The metaverse represents an early opportunity in Web3 for brands to regain their customer relationships, previously mediated by Web 2.0 platforms, according to Sebastien Borget, co-founder of The Sandbox, a Hong Kong-based online and virtual world. Unlike traditional web platforms, the metaverse enables a more direct and user-centric approach, enabling brands to bypass platforms and re-engage users via digital assets and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
Several brands have already launched successful NFT collections and digital experiences, tapping into the new digital economy.
Yehudah Petscher, NFT strategist at Forkast Labs, sat down with Borget to shed light on the burgeoning metaverse — a myriad of virtual worlds anyone can access via their digital identities or avatars. Highlighting the freedom of inter-world navigation, Borget delineated the revolutionary potential of the metaverse to redefine digital life, ownership, and commerce.
In reference to The Sandbox, Borget discussed how the platform empowers individuals to create, own, and monetize their 3D content or experiences. Using the analogy of “digital Legos,” Borget painted a picture of an accessible, user-driven platform, where anyone could become a virtual neighbor to their favorite brands or artists.
In addition, Borget expressed optimism for the future of the metaverse and NFTs in relation to U.S. technology titan Apple’s unveiling of its Vision Pro headset, a mixed-reality eyewear device, heralding a significant leap forward in technological innovation.
The following Q&A has been edited for clarity and length.
Yehudah Petscher: Sebastien, what is the metaverse?
Sebastien Borget: We see the metaverse as this myriad of virtual worlds that anyone can access through an avatar — that’s digital identities or 3D characters — that becomes our representation of ourselves into those virtual worlds that are more social, more immersive and more creative thanks to technology.
We have this ability with our avatar to move between any of those virtual worlds without having to ask permission to the games, the platform or the services that are hosting them. For the first time ever, our avatar, all our digital belongings, whether they are wearable equipment, game items, virtual land or virtual houses, we can take that with us in any of those worlds. We can exchange it with other users, and we can sell it on marketplaces and start monetizing it even outside of the platform. That’s the true idea underneath the metaverse, and that’s the start of a whole digital journey and a digital economy where we truly own all our digital life and our digital content and can use it anywhere we want.
Petscher: I’ve watched as brands came into the space attracted by what the metaverse has to offer. You work closely with these brands. What is it that they see in the metaverse that has them so interested in it and really flocking to it now for multiple years?
Borget: Many brands have missed the opportunity of technology and how it can be leveraged to engage with their customers, their audience and their fans. So they were late in adopting the first generation of the internet and publishing information online.
They were kind of late as well in the space of social media and Web 2.0 in general, where they could interact with the audience by posting more user-generated content (UGC). When they did join, they finally understood that, progressively, they were giving up the relationship they have with those users to the platform that owned the data behind that relationship.
For the first time, they are early into Web3. They understand that users owning their data and offering a community-driven and user-centric approach which is at the center of the value proposition in Web3 was also a way for them to win back that relationship with their audience because they could reactivate them, bypassing the platform and having a more direct relationship where once the users connect themselves with their wallets or receive digital assets, it can be reengaged into multiple experiences or multiple use cases behind, and they find that opportunity exciting.
We’re already at the stage where brands have launched experiences. They have launched NFTs or digital asset collections. They have had success metrics in terms of engagement with those communities, and they are already at a stage where they are sharing those success stories.
Petscher: What is The Sandbox, and what are the brands doing in the game right now?
Borget: The Sandbox itself is like a platform where anyone can make 3D content or experiences, truly own them and monetize them the way they want. We chose voxels as a representation. Think of it like digital Legos because it’s very simple and very accessible. Anyone knows how to use it without reading the user manual. We also have a no-code game maker where you can essentially drag and drop your 3D content and start creating immersive experiences. We offer the possibility to own a piece of digital real estate called “LAND” in a finite map where you can become the virtual neighbor of your favorite brand, music artist or the Web3 community. You can also grow and leverage your audience as a very UGC-driven creative platform.
Petscher: We saw Apple finally unveiled its Vision Pro headset. I know Apple didn’t mention anything about NFTs or the metaverse, but I had to tell people that I think Apple’s Vision Pro might be the single most important thing to happen to NFTs since maybe, CryptoPunks.
What do you think about the product, and is that also going to usher people into the metaverse?
Borget: This is a major technological improvement with great computing power. It has the potential to trigger a new wave of innovation, a new wave of experimentation.
I do believe it’s a great step up for what can become the metaverse, allowing people to interact with their virtual assets in the physical world, making them part of their reality because of the quality of the graphics, the quality of the interaction, making it so seamless and through digital ownership could benefit from that as well as like our asset, our surrounding us even more.
Petscher: There’s a whole assortment of assets that people can invest in now in the metaverse and the digital ecosystem that is NFTs. It’s exciting to say that Forkast Labs and The Sandbox have partnered to make a new metaverse index that will measure the value of these assets, specifically NFTs, that are part of the metaverse focus. Why is it so important to measure those assets? What can the public gain from this new metaverse index?
Borget: It’s really important to share as much data. That’s one of the strengths we have in Web3. the data is publicly available on-chain on a trusted public ledger that provides transparency and a level of trust so that not just a single party can alter that data. You don’t have to rely on APIs like in the traditional web, Web 2.0. Collecting that data across not just one virtual world or platform like The Sandbox, but across the overall ecosystem of Web3 and multiple decentralized virtual worlds in the metaverse is like helping brands and people who are not in the intrinsic day-to-day of what’s happening to get a more high-level curated view of the activities.
We need external companies that analyze the data, provide those indexes, and provide this level of intelligence on top of the raw data to grow the industry and the Web3 ecosystem.