The start of 2022 on Sorare

I usually do a monthly rundown on what’s been happening in the world of Sorare. This one is a fraction late as I’ve been laid low by COVID, and we’re now five weeks into 2022.

So how is the new year panning out for the platform so far?

Haaland card smashes records

The biggest news of the year was the Unique Erling Haaland auction, which shattered previous records, eventually selling for 265.1 ETH, more than half a million pounds. That’s more than double the next highest Sorare auction on record (Mbappé), and quite a bit higher than the Ronaldo card that was auctioned by Bonhams at the end of last year.

The winner, Zima Blue, expressed some concerns that Sorare hadn’t really done anything to promote the auction, and perhaps missed a trick getting more eyes on the platform. The auction was picked up organically by a few news outlets but, otherwise, it was strangely quiet online, which fits the patterns for Sorare Bundesliga stuff so far (in contrast to the jazzy launches for anything relating to LaLiga for example).

Nicolas, the Sorare CEO, confirmed that there were some ‘limitations’ restricting the publicity of certain auctions. It’ll be interesting to see if the launch of Bundesliga ‘Moments’ later this year is equally quiet, or whether Sorare are permitted to push that a bit, which I think will be key to getting the most out of that particular project and, potentially, introducing Sorare to a whole new audience.

Serena Williams joins the team

The other big news was the addition of Serena Williams as an advisor to the Sorare Board. This news seemed to come out of nowhere, dropping as simultaneous announcements from Sorare and from Serena herself.

The immediate reactions to this were interesting to watch. There seemed to be as many people questioning Sorare’s motives as there were people congratulating them on the appointment. To some extent, I can understand where this comes from – managers have endured months of Sorare underdelivering on improvements to the basic mechanics of the game and then yet another shiny announcement pops up out of the blue – but I do feel this misses the bigger picture.

There are multiple reasons why this appointment makes sense and adds value to Sorare. It fits their brief to:

  • Expand into new sports categories, specifically targetting the North American market
  • Increase women’s representation in the game
  • Be a leading brand in making Web 3.0 more diverse

Serena’s husband is the co-founder of Reddit so she already has links in the tech space. She’s also part of an investors’ group that was awarded a new franchise in the US National Women’s Soccer League for Angel City FC, due to make their debut soon. I think this makes a lot of sense for her and for Sorare.

And let’s not forget that she has 10.7 million followers on Twitter and 14.2 million followers on Instagram too. Plenty of reach and great for the brand.

AFCON covered but DNPs everywhere

Away from the shiny announcements, January was a bit of a damp squib for SO5. Announcing that AFCON games would be covered was a big plus for Sorare at the start of the year, although the actual implementation perhaps lacked a little imagination, with the Special Weekly becoming the home of AFCON for the duration.

Outside of AFCON, many managers seem to have experienced a difficult start to the year with COVID, random international breaks and unexpected DNPs playing havoc with people’s lineups.

On the plus side, we have gone a few weeks without a huge row breaking out over ‘dynamic rewards’, suggesting that the recent tweaks may have done something to improve the situation. Either that, or the community has just grown tired of asking at this point.

Product and team updates

So if Sorare haven’t been busy fixing the rewards, what have they been up to?

Sorare kicked off the year with six key hires to their New York office. They were at pains to stress that this office will work on the existing product and not just other sports.

They partnered with Homa Games to launch a Game Jam, asking people to build a new game which utilises retired player cards and Legends. They were at pains to stress that this was separate from their own ideas for utilising Legends in Special Weekly events (a concept which is yet to be delivered).

A new payment provider was welcomed – Moonpay – with 0% transaction fees for 3 months from the launch date. Sorare is leading the way in terms of smooth on-ramps for getting money into the platform. However, getting money out is still just as nerve-wracking as it always was – fixing this would be a genuine game-changer for Sorare and the play-to-earn space. Could it happen one day?

A cosmetic change was made to the site with the introduction of the My Teams tab. As well as making it easier to keep track of your SO5 teams, the addition of a ‘share’ button led to a proliferation of team screenshots across social media. Finally! Small changes like this make a big difference to managers and are great for the product.

Sales volume and manager numbers

Manager growth has been extremely strong again during January. My last update was 6 weeks ago, at which point there were 73,500 managers with at least one blockchain card and 47,000 with at least five. Those figures are now 91,639 and 58,351. That’s particularly sharp growth at the beginners’ end of things – roughly 25% in 6 weeks. Only time will tell if that sort of growth is sustainable.

Growth at the higher levels is good too, albeit slightly slower. The growth in managers holding 10 or more cards is roughly 20% over the same period and for 25 cards or more it’s a little bit less than that.

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What’s abundantly clear though is that there is no sense of this growth slowing down any time soon. Looking at the graph, we’re right in the middle of a growth phase, that’s showing no sign of tailing off.

This will impact on the price of the most desirable players – it has to. The introduction of Limited cards came at the right time to minimise the negative effects of this but we will soon reach a point where demand outstrips supply, which is great for existing managers but makes the acquisition of new managers much more difficult. In simple terms, six months ago there were around 23,000 managers buying blockchain cards. Now there are nearly 100,000. That’s a heck of a lot more demand in a short space of time.

On the subject of price, it’s remarkable how steady prices have been during the recent ETH wobbles. A few people have pointed to Sorare as a hedge against ETH and it probably is, but it’s difficult to unpick that for certain with so many other variables to consider – not least the rapid platform growth.

With cards in demand and ETH on a dip, Sorare’s income during January was in the region of 6,000 ETH and was bolstered, of course, by the massive Haaland sale. That’s a high figure in ETH but, in fiat terms, that’s around £12 million, which is around the usual monthly auction income. In fact, over the 7 months I’ve been actively monitoring this, I don’t think the auction volume has changed much at all in fiat terms, despite the influx of new managers. Interesting.

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The ETH volume going through in offers also increased sharply during January, perhaps adding a bit more weight to the ‘Sorare as an ETH hedge’ argument. It’ll be interesting to see what happens in the next couple of months as ETH, hopefully, recovers.

My performance over the month

It’s been a terrible month for Mediocre FC. No card rewards and just 0.04 ETH in threshold rewards.

I seem to have been the kiss of death for players I’ve brought into the team – recent additions like David Raum, Joël Piroe and Vincenzo Grifo have been on a poor run of form through January.

I’ve also been really busy and a busy lifestyle and Sorare aren’t hugely compatible. When you miss the news that your player has picked up an injury and just throw him blindly into a team expecting him to compete, it can quickly kill your gameweek.

I did have a plan to compete in Champion America in January. I thought I could be smart by buying Liga MX players in November when their prices dipped, to play them in January before the other leagues restarted. When the first gameweek opened in January, I looked at the ‘dynamic rewards’ and realised that Sorare had outsmarted me. Yes, there wasn’t much competition but there was also only about a dozen prizes to aim for. It just wasn’t worth the effort.

So I sold those players for a handsome profit instead. For example, I bought Vargas for 0.41 ETH and sold for 0.559 ETH, bought Felix Torres for 0.051 ETH and sold for 0.18 ETH and bought Quiñones for 0.11 ETH and sold for 0.2 ETH.

I’ve never really considered myself as a trader, much less a ‘flipper’, but with SO5 becoming increasingly frustrating, maybe this is the most sensible play right now.

Either way, a return of 0.04 ETH on a squad valued at 32 ETH is not good enough. Either the team needs a complete facelift or the manager needs to rethink her position. Let’s hope January was just a blip…

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