Web3 CMO Stories

Explore the Convergence of AI, Blockchain and Gaming with Sébastien Borget, Co-Founder of The Sandbox | S3 E40

February 06, 2024 Joeri Billast & Sébastien Borget Season 3
Web3 CMO Stories
Explore the Convergence of AI, Blockchain and Gaming with Sébastien Borget, Co-Founder of The Sandbox | S3 E40
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Embark on a transformative gaming odyssey with Sébastien Borget, the trailblazing COO of The Sandbox and president of the Blockchain Game Alliance. Uncover the seismic shift from traditional gaming platforms to the revolutionary blockchain technology that's redefining how we play, create, and monetize content. As Sébastien reminisces about his leap from mobile gaming to the vanguard of blockchain, we navigate the pivotal moments that birthed The Sandbox and the empowering solutions blockchain offered to creators struggling with monetization. This episode promises to illuminate the metamorphosis of gaming into a dynamic world where digital assets aren't just pixels on a screen but gateways to continuous engagement, social interaction, and tangible rewards.

Step into the marketing wonderland of Sandbox+, where a finite map of NFT lands beckons brands, celebrities, and cultural experiences to weave their stories. Experience how the innovative Owner Relationship Model in The Sandbox is rewriting the script for user interaction and loyalty, offering a mix of digital and real-life treasures. Sebastien's insights on constructing virtual neighborhoods that foster community and creativity are just the tip of the iceberg. We'll also explore the blending of AI with blockchain in gaming, revealing the staggering potential for immersive podcasting within the metaverse and unpacking the future of digital identity verification. This episode isn't just a peek into the future; it's a masterclass in the intersection of technology, creativity, and identity in the virtual worlds we're all a part of.

This episode was recorded through a Podcastle call on December 21, 2023. Read the blog article and show notes here: https://webdrie.net/explore-the-convergence-of-ai-blockchain-and-gaming-with-sebastien-borget-co-founder-of-the-sandbox

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Sébastien:

It's actually on sale, because once a user receives a digital asset on his wallet, you can continue engaging, you can continue giving them more utility for that asset, you can enable that asset to be playable in all your experiences, you can use it as a ticket or wait to give them a discount when they go at your brick and mortar shop, irl, and so on.

Joeri:

Hello everyone and welcome to the Web3 CMO Story Podcast. My name is Joeri Billast and I'm your podcast host, and today I'm really excited to be joined by Sebastien. We met at the WebSummit not so long ago and I said, Sebastien, you really need to come on my podcast. But, guys, if you don't know Sebastien Borget, he's an entrepreneur and a dad with 16 years of experience in growing startups 6 years in blockchain and 12 years in mobile gaming. He worked for numerous startups with diverse business models as an advisor. He's the co-founder and CEO of the Sandbox, a unique virtual world where players can build, own and monetize their gaming experiences using NFTs and Sand, the main utility token of the platform. And Sebastien is also the president of the Blockchain Game Alliance. I met those people to actually at the web submit, and it's a nonprofit organization of 250 key members of the industry, and recently you are named in the top 100 most influential people in crypto by Cointelegraph. So we're excited to be able to talk to you, Sebastien. I've also been doing a lot of stuff in the Metaverse, if we can use that term To start the conversation. I would like to learn a bit more about your journey into Web 3 and gaming. Could you share a bit about that, from mobile gaming into blockchain space and maybe some pivotal moments that you, too, co-found The Sandbox?

Sébastien:

Of course, as pretty much every kid or teenager, I jumped into video games quite early on and, like I, fall in love with them. I played all the time. I started with the Super Nintendo and I had pretty much every single generation of console. I had numerous hours on every title and someday I said, wow, enjoy playing video game. I'd love to make my own one day. That would be my dream goal and a fantastic job in the future. And then over time I think it shaped me to want to become an engineer, to graduate from there and learn how things are done, learn programming, learn a bit more like all the technical aspect. And I saw like how complex it was to actually make video games, particularly on console, like it's. The barrier to entry was very high, like the cost, the special hardware that you need, the permission, the kind of skills and team. It's not really accessible to anyone. You cannot be an entrepreneur and start like a small in the studio, pretty much until a smartphone came in and a smartphone really democratize once again creating games just from your home, from your office, from your garage, like people the small one to people, team and artists could start making games. Also, you had to learn programming, you had to learn how to publish on the app store or Google Play Store. So what we figured out is what if we made something that anyone, even without any programming skills, without any technical skills, they could make their video games? And that was the idea that drove us to build the first sandbox on mobile and that led me, as an entrepreneur, after a three-order successful company in new technologies, to jump into mobile free to play back in 2011. And the first sandbox was born around that time and it was just a 2D game where we used the technology of smartphone, like essentially, the touchscreen and the accelerators and these new things to play around and let people create by touching their finger any kind of world, any kind of art scene, music scene or diorama, etc. And share it with others, to enjoy, to play, to discover. And it quickly turned into a success, like initially there was only 21 elements from the periodic table of elements and then we added more and more components, things like characters, platforms, enemies, doors and weapons and so on, and people enjoyed composing with them their mini game and sharing them. It led to make 40 million downloads over the life of that game and people shared over 70 million creations in the gallery thanks to that tool and what led me to blockchain. Well, over the years, we also saw somehow, despite the success of sandbox, some struggles. We were essentially releasing regular update of the game with new contents, we were featuring our top creators, giving them like a form of social recognition, and yet the top creators, which we were really in close contact with, they were leaving. They were stopping coming back or not creating anymore on the sandbox and we were wondering what was wrong. And the issue is like, even if we are very passionate, even if they spend hours, sometimes days or weeks of their life into creating contents, like just social fame wasn't sufficient for them. Like wanted to know a form of recognition, form of like monetization, and even if we wanted to give them a form of monetization, like the platform did on the lowest, you cannot send a payment from your iPhone or Google Play to a user based on their profile directly. It's not permitted or facilitated, and that became a growing pain point Until we found about blockchain around 2017. We always dive into new technology. We tried to understand what was Bitcoin, how it work, the flip of work mechanism behind, and then we found about the first blockchain games and, having made games for eight years Almost eight years by then. Like the way, when you see a new game, you actually Benchmark it, you deconstruct it to understand what's great about it, and the first blockchain game back then was CryptoKitties. You were literally breeding virtual cats on the blockchain, each one being an NFT, a digital asset that you just could exchange between each other in. What was Really unique about that game was not the graphics, not the gameplay all that we've seen before. There was three things the first that the fact that, actually, the cats you didn't buy them from developer itself, you bought them from other players. And the fact that you didn't buy them on the game itself, but you bought them on an external website it's so called open seal eBay of digital asset. And the third thing is like, instead of buying them with credit card, fiat, you bought them with cryptocurrency. If you run by them and that's to us it came as a revelation at that moment say, wow, instead of virtual cats or virtual dolls, virtual whatever pets, what if you applied it to the content that people created on the platform? They could exchange it between users, they could sell it on marketplace, they could get be paid for that. And that really came to as a solution that we could apply to the sandbox Technology. That would benefit our creator. And at that point of time we said, yes, it's great, we can apply it, but maybe, instead of applying to the existing mobile game. Why don't we apply it to a new version? Let's take a chance to build a sandbox from the ground up, leveraging that technology the right way, adding multiplayer, adding 3D, adding a lot of content creation tools to turning it to a whole platform. That and Paul of credit.

Joeri:

Oh, I like that story with everything that that is coming together and how it has evolved. But now for people listening, how could you and probably they will know other gaming platforms, virtual worlds Like, maybe, man, minecraft or Roblox, or even like Decentraland and others? How would you say that the sandbox, uniquely, is different from these others?

Sébastien:

I think, like the sandbox is really different from other on many aspects. The first is the aesthetic with this, like Voxo, lot sort of like 3d cube digital Legos, very simple, very accessible, you can create simple thing or very versatile and complex composition. You can play with them. We have our no code game maker. People can use it and drag and drop to bring experience and then it's a virtual world that they centralized. That allows anyone to create 3d content or full games and experiences. That brings together a lot of brands like. And the second thing that makes us unique is we have over 400 brands from all around the world, not just the US, in fashion, in sport, music, entertainment, celebrities like Snoop Dogg, sivakie, paris Hilton, but also music label like War of Music. Fashion brand like Gucci or Lacoste. Gaming brand like Ubisoft or Atari have been present, and content from I don't know like Korea, japan, captain Tsupasa, toei Animation, sm Entertainment from Korea, turkey as well, india and so on. And people can own those visual assets, can mix them all together as they want, republish on their own lands and monetize as they want. I think that leads to the third thing that makes sandbox quite different is the map of sandbox. It's the way to access and to navigate in a virtual world is actually a map. So we have a finite map of a fixed number of land, 166 164 in total. Each one is an NFT on digital asset and the location of your land, which is this virtual space where you can publish experience for other users to access with avatar. This location matters a lot and instead of setting the map all at the beginning, everyone to build and that's it. We took our time. It's been already three years. We saw about 75% of the map. It was using new neighborhood where we curate brands, we curate celebrities, we create like project that communities to become virtual neighbors to each other. We launched land sale which are very popular and sell out and people can then join either land neighborhood about certain thematic, like cinema, about movies featuring skydance, lionsgate, hellboy or Piggy, blinder, black mirror, etc. Or if it it pulls with music, one music, etc. Or by temite, by region of the world, like turkish word, featuring a lot of local partners. The bad adverse from in japan brought the bodywood culture, lion city, korea verse Megacity for greater china culture and so on, and people enjoy this being together, building together as the actual neighbors and Growing that world with a lot of like very rich content culturally. So very often we say we are Not a gaming platform where platform we have social experiences, games, but also a museum, art gallery, virtual concerts, virtual landmark, architecture and many other thematics, and we bridge culture and a lot of diversity from Content from all around the world that we expose to our whole audience.

Joeri:

I love all these possibilities, actually how you explain it's stories that are created, band storytelling. It's also something that can really happen in the metaverse. Can you tell a bit about that.

Sébastien:

I love. It's very important, I think, like storytelling. That's what brings like brand value, brand loyalty, and that's also why many brands are looking for Sandbox. We have these very creative agents that have been using our local tool to create their own story, their own adventure and expand the universe from their favorite characters, their favorite brands. They can make their own, invent it from scratch, and they will be they're already and they will be many successful IPs built on Sandbox natively, but they also like work with their favorite characters from existing brands to develop their own adventures. So think of the little prince that joins Sandbox, or Care Bears, or the Smurf or the Rabbits, or we have their favorite cartoon character, favorite music artist. You can invent new worlds with them. You can invent new experiences, new adventures and you can play even as your favorite character, using it as your digital identity, as your avatar. Brands love it because it continues to expand the brand presence. It reinforces the link they have with the community and the fans. One of the best way. How do you express that you love something, that you're a fan of a brand, of a product? You can buy it. Of course, that's the most simplest form like you're a consumer, but you don't want to be just a consumer. You want to be an active participant and a feeling of belonging to a community. So you do other activities, you become an ambassador, you promote about it, you talk about it, you connect with other people who like it and you create with it. You create new content, new places, you try to curate content, etc. And it works really well, especially in virtual world, and we can see that through the engagement time that people spend 62 minutes on a daily basis on average in Sandbox. That's a lot of time, a lot of user and consumer attention that brands get from our creative community.

Joeri:

You mentioned brands. You don't know, Sabastien, about the Frit Son books. I'm writing a new book, actually around B2B and marketing in metaverse, so I have so many experiences obviously now I'm also looking at the Sandbox and yeah, I'm curious because it's maybe less likely. If you look at all the Sandbox looks like, maybe you will prove me wrong. How can businesses maybe use the Sandbox for their marketing or for them?

Sébastien:

I think they already started to find the answer. We are seeing a lot of demand from various businesses and industry verticals. Originally we thought it would be just entertainment I was majoring in music, sport, fashion, gaming, etc. But we also see like finance, banking, insurance, education work that jump into Sandbox. They build virtual land to show their presence in metaverse. They launch experiences and they really built a new what we call an ORM, an owner simulation model, where users come, they complete quests, which could be treasure hunt, fighting, parkour game, solving puzzles, platforming, connecting with older, etc. Through completing those quests they enter the rewards and they receive their sometimes their first digital asset, the first NFT. That comes from, like completing this event, from this experience, from their favorite brand. 92% of users who start an experience will go through the ORM. Even if it's 30 minutes or one hour to complete the ORM, to earn the reward, that shows a really strong engagement. That reward can be a digital asset, but we've also seen some brands like have both the digital assets, a wearable and equipment, a character on Sandbox, but also a digital asset sometimes could be that you earn a free ticket to an actual IRL event. You earn a unique collector item that can be like a custom t-shirt, hoodie, jersey for a football we've seen in Thailand. Or sometimes more surprising, like when we had a McDonald's or a London collaboration, like one year or three McNuggets, for example. Or during months of sharing, for Ramadan you had a box of bas-lava. Like a Turkish pass-rease shipped to your home, and so on. So it's really interesting to see how brands are experimenting and engaging consumers in this to benefit from it and that link, that connection that they have with those agencies. It's actually on shade, because once a user receives a digital asset on his wallet, you can continue engaging, you can continue giving them more utility for that asset. You can enable that asset to be playable into other experiences. You can use it as a ticket or a way to give them a discount when they go at their brick and mortar shop, irl and so on. So it's a simple link. Whereas when they invest marketing campaigns on social platforms let's say Instagram, facebook, youtube, etc first of all, like they have to spend to get the rich, they don't really control who watch what. They get five seconds, one minute attention span and they don't have the email. They don't have a way to reach again that user afterwards. So they are not building a long-term relationship they don't know what a user journey and you cannot really talk about like relationship management, in this case, like you're really just spanning without knowing the exact reach and visibility and in the end, is it better to span to reach me out of user which you cannot reengage and you have very little control over afterwards? Or is it better to spend less on the right now, smaller urgent needs, because we're still building in web 3,000, 10 of 1,000, 100 of 1,000 users, but very engaged and you can build up value with them over time as you enter this new ownership management?

Joeri:

Yeah, Like you said, lots of possibilities in the sandbox. Like you can create your own spaces. You can own spaces. You can just do the games over there. Marketers are, of course, an ideal audience. Of course there is the audience. It's a bit changing. I think More and more people are discovering it. You mentioned also NFTs, which can be useful. Is that the, I would say, something that is still talked about, because NFTs had at a certain moment, yeah, a better reputation? Is that something that you see in The Sandbox, or you don't even mention that it's an NFT, or does it work?

Sébastien:

We definitely see a lot of engagement from the brands. Every week there are new brands joining the platform, announcing that they are part of the sandbox of the metaverse. We're a real, true gateway for them to discover about Web 3, to learn about Web 3 and to see a utility behind with their virtual land and with the NFTs they would introduce, whether they are digital avatars or other content they will launch. It's up to the brand really to choose if they want to use the world NFT or talk about digital asset or focus on user-generated contents. For example, some are really fully on board and they assume totally that we are moving into Web 3. Some are more like we're moving into user-generated content and focus on the creative side. But at the end of the day, the technology is still there, the true ownership of your asset is there, the monetization of your content is possible and that's why brands and creators love Sandbox so much is because we were providing that. You see it here. We're enabling them to test and experiment and there is a lot of good, positive value that comes out of it.

Joeri:

I have no question that comes to my mind. We are now recording this podcast. Sebastian, Do you see this now or in the future maybe happening that I would be recording my podcast in my space in The Sandbox? Would it technically be something that would be possible?

Sébastien:

We've done. I've done, actually, a few podcast interviews directly within a land, in sandbox, and it's usually more fun because, like here, we are like recording each other and you can see it's very static, like we see our two-phase and we are not moving, we are forced to stay, et cetera. But within sandbox we actually could start playing together. We could be running to each other, I could be turning around you and maybe having a little dance at the same time as us. We become more expressive and drive as well more fun. It drives more like the body language, the emotes. There are another way to express what we do and I think it adds a lot of value, particularly if we are not just two. But then we can involve other people to listen and not just be sitting and listening passively but going on with us, et cetera. That creates even more excitement, I think.

Joeri:

Yeah, I've done some events like you are there and you have people, you create excitement, people being there and also the gaming aspect. I see that people, when they come to the metaverse, even if the events are a bit more serious, they like to explore, to do some dances, to do stuff. You also have a role in the blockchain game alliance, so I'm also a bit curious about yeah, how are you there, what are you doing there and how are you integrating, I think, blockchain in the gaming? That's what you're doing in the gaming industry. That's what you're doing there, right, oh yeah, muted. Yeah, that's right.

Sébastien:

I became the president of the Blockchain Game Alliance in 2019. It was already created and was roughly 30 members. It's a non-profit association which has a very simple mission is like to explain better, like the possibilities that blockchain technology brings within the video game industry, because there's still a lot of misconception about like blockchain as a technology. Some people still have, like this misconception or opinion that it's actually bad, they are not real games, etc. So they don't value the work of the entrepreneur, the teams or building creative product, innovative model, or they don't understand the benefit. We're here to explain, showcase what the members are doing in terms of games, how fun they are, what kind of benefit they provide by realigning the interest and incentive between players, creators, platforms, and today it's an association that counts 600 members and has a team of three actually four full-time people in short of representing them, being present at various conferences, exploring around the world, speaking, organizing members dinners, breakfast and other activities to allow them to gain new users, get more visibility, to sometimes connect with business partners or even fundraise with investors. We publish monthly reports every month. We showcase the new members what they are doing and we also have, once a year, an industry survey from all our members where we share like metrics from the general sentiment, from the industry itself, for people to understand what are the challenges that we perceive and where we see the industry moving from.

Joeri:

Something else we talked about Web3 NFTs nfts, blockchain, metaverse. For me in my definition, I always find that AI is also part of this new technologies and part of this work tree. I would say space. How, if you see, with everything that happens with AI, how do you see the integration of AI in blockchain and gaming and stuff, and how do you see there any exciting things happening?

Sébastien:

I see a lot of exciting things in the space of AI Every six months. I feel like we're advancing so fast, moving from just generating content from static images to video, to video and now to 3D models. The technologies are going to facilitate onboarding many people to become creators, democratizing content creation with just typing, or it's accelerating the creative process for making games. Typically. I think the AI as well is, and the blockchain can help on defining the proof of authorship, like who is the original creator of some IDs, so that whenever AI is using a spot of its model, like certain data set and sample, you can know which are the source, which are the original creators that contributed to it. In case of sandbox, we're already using AI for the past two years for content moderation, like using toxicity, and making sure everyone has a very safe and enjoyable experience when they enter, chat with the other world and chat with the other cars. We're using AI as well for generating, like capturing body movement, so you just take with your smartphone a video and then the way the human body moves that's connected to is applied to virtual avatar and it can dance, it can wave, it can say hi, it can hug in the same way, which makes our characters feel more lively in virtual world. We've already seen AI at work with giving life to NPCs, so even the characters that are non-human start to feel as human, almost like it becomes indiscreet, shibble to see and create more inversion, make people spend more time, make the interaction deeper, more richer. We've seen as well a generative AI like creating 2D content, 3d content and even whole world within just one sentence, which is also very exciting for the development of the networks.

Joeri:

When I think about AI and all these possibilities. You can clone voices, you can use video, you can create this not avatars, but real people that you think it's them, but it's just, I would say, a fake In the metaverse. You are there with your avatar and you talked about digital identity. Will there be a possibility that we can know? Okay, I'm seeing you on the sandbox and, oh, this is really Sebastien, because it's linked to its digital identity and it's not someone else. Is there a possibility to do that, or is it already in place?

Sébastien:

Yes, I think it's going to be easier actually to define who is the real person behind, like a virtual character that you see on screen. And why is that? It's because if an avatar is attached to a wallet, the wallet like a DID or decentralized identity attached behind, where we prove that someone is like you can. You can have a lot of granularity. You can prove like the whole identity of a person, or you can prove like a certain parameter, like his branch is above 80, under 18, and so on, without disclosing all the rest. I feel like we're going to see a lot of progression in the idea that being anonymous isn't really a thing and, like we all, our digital identity and our physical identity will be more and more like. We can have multiple. We can have multiple digital or virtual identities, depending on the platform, where we want, what activities, what committees we belong, but we are. If we wish, we can indeed really prove who we are and trust the verifier, trust the DID solution or which is so much better than the current solution, that are in place with KYC.

Joeri:

I love that you have digital identities. Depending on what you want to do, you can be anonymous if it's just for a game, or if it's like for a meeting or a podcast or something business related. Maybe you want to be sure that that is the right person. Yes, sebastian, I'm excited about everything that is happening, so thank you so much for having been on the show. If people want to reach out to you or they want to discover the sandbox, where would you like to send them?

Sébastien:

I think, like the main www. sandbox. game website, is the starting point for anyone. You can learn more about what we do. Try the creation tool or try creating your avatar and start exploring some of the content on the map. There's more than 400 experiences made by creators, many brands and experiences there as well, so that will give you a first feeling of what's possible, what's the metaverse looking like right now, and it may hopefully inspire you to participate, to build and to bring to life your craziest ideas on the metaverse.

Joeri:

The metaverse I've seen other ones that are slow. For me, it was a really nice experience to start to discover it, so I can encourage everyone to take a look. So thanks again, sebastian, thank you, thank you everyone, and see you in the Metaverse then. Yeah, guys, we see the Metaverse. But also, if you think that this episode is interesting for people around you, be sure to share it with them, because I think Sebastian gave a lot of food for thought. Also, if you're not yet subscribed to the podcast the Web3 CMO Stories podcast is a really good moment to do this, and I hope to see you back on the podcast or in metaverse. Take care Bye.

Could you share a bit about your transition from mobile gaming to the blockchain space, including key moments leading to your co-founding of The Sandbox?
Given that people are likely familiar with gaming platforms and virtual worlds like Minecraft, Roblox, and Decentraland, what sets The Sandbox apart uniquely from these others?
How can businesses utilize The Sandbox for marketing or other purposes?
Do people still talk about NFTs, and is The Sandbox part of that conversation? Does The Sandbox promote its NFT features, or does it focus on other aspects?
Do you foresee the possibility of recording your podcast within The Sandbox in the future? 
Could you elaborate on your role within the Blockchain Game Alliance and how you're integrating blockchain technology into the gaming industry through your involvement there?
How do you envision the integration of AI in blockchain and gaming, considering the advancements in AI technology? Are there any exciting developments you foresee in this intersection?
Is there a possibility, or is it already implemented, for individuals to verify someone's digital identity within The Sandbox, ensuring that when they encounter an avatar, they can be certain it represents the correct person?