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A metaverse is a virtual world where players can hang out, chat with friends, buy virtual real estate and even earn income.
Most metaverse games use nonfungible tokens (NFTs) as virtual parcels of land, clothing, avatars and other in-game assets. The players themselves “own” these games and their assets, creating a functioning economy that isn’t governed by a single entity.
Decentraland and The Sandbox are both metaverse games that allow players to own, buy and sell NFT collectibles. These games are very similar at first glance. Both are free to play and join, and buying digital assets — like virtual real estate — is how you progress. However, fees, plots of available land and capabilities are how they differ.
If you’re looking to focus on one metaverse, here’s how they compare.
Decentraland vs. Sandbox: Snapshot comparison
Compare the features of these two metaverse games side by side:
|Plots of land||90,000 parcels||166,464 parcels|
|Tokens in circulation||MANA: over 1.8 billion||SAND: over 1.06 billion|
|Crypto wallet required||No, but a software wallet required to store digital assets.||Yes|
|Wallets supported||Software wallets that can be integrated with browsers. Recommends MetaMask.||MetaMask, Bitskit and Venly|
|Marketplace fees||2.5% MANA cost in all transactions||5% fee applied to all transactions|
Launched in 2017, Decentraland is built on the Ethereum network, developed by Esteban Ordano and Ari Meilich. It’s a 3D metaverse game that focuses on land sales and player engagement and uses NFT technology at nearly every level. It states that it’s the “first-ever virtual world owned by its users.”
Decentraland has over 600M active monthly users. Just to give you an idea of the scope and earning potential of this game: A play-to-earn poker game within Decentraland has around 6,000 unique players each day, generating more than $7.5M in revenue, reported by CoinDesk.
You don’t need a cryptocurrency wallet to play and explore Decentraland, but you need one to open earning capabilities and purchase in-game NFTs.
Players can explore, chat, create and sell unique avatar wearables and even trade ERC-721 game tokens.
Image source: Decentraland
Play-to-earn strategies in Decentraland:
- Buy and sell LAND.
- Mint avatar wearables to be sold at Decentraland’s market.
- Earn royalties from wearable creations on secondary market sales (coming soon!).
- Design your own play-to-earn games, scenes, challenges and more using the tool builder.
- Stake MANA with third-party providers.
The Sandbox breakdown
The Sandbox is also built on the Ethereum blockchain. The game was originally created by the game studio Pixow in 2012 as a mobile phone game. It later became a PC game and was acquired and relaunched by Animoca brands in 2018.
Like Decentraland, The Sandbox is a decentralized 3D world-building game that uses NFT technology, but it also uses voxel assets to create 3D items. It has over two million registered users to date. Style-wise, it looks similar to Minecraft — where Decentraland looks more realistic than blocky.
Players need a cryptocurrency wallet to sign up and play, and the game supports three software wallets: MetaMask, Bitskit and Venly.
You can access the Voxel Editor to create 3D models (animals, avatars, vehicles, animations and more), buy and sell NFTs on The Sandbox Marketplace or use the Game Maker to make your own play-to-earn games on LAND — owned NFT virtual parcels.
Play-to-earn strategies in The Sandbox:
- Create NFTs to sell on the market.
- Create pay-to-play games.
- Buy and sell LAND.
- Rent LAND to other users.
- Stake SAND-ETH on Uniswap or mSAND-MATIC on Polygon (and LAND staking soon).
Decentraland vs. The Sandbox: Real estate
Virtual real estate is available in many metaverses. In both Decentraland and The Sandbox, the virtual parcels are called LAND, which are NFTs, and have nearly identical purposes.
Depending on the metaverse, virtual parcels can be decorated with art NFTs, used as a place to host events or a place to build play-to-earn games and earn.
MANA is Decentraland’s native cryptocurrency, an ERC-20 token. It can be burned, spent in-game or used to buy LAND parcels. As of March 2022, MANA is valued at $2.49 USD, according to CoinMarketCap.
There are 90,000 LAND parcels. The parcels can be bought with MANA or Ethereum (ETH). Individual parcels are 16 square meters, virtually, and can have unique attributes that increase its value — near a district, road adjacent, waterfront, etc.
You can use LAND to host events, play games that you or other users create or interact with other players.
Since Decentraland only has 90,000 LANDs available, there’s more scarcity than The Sandbox’s total of 166,464. In terms of value, once all The Sandbox LANDs are claimed, which real estate is more valuable remains to be seen.
Mortgages in Decentraland
You read that correctly — you can take out a mortgage in Decentraland for LAND. Decentraland and Ripio Credit Network (RCN) partner to make mortgages possible — with the use of smart contracts — so LAND is more accessible to players.
While browsing LAND for sale on the Decentraland Marketplace, you can choose a LAND and select REQUEST MORTGAGE. An application requires you to enter the amount requested (in MANA). You’ll be required to make a 10% down payment of the LAND value.
However, putting in a mortgage doesn’t take the LAND off the market, and like a traditional loan, there are loan agreements and interest rates. The LAND is taken off the market once a lender fulfills the mortgage request. You’ll make periodic payments until the amount is paid in full, then you can officially claim the parcel.
Users purchase LAND — ERC-721 NFTs — with SAND, the game’s native currency. SAND is valued at $2.93 USD, according to CoinMarketCap, at the time of writing.
Out of the 166,464 pieces of LAND, The Sandbox holds 16,704 to host special in-game events, and 25,920 LANDs are held in reserve for The Sandbox’s partners, creators and the like, according to StealthOptional. This means that 123,840 LANDs are, or will be, available for purchase.
To buy LAND from The Sandbox directly, look for official LAND sales on The Sandbox’s marketplace, announced on social media channels. Once LAND sales are sold out, or there isn’t an active sale, you’ll have to buy LAND on secondary mixed marketplaces, like Rarible and OpenSea.
LAND is used to host events, build games on and populate with ASSETs. Owners of LAND can also rent out parcels to other users. How often players use your LAND correlates to how much you can earn while playing.
LAND parcels can be combined to form ESTATEs, and an ESTATE that’s owned by more than one person is called a DISTRICT, which can be broken up into smaller LANDs.
On Decentraland Marketplace, there’s a 2.5% MANA cost in all transactions. There’s a 5% fee applied to all transactions on The Sandbox’s marketplace.
On both metaverses, you also need to pay a transaction fee — gas fee — when you interact with the Ethereum blockchain.
Compatible exchange: Gemini Cryptocurrency Exchange
- Wide range of exchangeable currencies
- User friendly
- Newcomer incentives
- Insurance on currency balances up to $250k
- Balances can earn interest
- High fees on mobile app
- Missing some notable top 20 currencies
- No linked debit cards available
Gemini's strongest point is its Gemini Earn program, which allows users to earn up to 7.4% interest on specified cryptocurrency balances.
Gemini has a wide selection of cryptos available for exchange on the platform. However, some notable entries from the top 20 by market cap are missing, such as Cardano and Solana.
|Deposit Methods||Bank transfer (ACH)
|Deposit Fees||Cryptocurrency: None
Bank transfer (ACH): None, bank fees may apply
Wire Transfer: Determined by your bank
Debit Card: 3.49% + Trading Fees
Paypal: 2.50% of total deposit amount + Trading Fees
|Withdrawal Fees||Cryptocurrency: None (for 10 withdrawals and below per month)
Others: None (for 10 withdrawals and below per month)
|Trading Fees||Taker fee - 0.03-0.4%
Maker fee - 0-0.2%
How do these games make money and who runs them?
Decentraland is overseen by the nonprofit Decentraland Foundation. The game makes money by issuing and holding MANA tokens. When it first started, it raised $26M by selling MANA to investors, according to Product Mint. Decentraland also makes money from transaction fees on its marketplace.
Similar to Decentraland, The Sandbox makes money from issuing and selling SAND tokens, and other digital assets. It’s overseen by Animoca Brands. The Sandbox also earns money from transaction fees on its marketplace.
Compare marketplaces to buy NFTs
Our final take
Overall, the games are similar, with both referring to virtual parcels as LAND, similar native currency values and a nearly identical way to earn income.
Both games lack VR support. However, in Decentraland, there’s talk of adding VR support soon.
Decentraland offers players the ability to take out mortgages to get LAND, which is a huge plus for players without the budget to pay for pricey LAND out of pocket. Additionally, creators will be able to earn royalties from NFTs created in game.
To progress in either game, you need a crypto wallet, some cryptocurrency to make LAND purchases to open up earning opportunities — and time on your hands. Both games are free to try, so giving each a test run could help you decide which is your cup of tea.
- CoinDesk “Who’s Using the Metaverse? Poker Players in Decentraland” Feb 3 2022
- CoinMarketCap “MANA”
- CoinMarketCap “SAND”
- StealthOptional “The Sandbox Land: How Much LAND Is Left In The Sandbox And How Big Is Sandbox LAND?” Dec 15 2021
- ProductMint “The Decentraland Business Model” January 25, 2022
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