Metavers: Ubisoft, Sorare, The Sandbox… The French are taking over the new world


More than 600,000 euros were spent to own the virtual thumbnail of Haaland, a Norwegian footballer who is approaching to join Real Madrid… This is another indication of Sorare’s success with football fans. In this online game inspired by the transfer window, football fans can get images of their favorite players via an auction system and Ethereum exchange platform. And they are the only holders of it through what is called an NFT (immutable token), a digital certificate of ownership. Then they form teams that compete online with these old-fashioned Panini cards.

Is it delirium? I guess not. Sorare counted 350,000 active users in 170 countries last March. And throughout 2021, the French start-up recorded a trading volume of $325 million on its site. Investors were not mistaken, starting with Japanese SoftBank. Last September, founders Nicolas Julia and Adrien Montfort, proud to be profitable since their launch in 2018, raised 580 million euros, valuing their companies at 3.7 billion euros. Currently the most expensive French start-up. Not bad for a game that seems to be selling banal images that gamers can only see and print online…

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. The ideal is to go there wearing a virtual reality headset to get a complete immersion in 3D. However, France has a knowledge and culture suited to this new Internet. With a pool of video game companies like Ubisoft.

One of the biggest players in the emerging metaverse, The Sandbox was undoubtedly founded by Hong Kong-based French. The essential tool for creating title deeds or exchanging cryptocurrencies with the start-up cloud located on the blockchain. And finally for the thing called the French Touch. “This is what companies do in luxury, fashion or entertainment, delivering experiences that delight consumers, selling envy-inducing displays and goods, developing an art of living, engaging in design,” advisers Joël Hazan and Thibault Genouville say. BCG strategy consulting firm.

Behind its apparent simplicity, Sorare’s work turns out to be more difficult to copy than it seems. Initially, the start-up signed exclusive deals with 230 football clubs to capitalize on the image of the players, including heavyweights like Bayern Munich and Real Madrid. It can then count on the networking influence of its community, which gives a premium in the digital sector to the leader who succeeds in clearing one new market before the others. “We want to build a cult brand around NFTs in sports and we will continue to accelerate to remain the first,” said CEO Nicolas Julia.

Last January, Sorare’s co-founder began leaving the football field, announcing that he had appointed Serena Williams as a consultant. In this new role, the tennis champion must support Sorare’s expansion into other sports disciplines.

It’s a whole ecosystem born without limits on this earth. One example: Thanks to blockchain, Sorare has managed to form a partnership with Ubisoft that will allow collectors to use their images from the game. OneShot League started by him. “This project offers the opportunity to implement the interoperability of elements between different games. If the test is conclusive, we will go further”, explains Nicolas Julia.

In parallel and in the same perspective, Ubisoft released Ubisoft Quartz. Already the players Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Breakpoint To lead the fight, cryptocurrency can buy bulletproof vests, weapons, vehicles, virtual helmets and others. This equipment, certified by the Tezos blockchain, can then be resold in third-party markets, making it more liquid and therefore increasing its value. Much better than trading marbles or cards Dragon Ball Z on break. “Gamers will regain control over the value they can create by playing, and they will achieve that sustainably for our industry,” says Nicolas Pouard, vice president of the Strategic Innovation Lab at Ubisoft.

The French publisher is also delving into The Sandbox, a French metaverse that hosts all manner of games and characters, in order to span as wide as possible.. Thanks to this partnership, The Sandbox players will soon be able to interact and experience new experiences with the famous Rabbids, taken from Ubisoft’s eponymous game. This will explore possibilities to use their licenses on metadata sources. Here again, interoperability should eventually make it easier for these characters and their traits to monetize…

However, this change is not a joint decision between the publisher’s teams. “NFTs add complexity, increase the risk of fraud and dissatisfaction from players whose complaints we have to deal with later,” says Pierre-Etienne Marx, head of the union division of Ubisoft Paris’ STJV (Video games workers union). In defense of his strategy, CEO Yves Guillemot had to speak during an online meeting with employees of Ubisoft’s Paris studio on December 15.

In his argument, he can count on the equally insane numbers of The Sandbox, which was founded and directed by Arthur Madrid and Sébastien Borge and raised $93 million. The still majority duo opened their capital in Animoca, a Chinese video game company in which Ubisoft holds a stake. The universe is in the making, The Sandbox (sandbox) attracts all kinds of actors. It would have sold more than 17,000 plots by limiting the number of lots to 177,000 to create the effect of rarity and exclusivity. A $70 million real estate transaction would be recorded. And the current currency (sand) will be worth 2 billion.

Buyers? Nerds, speculators, a few personalities like rapper Snoop Dogg, but also dozens of brands… In addition to Ubisoft, The Sandbox thus invites Warner Music Group, Axa France, Gucci, Havas, Carrefour to its metaverse, most of them evasive even about their projects. “As an insurance leader, it is our responsibility to be involved in major technological advances to imagine the insurance of the future,” Patrick Cohen, CEO of Axa France, explains in a press release. Sandbox currently claims 2 million users in its metadata and is looking to accelerate the movement with the creation of a $50 million incubator. .

In this fictional, permanent (where nothing is lost) and shared space, participants are much more than players. They build together decors, characters, objects, buildings, all approved by an NFT, like opening a business or art gallery in real life. The result looks a bit sketchy for now, with pixelated characters reminiscent of 1990s arcade games. “It’s a start, the first black and white televisions didn’t look too bad,” says Mathieu Gastal, deputy director of the Adveris digital agency, and believes Facebook’s strong ambitions will accelerate progress.

Some French gamers are building metaverses dedicated to professional uses. Thus, Inetum brought together a team of about twenty researchers to work on a platform project where 27,000 collaborators will immerse themselves in virtual reality headsets to meet and follow training courses. “This metaverse, which will be deployed internally before the end of 2022, will then be available to our customers if it fulfills its promises,” explains Nicolas Perrier, Inetum innovation consultant.

Simango, a Rennes-based SME specializing in digital training for paramedical staff, believes this too. He is working on a hospital metaverse where students wearing helmets will move their avatars to gain skills in hygiene and safety. “We will add attention-grabbing animations, ‘gamification’ elements,” co-founder Vincent-Dozhwal Bagot, who plans to raise a new fundraiser at the end of the year, promises. That kind of immersion is only when Facebook’s new name, Meta, has started rolling out in North America as Horizon Worlds. It is currently prohibited for anyone under the age of 18.