Sébastien Borget and The Sandbox: from a mobile game to the metaverse
June 20, 2022
Sébastien Borget is considered one of the most influential individuals in the world of blockchain and on-chain gaming in particular. An entrepreneur with decades of experience in game development, he has long focused on mobile gaming. His passion for technology makes him a strong advocate of integrating non-fungible tokens (NFTs) into the virtual entertainment industry. In fact, this led him to the creation of the metaverse The Sandbox. So let’s find out who Sébastien Borget is, and how The Sandbox was created.
Who is Sébastien Borget?
Today, Sébastien Borget is a successful entrepreneur, and the co-founder and COO of The Sandbox, a virtual gaming world built on the Ethereum blockchain. However, before making an appearance in the blockchain space, the Frenchman spent a long time navigating the technology and gaming sector.
He began by studying at Télécom SudParis (Evry), where he received a Bachelor of Science in Computer System Networking and Telecommunications. He then obtained his Master’s degree in the same field at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
During his university career, Borget had already been an intern at Motorola (2004-’05), but after graduation, he immediately led various projects and companies: first as COO (Chief Operations Officer) of Wixi.com, an on-demand entertainment service that connects gamers worldwide, and then as Technical Project Manager of Ipercast, a Paris-based company specialising in secure content management and service provision for the web and mobile devices.
However, both experiences ended in 2011, corresponding in the founding of Pixowl, where Borget still holds the position of COO.
How The Sandbox was created
In 2011, Sébastien left Wixi and Hypercast to found his first personal project: Pixowl, a company developing mobile games. Borget then went on to manage an international team of professionals who worked on major titles for iOS and Android
In an exclusive interview with Young Platform, Sébastien Borget explained that The Sandbox can be seen as a ‘sequel’ to the game ‘Powder‘, developed by his own mobile gaming studio a decade ago. Borget described it as a kind of ‘physics simulator’, where users could play with elements such as water, salt, steam, and so on. So, “we took that idea and asked ourselves; “What if any player was a creator?” they would move the elements with a touch of their fingers on the phone screen and share their creations online”. A perfect starting point for The Sandbox, where players, harnessing the full potential of the blockchain, can create game experiences on virtual land (NFTs that guarantee ownership) and monetise them through the project’s tokenomics. The game’s economy is based on non-fungible ERC-721 tokens and the ERC-20 SAND token, both of them fitting ethereum standards. However, before being a metaverse, Sandbox was born in the off-chain dimension.
The Sandbox: from mobile to virtual reality
The Sandbox is a game development space released by Sebastian Borget through Pixowl: launched in 2012, it was made available for smartphones (iOS and Android) and Microsoft Windows. It was attributed the name “sandbox” because it provides the tools for game creation even to users without programming experience, who can thus build in a test environment, commonly known as ‘sandbox mode‘.
In fact, new developers, simply by choosing elements from an interface, can create gaming experiences in a virtual world. These are then published for other players to participate in.
However, it was at that point still too early to talk about the metaverse. By the release of the 2018 version, the world of The Sandbox was integrated into the blockchain. The goal of this was that the creation of game experiences rewarded both programmers (paid by players to access the video game) and users, who collect NFTs and earn tokens from their entertainment.
Borget’s pioneering work was included in Apple’s list of the best games in the App Store for two consecutive years (2012 and 2013): an important recognition for the early form of the metaverse.
In 2018, Pixowl was acquired by Animoca Brands, an important turning point for the future of The Sandbox. The company is in the business of developing mobile products, including video games of its own by exploiting blockchain technology. This opens up Play to Earn mechanisms, i.e. the possibility of earning tokens by playing games. In addition, Animoca’s investments and partnerships include both Dapper Labs, creators of CryptoKitties, and Decentraland, the metaverse based on LAND NFT and the MANA token.
So, since August 2018, Borget has been working in collaboration with Animoca Brands to develop the blockchain version of The Sandbox: finally, it moved to the metaverse. The foundation of the latter is NFTs, which take various forms: 3D objects, created through the native VoxelEdit programme, and plots of land. SAND utility tokens and tokenomics complement the metaverse’s internal economy, facilitating trade and growth. In 2019, the first investors arrived: Square Enix, B Cryptos and True Global Ventures poured $2.01 million (both fiat and cryptocurrency) into The Sandbox.
The Sandbox, which relies on Ethereum‘s blockchain, has been defined by the company itself as follows: “a deeply immersive metaverse in which players will create virtual worlds and games collaboratively and without central authority […] by providing creators with true ownership of their creations in the form of non-fungible tokens (NFT) and rewarding their participation with our utility token, SAND”.
The metaverse of The Sandbox is an alternative where ‘users come first‘, thus fulfilling the founding principles of blockchain technology.
The Sandbox metaverse expansion
Since its creation, The Sandbox metaverse has expanded at lightning speed: it entered into partnerships with major ‘characters’ who own NFT land in the metaverse, such as Snoop Dogg and The Smurfs. It also launched the marketplace for buying and selling NFTs at the end of March 2021. In November of the same year, Adrian Cheng, CEO of New World Development (a company with real estate, infrastructure and service properties, department stores and hotels), announced that he would also build in The Sandbox metaverse.
As you can imagine, in a short space of time, The Sandbox has become a major metaverse, constantly topping the charts of OpenSea, the secondary market for NFTs. In fact, it managed to reach a volume of $70.5M in just one week.
In November 2021, a $93 million funding round, led by SoftBank Vision Fund 2, preceded the release of The Sandbox Alpha (December 2021): the first season of a play-to-earn event, which offered more than 200,000 players the chance to explore The Sandbox metaverse and its LANDs for the first time. It proved to be a success: the company ended 2021 with strong growth, two million registered wallets and 18,500 LAND owners.
Meanwhile, Sébastien Borget became president of the Blockchain Game Alliance (BGA). The organisation, which strives to integrate blockchain technologies into video games, promotes the creation of common standards, facilitates networking and knowledge sharing, and thus encourages decentralised cooperation. Today, more than 200 companies have joined the alliance.
At the same time, he spearheaded the growth of The Sandbox Foundation, later released as a decentralised autonomous organisation (DAO): it was set up to finance game projects, to offer grants to NFT artists and to host play-to-earn tournaments.
Now that you understand who Sébastien Borget is, it will not be difficult for us to recognise him in his creation. Indeed, The Sandbox could represent the future of the gaming industry, based on the security and scalability of blockchain, with innovative applications and use cases. All this was only possible thanks to the courage of Borget and the team to take the leap and fully convert into a blockchain project. Thus, the Sandbox paved the way for native games in the metaverse, characterised by the possibilities that cryptocurrencies can provide, such as Play to Earn and ownership of progress in the video game world.