This time last year, I wrote a short ‘end of term’ report for each football gaming/gambling platform I was involved in. One year on, the landscape looks very different with only Sorare still standing.
But how have things changed and what can we look forward to next year? In this blog, I’m going to have a quick look back over the last 12 months and try to predict what lies ahead for Sorare and its community.
Some context – my gallery
I started on Sorare in August 2020, which I think probably qualifies me as an early adopter, so my view of things will be skewed a little by that.
At the end of last December, I had 68 cards and a gallery value of around 10.5 ETH, which was around £5,800 at the time. I’m now sitting on 105 cards and a gallery value of 21.5 ETH, or around $65,000. This is almost whale territory and certainly not something I expected this time last year.
The rise in ETH has been kind to me but I suspect that increase is as much due to the rising popularity of Sorare as it is ETH fluctuations, given that many managers still value in fiat. I’ve also shifted my strategy towards holding quality over quantity this year, as many managers do once they find their feet.
What went well for Sorare in 2021?
Platform growth has pushed forward this year, probably exceeding their own expectations. At the end of last year, there were just over 3,000 managers holding at least one blockchain card, and less than 2,000 with 5 cards or more. Those figures are now 73,500 and 47,000 – 2,300% growth in a year.
More managers buying more cards meant more revenue for Sorare too. Auction sales grew by 51x between the second quarter of 2020 and the second quarter of 2021, and have totalled more than £185 million this year. The move to layer 2 during the year, using Starkware, will have helped Sorare to keep much more of that money for prizes, rather than spending it all on gas fees.
Helping to fuel these sales was an increase in choice. At the end of 2020, there were just over 100 licensed clubs on the platform. There are now 215 clubs, including the whole of LaLiga and the Bundesliga. The inclusion of more clubs helps Sorare build a genuinely global following, with each new club release bringing on board some of their own fans and giving Sorare extra visibility in that country.
Also helping to fuel sales was the recycling of ETH in the platform. Sorare distributed more than 10,000 ETH in rewards in 2021. The ETH threshold rewards, in particular, helped to support newer/smaller managers to grow their galleries and stay engaged.
Marketing was stepped up in the latter part of 2021, with the LaLiga deal including on-pitch advertising and Sorare also sponsoring events like the Global Soccer Awards in Dubai. In the UK, Sorare’s partnership with Fantasy Football Scout to form the Sorare Academy no doubt helped to put more eyes on the platform too. All of this came after the successful introduction of Limited cards, designed to give people a lower ‘buy-in’ to the platform.
Long before all of this, back in February, Sorare got an unexpected boost when NFT-guru Gary Vaynerchuk bought into Sorare. This coincided with a steep rise in the value of ETH so we ended up with a mini-boom in February/March, before things cooled off over the summer and started building again in the autumn. You can see this trend on the graph below, which shows the number of clicks on my affiliate link during the year:
Perhaps the biggest news of the year was Sorare announcing their record-breaking $680m Series B funding in September, leaving the company valued at $4.3 billion – the highest valued private company in France.
Running to stand still?
It’s not all been plain sailing this year and there are certainly some areas for development. As Sorare grows, the expectations of the community increase and it’s fair to say that the gameplay hasn’t always matched these high expectations during the year.
Dynamic rewards were introduced at the end of April to provide a ‘scalable system’ to help the rewards grow in line with the growth in managers and licensed clubs on the platform. The premise was simple: more teams playing = more rewards, and it meant that tournaments could be open with at least one club playing, giving cards more utility.
Alongside the announcement about dynamic rewards, we were told that the ETH threshold would be pegged to fixed dollar values in the future ($15 and $30) and we were teased a new progression bar to be implemented at the end of the summer to keep the game engaging for new managers with smaller budgets.
But, as we reach the end of the year, nothing has really changed. The thresholds are still in ETH, we still have no idea what the new ‘progression’ format will be and there are continued moans from the community about rewards – the level of rewards, their distribution, and what ‘dynamic’ really means in this context – even after various updates. The lack of clarity provided by Sorare hasn’t helped and has led some to question whether they even understand how the ‘dynamic’ system actually works.
The delay in moving to dollar threshold rewards, or even replacing them altogether with a new system, has arguably worked in favour of managers as most would doubt that any replacement could be as generous as the current system. Personally, I’d rather they take their time with things but we are now in a situation where most managers are aiming for the threshold rewards each week (if that) and progression beyond that is impossible for most without them throwing some serious cash at elite players. Basically, the platform feels like it has outgrown itself at this point and the team are running just to stand still.
Perhaps another sign of a team with too many plates spinning at once is when commitments aren’t kept. The onboarding of new clubs and leagues has exceeded expectations this year and the team even launched a new range of cards – the ‘Legends’. The premise of these was solid – collectible cards with utility – and there was a polished video to go with the launch but, several months on, the distribution of new cards is stuttering and the promised utility hasn’t arrived. Not good.
These failures to deliver are hopefully just a blip in the overall roadmap, rather than a sign of any deeper problems but they do demonstrate that Sorare needs to work on a few things next year – clarity, better communication with the community and improved game dynamics being the obvious ones.
What will 2022 bring?
Just before Christmas, Sorare CEO and co-founder Nicolas Julia announced the company plans to hire over 200 people in 2022, across their Paris and New York offices. This would be a four-fold expansion on their current team and is long overdue.
This level of confidence from the team is encouraging and makes me suspect that they’ve got something big up their sleeves for 2022. What do I think is coming?
The Premier League to be added in quarter 1. Ok this is a bold prediction but hear me out…
Sorare is the biggest company in this space at the moment but the lack of EPL teams on the platform is an obvious gap – and a significant threat to their long-term plans for expansion.
Representatives from the EPL met in November to discuss potential NFT projects, with various companies invited to express an interest (if I understand it correctly) so it’s quite possible that Sorare have been invited into a more formal bidding process since then. December was a quiet month for the team, aside from releasing all those job postings, the AMA has been delayed and the CEO has been putting out a number of teasing tweets to end the year. It certainly feels like something is coming…
If the EPL does land, I would expect growth to go stratospheric. Even without that though, they’ve still got the rest of Ligue 1 and Serie A to go at, as well as various clubs and leagues across the rest of the world. I can easily imagine the number of managers increasing by four-fold or more in 2022 – which would take us to 200,000 managers with at least five cards. I don’t even think that’s particularly bullish either.
Of course, that only works if they sort the tournament and rewards structure out – otherwise there simply won’t be enough prizes to go around and managers will quickly lose interest. The ability to win cards will still be an important part of the offer but I think that increasing the amount of ETH available as rewards is the only way for Sorare to cope with a growing userbase – and having a ‘beat the game’ element to this is key.
The other thing that Sorare need to do is encourage people to play in as many divisions as possible – so that the number of entrants is better spread out across the different divisions and to encourage people to buy more cards.
So there will have to be another reorganisation of the divisions and reward structure in 2022.
That might look like this:
- First they need to finish reorganising the divisions – so bring in Limited Pro (mixing Limited and Rare cards) and move the one Common card allowance into the Limited division, taking it out of Rare.
- Add a new division for each scarcity level: <45 points. This would help to ensure that all cards have some utility as well as helping to spread people’s entries out. Card prizes for this could come from the DNP pool.
- Scrap any complicated ideas of a Progression Bar – this doesn’t fit with the move towards simplifying the game. Instead, increase the ETH thresholds to 225 and 275 points – with a quarterly review of these points targets so they can be altered if needed.
- Add an ETH threshold reward to the Special Weekly – maybe just at the upper level of 275 points.
- Increase the number of places that pay out ETH in each division to five places, maybe even 10 if that’s affordable. They could also use this opportunty to rebalance the payouts a bit too, perhaps making the Limited ETH prizes a little lower relative to the Rare division.
Aside from sorting that out, what else do I see happening for Sorare in my 2022 crystal ball?
- The first football teams to be sponsored by Sorare in Q2. I’m deliberately using the plural there as I can imagine they’ll want to cover more than one continent with their sponsorship activities.
- The first iteration of the Sorare app to launch in Q3. They’re recruiting for Senior iOS engineers at the moment so I think we’re still some way off with this but I do think we’ll see the app in 2022. I don’t think we’ll be able to make purchases through the app but hopefully we can watch players, set teams, view results and communication with other managers through it (that would be a real bonus).
- Women’s football to be added in Q4. Yes, I think they’ll probably set up new leagues for this, rather than mixing in the current divisions. I guess they’ll start with a ‘Legends’ style launch initially, to see what the demand is like and to get cards into the ecosystem, before starting to add women’s divisions in 2023.
I also expect we’ll see a revision of the scoring matrix over the summer to rebalance some positions, but nothing more major than that. This recent blog is a good overview on how well the current matrix suits different positions on the pitch.
Despite what they said earlier this year, I don’t think we’ll see Sorare move into a new sport in 2022 – I just think they’ll have too much on their plate with other things (such as the launch of Bundesliga ‘Moments’ – have people forgotten about that?). I do think they’ll be laying the groundwork though so we should see some clues on which direction this is likely to take.
What do you think? Do you agree with my predictions or do you think I’m wide of the mark? Let me know.
Has this tempted you to try Sorare? Check out my recently updated getting started guide to get the best possible start on the platform.