The last month on Sorare – Oktoberfest!

This is my monthly rundown on what’s been happening in the world of Sorare.

A month on the platform feels like a year right now, with things moving really fast, so there’s plenty to talk about!

The Bundesliga added

The big news of the month was the addition of the German Bundesliga, the second of the big five European leagues to be added.

Unlike the snazzy and coordinated announcements that came with the LaLiga onboarding in September, this one dropped pretty quietly with the news revealed from other sources just before Sorare could put their own announcement out there.

There was also a bit of confusion, with Bundesliga 2 being announced as part of the deal, but with Sorare explaining that this league wouldn’t actually feature in the game – for now at least.

Despite the muted reception, this felt like a really significant moment for Sorare in their quest to add all the main leagues to the platform. Things are moving fast in this space and with the momentum that Sorare currently has, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see another big league added before Christmas.

(and the English Premier League has a meeting coming up in November to discuss NFT licensing so who knows…?)

Bundesliga ‘Moments’ coming soon

As well as the league launch, Sorare teased us with the news that ‘Bundesliga Moments’ will be launched in 2022. ‘Moments’ are the key offer of rival NFT sports platform NBA Top Shot so it’s interesting that they’re going with the exact same terminology.

You can see a glimpse of how the Moments might look in the video in the Sorare tweet below – I think they look fantastic!

Moments should appeal to a different type of collector and this development shows an intent from Sorare to raise their NFT game and go after the Top Shot crowd, although Sorare has the utility to underpin their NFTs in a way that Top Shot never has. It will be interesting to see how they are valued in the game and whether the Moments add any additional utility to the cards or if they just act as normal player cards in SO5.

More Legends launched

Sorare continued to add their new ‘Legends’ cards to the platform through October, although with a reduced frequency of just one per week. In October we saw the addition of Johan Cruyff, Javier Zanetti, Franz Beckenbauer and Andriy Shevchenko.

The Legend cards have been floating around on the platform for over a month now, with 9 different Legends added so far and around 200 cards of each. It surely can’t be too long before Sorare launch the Legends Special Weekly events so that managers can get a feel for how much utility the cards actually have, beyond being simply collectables.

Other club launches

Away from the big news about the Bundesliga, we saw a few more teams added to the platform – Corinthians, Ceará and Cuiabá of Brazil and Salernitana from Serie A.

The continued focus on South American teams has significantly increased the Champion America pool over recent months, with 110 teams to choose from now, the second-largest number in the game after Challenger Europe.

Regulators started to take a closer look

Sorare’s recent growth has put them on the radar of regulators, and this sent shockwaves through the platform in October as first the Swiss government banned the Sorare site and then the UK Gambling Commission announced that they would be taking a closer look at Sorare.

As you would expect, Sorare quickly put out a short statement refuting the idea that the platform offers any form of regulated gambling.

A few people have asked me for my thoughts on this issue. Firstly, I agree with Sorare – I don’t think this is gambling by the strict legal definition of the word. Given the level of external investment in the platform I’m sure that not only Sorare’s lawyers but a host of other lawyers and advisors have been over this with a fine-tooth comb, so it’s unlikely we have much to worry about.

Having said that, I wouldn’t be surprised if some sort of regulation does follow in due course – even if not directly aimed at gambling but to tackle things like the risk of minors using the platform or for compliance with anti-money laundering legislation. I’m also only looking at this through a UK lens and other countries (or American states) may take a stricter approach.

This is definitely something to watch and will be one of the trickier things for Sorare to navigate as a truly global platform.

The team grew again

There were more appointments to the senior team in October:

  • Ryan Spoon joined as Chief Operating Officer, coming from a similar role at BetMGM and, prior to that, ESPN.
  • David Byttow joined as Principal Architect, with experience in similar roles at Lyft and Snapchat.
  • Michael Melzer joined as Head of Business Development, having previously worked at DraftKings.

You can find out more about them here.

It’s pretty clear that the months and months that Sorare have put into finding the top talent is beginning to pay off, and that puts the platform in a really good place.

Tidying up and improving the UX

We also had some improvements behind the scenes during the month:

  • The Play page was redesigned to make it more intuitive to new managers. The old format of numbered divisions was replaced by divisions named by their scarcity, leading to a fair bit of confusion initially which soon died down. The new naming format of a pure scarcity division plus a ‘pro’ version that allows some cards from the scarcity above suggests that Sorare aren’t planning any huge changes to the divisions in the near future – and probably rules out the idea that they might switch to pure scarcity divisions only.
  • Sorare changed the way that they value and rank players for rewards (the tiers) in response to ongoing feedback from unhappy managers. The previous mechanism, which was based purely on recent auction prices, was tweaked to add more depth and to take into account how frequently players are selected for their teams. It remains to be seen whether this leads to less complaints but I suspect that this won’t be the last update to the tiering system this year.
  • The Casual League (previously called ‘Rookie’) was converted into a pure free-to-play league with only Common cards allowed and Limited cards now given as rewards instead of Rares.
  • The referral program was given a minor refresh with the promise of more changes on the way.
  • Managers were finally given the option to connect their Twitter account to their Sorare account. Hopefully this helps to make manager negotiations even easier.

Sorare also revealed that they are working to finalise their plans for an app and asked for community feedback. Given the complications and cost of making purchases through an app (30% is the standard commission for the mainstream app stores), I wouldn’t be surprised to see the app limited to team building and following the scores, rather than being fully functional with the market integrated within it… but I guess we’ll see.

Community gripes

There was plenty of positive stuff happening in October but there were a few gripes from the community about areas where the team had taken their eye of the ball.

The ‘dynamic reward’ framework continued to produce some surprising results and managers asked for more information about how the prize pools were calculated. The team acknowledged that the new reward system was ‘not giving a good user experience at all’ and promised to focus on making this more predictable and simpler to understand. Whether this addresses the questions around there not being enough rewards is another matter of course.

Personally, I’ve always been nervous about Sorare giving too many card rewards out, although I know I’m probably in the minority there. Card rewards are great to receive but every rewarded card is either one more added for sale on the market or one less that someone is going to buy, so too many rewards can upset the market dynamics quite easily.

We’ve seen before that flooding the rewards with Tier 3 DNP cards only causes managers to get more upset so that’s not really an option now and Sorare have to work within existing scarcity limits so it simply isn’t possible to increase the number of rewards in line with the number of entrants each week – even if that would be the most understandable and fairest solution.

All of which leaves me to conclude that any future solution simply has to include more ETH rewards.

Sales volume and manager numbers

Platform growth continued at a similar pace to September. As of 31st October there are over 53,000 managers with at least one blockchain card and over 32,000 with five cards. That compares to 41,000 and 23,000 respectively at the end of September, so roughly a 30% increase on both numbers in a month. Staggering.

The current growth spurt started with the introduction of Limited cards in mid-August and the number of managers on the platform has more than doubled since then. If things continue at the current pace, we could be touching 50,000 managers with at least 5 blockchain cards by Christmas – at which point we may really need the team to roll out the changes to the reward/progression structure that are still on ice at the moment.

With the number of managers increasing, and plenty of new clubs coming on board, the sales volume held up really well during the month too. Auction volume was in the region of 5,500 ETH (around £16.5 million) which is a fraction higher than last month. The addition of the Bundesliga definitely fuelled this, especially the launch of the Erling Haaland cards – his 1/10 Super Rare selling for nearly 25 ETH!

how did I do?

October was a month of highs and lows for me. I missed a few thresholds so only finished the month with 0.07 in ETH rewards, which was lower than I expected for the month. I actually did pretty well with card rewards though, even if the majority of my teams absolutely bombed. In Gameweek 206, I managed 12th in the Weekly Challenge and 19th in All Star Division 3, winning me an Ayumu Seko Tier 2 Super Rare and an Arsen Zakharyan Star Rare. I immediately sold the Seko card for 0.30 ETH as I’ve no interest in building an Asian team.

I also finished 14th in U23 Rare in Gameweek 212 and pulled Eric Garcia as a Tier 1 Rare. I sold him a few days later, also for 0.30 ETH.

Totalling that up, that’s 0.67 ETH during the month, which is an incredible £2,000 at current prices (and that’s not including Zakharyan, who I could probably sell for another 0.30 ETH if I wanted to). I actually feel a bit stupid now saying it was a month of highs and lows… clearly more highs than I’d realised at the time!

And a change of role for me

October was my last month acting as an ambassador for Sorare. I’d held this voluntary post since February and enjoyed my time helping out the community on the Discord channel and trying to act as a bridge between managers and the Sorare team.

I took on a role with the newly launched Sorare Academy at the start of October and trying to juggle this and some other pieces of work (which I’ll save for a future post) became a bit much so I figured it was time to hang up my ambassador’s hat.

So all in all, one heck of a month! I wonder what November will bring…

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