The Sandbox has been one of the true success stories of early Web3 and blockchain gaming. However, it’s taking shape as something original in concept, and not only in its application of blockchain technology; it is becoming a meta game.
Confusingly, I don’t mean “meta” in the sense of the metaverse, but rather in the way it is meant in “metaphysics” for example. That is, it is a game that transcends traditional gaming while also being a part of it. Let me unpack this.
What Is a Meta Game?
Firstly, this term — like “rug slip” — is one I’ve loosely coined. Although a game’s “meta” usually refers to its systems, trends, and mechanics, I mean it in the wider sense of the industry at large. That is, a meta game is a game that doesn’t so much compete with other games, but rather inducts them and partners with them.
In many ways, this is what some believe the gaming district of the metaverse will be, though I suspect that’s idealistic. Instead — and again, somewhat confusingly — this game that calls itself a metaverse is truly a mini-metaverse for games.
How The Sandbox Is a Mini-Metaverse for Gaming
There are three ways in which The Sandbox is ascending into an original, meta role within gaming, and it all revolves around content within the game. For those unfamiliar with The Sandbox, it is a virtual world in which players can build and monetize gaming experiences using $SAND, a utility token on Ethereum. So, what are the three ways?
Player-created “experiences” are the least unique and meta aspect of The Sandbox, but that is certainly not to say it isn’t important to the game’s fabric and breadth. Player-created content is central to games of this nature, particularly when they’re as expansive as The Sandbox. This constant flow of content makes for varied and perpetually interesting gameplay, which is how similar titles such as Minecraft have developed their cult following (not that we like them right now.)
Brands Within Games
One of The Sandbox’s crowning achievements is the IPs and brands it has inducted into its blocky walls; from Snoop Dogg to The Walking Dead, there are many dedicated areas, games, and experiences for players. Anyone who has played an MMORPG will know that a game can be far richer than its most fundamental gameplay mechanics. There is no better way to keep that peripheral content entertaining and inviting than through mixed media IPs.
This is an area we have seen other games touch on — Fortnite has been particularly strong at partnering with IPs, for example — but few in quite as interactive and engaging a way. Generally, these sorts of collaborations between games and other brands have been cosmetic, not experiential. The Sandbox’s partnerships with brands and IPs represent a widening of gaming’s scope and the start of a tectonic shift in marketing.
Games Within Games
It is here that we summit the mountain of originality within gaming and the primary reason that The Sandbox is becoming a meta game. Not only is The Sandbox collaborating with other games — something we have seen on occasion before within the industry — but they’re doing so in a way where mini-games are created within The Sandbox world. There’s no non-repetitive way of putting this: Games are creating smaller versions of their games within a game.
This is not a type of collaboration many would have predicted 10 years ago and it is counter-intuitive in many ways; advertising your game or franchise by creating a game or experience in a different game seems the wrong way to get players onto your own title. Nevertheless, that’s what we’re beginning to see. Atari is building an official RollerCoaster Tycoon theme park, The Walking Dead has a complex survival experience, and now Tony Hawk has a brilliant-looking skate experience complete with a skatepark builder.
It is worth noting that these IPs, brands, and games that create content within The Sandbox also often make content creation by players possible too. This doubles down on the potential value.
If you subscribe to the view that we’re very early in blockchain gaming’s life — which I do — then we can only expect the volume and quality of these collaborations between The Sandbox and other games to improve. The Sandbox could conceivably become a social hub that gamers use not only as a lobby, but as casual entertainment and a creative outlet. If The Sandbox were to add rewards for other games they partner with — similar to what Twitch has with its drops — it could easily become a crucial cog in the industry and a potential taste-maker.