the metaverse hospital where learners equipped with helmets animate their avatar to gain skills in hygiene and safety. “We will include animations and ‘gamification’ elements that will grab attention, that’s what co-founder Vincent Duswal Bagot is promising, who is planning a new fundraiser at the end of the year. This kind of immersion, just Meta, the new name of Facebook, is already starting to roll out. In North America as Horizon Worlds, it is currently prohibited for persons under the age of 18.

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