There were recently two large NFT sales of for the popular crypto-gaming entities, Splinterlands and Sandbox. Both were selling lands in their games, and neither sale went very well.
Splinterlands: New Horizons
For Splinterlands, offering lands for sale is a completely new direction for them, perhaps inspired a bit by the Axie land sale. And much like Axies, the ability to use the land in a meaningful way, is a long way off from the actual sale -- at least a year in Splinterlands' case.
Nonetheless, it seemed like an interesting prospect both from a gameplay standpoint and as a potential long-term investment opportunity.
Going up for sale during this first round were 30,000 plots, purchasable in lots of 1 (Plot), 100 (Tract), or 1000 (Region). Not only was this the first sale, but these plots would also be considered alpha land, which would infer some sort of yet-to-be-decided bonus once land functionality was up and running. There was quite a bit of expressed interest in this sale, and in response to growing concern in the community about there not being enough land to go around, they decided to set aside 27,000 of the plots, in region-sized chunks, and offer these up in a lottery to those willing to put down their money up-front. Some high-rollers who could afford an entire region on their own threw down, while others created pools so that players with less resources could still get a chance to acquire one of these initial lands. Twenty-seven thousand plots in 1,000 plot chunks equates to 27 potential lottery winners.
The lottery entrants accumulated throughout the days leading up to the sale, with a final day surge pushing the lottery hopefuls to 50 -- 23 more than the slots available! This should probably have set off some alarm bells immediately. There were people willing to put down enough money to buy 50,000 plots before the official sale even began, and there were only 30,000 plots available. So after the initial lottery distribution, there is still enough interested coins in the ecosystem to buy the remaining 3,000 plots eight times over -- and that doesn't include those poor fools (such as myself), that thought we would have a chance to grab a Plot or two on our own.
The lottery came and went smoothly. Some won the lottery, some didn't. An hour passed. The sale went live -- and it was done. Just like that. By the time I refreshed my page it was too late. The remaining 3,000 plots sold out in 21 seconds!
As you might imagine, there were quite a few disappointed folks standing around with bags of Dark Energy Crystals thinking WTF as the value of those bags dropped 20% nearly instantly.
To give some credit to the team, they did host an AMA later that day and also released a YouTube video to discuss the issues around the sale.
There will be a second land sale coming soon, though this time the remainder plots will be acquired via an overall lottery.
Sandbox Drowned In the Tide
If Splinterlands was a disaster, the Sandbox sale could only be described as a spectacular shitshow.
For Sandbox, land is what they are all about. They've already been through a number of presales, and this one looked to be not much different from the others. There was a last minute postponement of the plot sale near Smurf territory, but it didn't seem like too big of a deal (unless you were really hoping for one of those Smurf NFTs!). Everything seemed smooth leading up to the sale launch.
However, once the sale went live, things went downhill quickly. Actually, I'm not sure that's an apt analogy, as the sale really just started at the bottom and somehow got worse from there. For starters, the map just wouldn't load.
A few lucky folks managed to get in, but from the Discord and Twitch chats, it seemed to be an extremely small fraction of those present. After some time of non-functionality for the majority, the team shut down the site and made some changes. After over an hour, they brought back the timer for the sale start with no fanfare or announcement.
This second time around I was actually able to see the map and click on plots, but it still wasn't loading properly and soon after the site went down again.
The Sandbox team declared that the sale was closed and they would work on solutions to the problem. But here's the kicker. The sale was in fact not completely closed. Apparently people could sometimes get in and make land purchases, and so they did. In the end, 81% of the available land was sold, to a very small minority of the users.
In their official post-mortem, they say that 5,000 users tried to login and ,
We sold 81% of the available LAND to 840 unique users — including 621 first time land owners (73%)
Well that whole 'first time land owner' bit sounds great on paper, but I would bet that a lot of that traffic was people with multiple wallets running bots. Of the 5,000 attempted users, only 840 were able to make it in. That's about 17% of the official traffic numbers. Only 17%, but they somehow bought 81% of the available land!? That seems suspicious. In fact, that reeks of bot work to me. I would bet that those '621 first time land owners' are not in fact individuals overjoyed to acquire their first land in Sandbox during their worst website outage ever. I would say that most of those users were bots from wealthy individuals and/or organizations trying to grab as much as they can, and in doing so, brought the system to its knees for the regular users.
lands near Atari almost all claimed
And as with Splinterlands, the value of the purchasing currency (SAND in this case), dropped drastically, leaving those who were unable to get lands with a significant value loss.
Now some folks might say, "well, it's cryptocurrency. Everything is a risk!" But that's not what we want here. Right? We want to do better than that and make the cryptocurrency ecosystems something that is inviting and usable by all.
"Haven't your bought tickets from Ticketmaster?" is another defense I see on Discord. Yes, yes I have, as a matter of fact. But it was a horrible experience, and I really doubt that either of these companies want to follow the path blazed by a widely reviled corporate entity.
Both teams have stated that they will follow up soon with their plans for upcoming sales and will be looking to solicit community feedback on the processes.
Which is well and great. But as someone who had invested funds into both sales and came out empty handed for the week, I do have to admit that I am a bit salty! I've spent money directly in transaction fees and acquiring the right kind of cryptocurrency for each sale. I have nothing to show for it with only a vague hope of having another chance, although at a higher price point, and with perhaps lands that are not as valuable as the ones I missed out on this week. This is a disheartening place to be.
I understand that shit happens sometimes, and I may still go after the lands I had hope to acquire this week, but I'm not as confident in that decision as I was last week. And that, perhaps, is the biggest hit that the Splinterlands and Sandbox teams will take over these disasters -- the degradation of trust from significant portion of their userbase. I hope that they are able to earn it back.