SoftBank Leads $680M Funding for NFT Fantasy Football Gamemaker Sorare

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SoftBank led a $680 million funding round for non-replaceable token (NFT) fantasy football collecting game platform so rare. The investment values ​​Sorare at $4.3 billion, and it speaks to investors’ confidence in the combination of blockchain games and fantasy sports.

The round is the largest Series B (second institutional round) for a European game company, and Paris-based Sorare will use the money to acquire new licenses for its NFT products and hire new people.

The amazing thing about this funding is that Sorare currently only has 30 employees. At this point, the developers of Electronic Arts who create FIFA Soccer, the most popular soccer video game in the world, may be wondering what they are missing here when it comes to NFT soccer games.

Thibaut Predhomme, Sorare’s head of operations, said in an interview with GamesBeat that the company will open an office in the US in the coming months to recruit staff.

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“It’s really about creating meaningful connections using the maps. The magic happens at the intersection of collectivity and sports,” he said. “It’s based on the real-life performance of the players, and this game allows fans to really connect with the players and what’s happening in real life. .”

Players do not have to wager money or pay any fees to participate in leagues. If football star Cristiano Ronaldo scores a goal in real life, he can score in the game and players can earn more points, Predhomme said. Players can purchase cards based on their favorite players and teams and then play with those cards in fantasy football leagues.

“At the end of the game week, you’ll win exciting prizes like extra NFTs and merchandise,” said Predhomme.

Enormous growth

Above: Sorare founders Nicolas Julia (left) and Adrien Montfort.

Image credit: Sorare

Founded in 2018 by Nicolas Julia and Adrien Montfort, Sorare was created by football fans to be ‘the game within the game’.

Predhomme said the company has seen massive growth this year with more than $150 million worth of cards traded on the platform since January. The number of monthly active paying Sorare users grew 34 times from the second quarter of 2020 to the second quarter of 2021, with quarterly sales increasing 51 times over the same period.

Sorare has over 600,000 registered users on the platform and has licensed players from over 180 football organizations including Real Madrid, Liverpool, Juventus, the French and German Football Associations. That’s a huge amount of revenue considering the small number of users, and that exemplifies the kind of market potential for the company if it manages to gain tens of millions of users, as is possible with many mobile games.

But the money will be useful if the business reaches a critical point. The company must scale and hire highly skilled people for its operations, and it must secure and protect its intellectual property and bring on board people who can, said Predhomme.

The company’s ambition in football is to bring on board the top 20 football leagues worldwide and the top 50 football associations, not only for men’s football but also for women’s football. Notably, the company will bring more North American clubs into play.

NFT popularity

Above: The Sorare gaming arena.

Image credit: Sorare

NFTs use blockchain’s transparent and secure ledger to uniquely identify digital assets. That means rare digital items can be sold for higher prices in NFT-based games. While confusing or uninteresting to mainstream gamers, NFTs have been extremely popular with crypto enthusiasts who are also gaming fans.

The market for NFTs rose to new highs in the second quarter of 2021, with $2.5 billion in revenue in the first half of the year, up from just $13.7 million in the first half of 2020. NFTs have exploded in other applications such as art, sports collectibles and music. NBA top shot (a digital take on collectible basketball cards) is one such example.

Published by Brave Labs, NBA Top Shot has surpassed $710 million in revenue in just one year. And an NFT digital collage sold by the artist Beeple at Christie’s for $69.3 million. Investors are depositing money in NFTs and some of those investors are gaming fans. Weekly earnings for NFTs peaked in May and then collapsed, but in August they were revenues were bigger than ever. In the first half of the year, $2.5 billion worth of NFTs were sold.

The investment

Above: Players can purchase NFT collectible cards for soccer stars in Sorare.

Image credit: Sorare

In addition to SoftBank, investors included Atomico, Bessemer Ventures, D1 Capital, Eurazeo, IVP and LionTree, as well as existing investors including Benchmark, Accel, Headline and leading business angels.

Footballers Gerard Pique, Antoine Griezmann, Rio Ferdinand and César Azpilicueta also participated in the round. In addition to the investment, Marcelo Claure, CEO of SoftBank Group International and COO of SoftBank Group, will join Sorare’s board of directors.

The reason the company has attracted so much attention is that it operates at the intersection of NFTs, sports cards (a $5 billion market) and global fantasy sports (expected to grow to $48 billion by 2027), generating a multi-billion dollar market. total addressable market opportunity.

Sorare’s large presence in Asia, Europe and the Americas was important to SoftBank, Predhomme said.

Sorare will use this investment to quickly accelerate its mission to build a gaming experience that sets a new standard for how fans around the world connect with the clubs and players they love, Predhomme said. Sorare will also expand to other sports so that everyone can celebrate their passion and experience the unique world of NFT fantasy sports.

Sorare cards are NFTs, which means that each card is unique and scarce, and its ownership can be publicly verified through the Ethereum blockchain. It is a secure and transparent model of digital ownership. By collecting, owning and trading these limited edition digital collectibles, Sorare designs a unique gaming experience where users can really own their game and build real connections.

The game started on top of Ethereum and then switched to the StarkWare Layer 2 protocol so that it could make fast transactions for millions of fans in an environmentally friendly way.

“The user doesn’t really see it as being on the blockchain,” Predhomme said.

One of the differences between the game and other NFT projects is that the NFTs are not the end in itself. They are more used to playing the game,

Predhomme said the company has succeeded in making a simple product out of something that could have been very complex.

“We’ve succeeded with NFTs because we’ve managed to build something simple,” he said. “And we’ve been able to secure valuable IP for those NFTs through our licensing contracts.”

The future of monetization with sports

Above: A Sorare card for Robert Lewandowski.

Image credit: Sorare

This next-generation gaming experience enables leagues and clubs to expand their international brand by reaching an untapped audience of fans. Sorare effectively opens up a new traceable and sustainable revenue stream for professional sports organizations worldwide, Predhomme said.

Sorare hopes to replicate his model in other sports, expanding his team by taking on key roles and launching ambitious marketing campaigns with partners, athletes and media companies.

Marcelo Claure, CEO of SoftBank Group International and chief operating officer of SoftBank Group, said in a statement that Sorare is at the crossroads of the exciting industries of digital collectibles and fantasy sports. He said Sorare’s growth alone this year shows that football fans around the world have been eagerly awaiting a new kind of trading game.

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