Sorare, the Web3 startup behind NFT-based fantasy sports games, will launch an officially-licensed fantasy NBA platform.
The Sorare NBA game will coexist with Dapper Labs’ well-known NBA Top Shot, as well as the NBA’s own The Association project.
Sorare’s Ethereum-based fantasy soccer platform helped spearhead the rise of both NFT gaming and digital sports collectibles, and the firm recently expanded into baseball with an official MLB game. Now Sorare plans to enter NBA Top Shot’s turf with the upcoming launch of an official NBA fantasy basketball game.
Created in partnership with the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), the platform will let users collect and utilize Ethereum NFT cards based on pro players from the league. Like Sorare’s soccer and baseball games, users can create a lineup from their owned NFT players and enter leagues that provide ETH and NFT card rewards to top performers.
As with those platforms, the NBA platform will also provide a free-to-play experience for users who choose not to purchase NFTs. In the case of Sorare’s original soccer game, for example, new users are provided a starter pack of free player cards that are not on-chain NFTs and cannot be resold.
Sorare plans to launch the NBA game in time for the upcoming 2022-23 season, which begins on October 18. Few concrete details have been revealed, but Michael Meltzer—Sorare’s head of business development—told Decrypt that there will be some differences in terms of card rarity levels and tournament scheduling based on the format and cadence of the pro hoops league.
Of course, Sorare is entering a much different space with its NBA platform, given the presence of NBA Top Shot, Dapper Labs’ officially-licensed, video-based NFT collectibles platform on the Flow blockchain. Even more so than Sorare, NBA Top Shot brought NFTs into the mainstream when it surged in popularity in early 2021, and has thus far topped $1 billion in sales to date.
Sorare’s original soccer platform set the stage for official pro soccer NFTs, and while Major League Baseball had previous NFT projects—including digital cards with Topps and an ill-fated game before the NFT market boom—the league hadn’t yielded a giant like NBA Top Shot.
Meltzer suggested that Sorare’s approach as an interactive game—rather than a platform primarily focused on amassing collectibles—would help set its NBA platform apart from Dapper’s Top Shot.
“We don’t look at NFTs as a market—we see NFTs more as a technology,” he told Decrypt. “We think we have a very unique offering, and we have our own category that we’ve created through our [soccer] product. We think our success that we’ve had to date will translate well into the NBA, and is very distinct from anything in the marketplace.”
An NFT is a blockchain token that can represent ownership in an item, such as sports collectibles, digital artwork, and video game items. In Sorare’s case, users purchase digital trading cards based on real-world players, which can be tapped for fantasy battles against other users, as well as freely sold or traded in the game’s marketplace.
Meanwhile, the NBA has taken a multi-pronged approach to Web3, especially lately. It was the first major American sports league to enter the NFT space with Top Shot—an early bet that paid off big for a league known for being tech-savvy.
Since then, the league has launched its own NFT collectibles on Ethereum called The Association, and recently debuted proof-of-attendance tokens for the WNBA. The NBA and WNBA also partnered with Coinbase last season in a multi-year deal that was part of a wider 7,300% increase in year-over-year crypto sponsorship spending in the league.
Matt Holt, the NBA’s senior VP of global partnerships, told Decrypt that he believes that the league is in the “very early days” of its Web3 exploration. The NBA’s goal is not to oversaturate its NFT efforts, he said, but rather to find different avenues to engage its young audience—more than half of which is under 35 years old.
“We want to be really thoughtful about who we partner with and the types of products that we put out there,” said Holt. “NBA Top Shot has been amazing, and will continue to be amazing. And our partnership with Sorare is a new, distinct NFT-based fantasy foray into the space.”
Sorare has racked up more than $421 million worth of NFT sales to date on the secondary market, according to data from CryptoSlam. The firm claims more than 2 million total users, and said that it saw 380,000 monthly active users in August.
Meanwhile, Sorare said that its MLB game has attracted 90,000 total users since launching in July, with $5 million worth of NFT sales as of September 1. Sorare most recently raised a $680 million Series B round in September 2021, which valued the firm at $4.3 billion.
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