February on Sorare – stormy winds blow in?

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

BlackPool rocks the platform

I wasn’t expecting controversy to be my first topic of the month but the Sorare discord is in a bit of a tailspin at the moment over a recent announcement from the BlackPool DAO, which funds some of the largest managers on Sorare.

So what’s the TL;DR on this and why has it caused such a ruckus?

BlackPool have a large investment in Sorare, as they do across other play-to-earn platforms. They appoint managers to operate on their behalf, which keeps them within the rules of Sorare, where each account must be operated by a different person.

One BlackPool manager left (AdotJdot) and was replaced by another (Hibee). Issue number one was that Adot’s account was renamed and passed over to Hibee, thereby avoiding transferring the cards (to avoid the XP penalty) and breaking the Fairness Regulations for the platform. Sorare confirmed this was a rule breaker and that the XP penalty will be applied retrospectively.

Issue number two is that the very best cards on Adot’s account look to have been ‘cherry picked’ and sent to the stronger managers’ accounts (MaxM and YNWA) – strengthening their squads and circumventing the usual market forces. This may have broken rules on the platform around collusion, although BlackPool managers are vocally denying this and Sorare are remaining silent on the issue, so far.

Issue number three, and I guess why the community is so riled up about this issue, is the optics. Managers talk of the way that BlackPool appear emboldened to act with absolute impunity on the platform – a feeling of unfairness isn’t helped by fact that BlackPool and Sorare share investors (Fabric Ventures and Julien Bouteloup) – is there a conflict of interest here?

What happens next is unclear. The community has been angry about BlackPool before but that anger dissipated as people moved onto the next topic of the day. Is it different this time? I’m not sure.

It’s clear to me that BlackPool aren’t acting within the spirit of the rules, but whether they have actually broken the rules in black and white around collusion is much less clear. It’s an obvious consequence of having a game that is both pay-to-win and play-to-earn, but it’s anti-competitive and damaging in the short term to other managers with big galleries playing at the highest levels.

I also feel it’s damaging to the whole platform in the longer term, if it goes unaddressed, both with the trickle-down effect of stronger galleries blocking other managers’ progression on the platform and also due to the risk that more managers will seek to collude and act on the very edges of what is permitted around multi-accounting. But how Sorare addresses this, with BlackPool so entwined with the platform, I really don’t know.

So it’s stormy weather indeed at Sorare HQ and I imagine this sorry saga has further to run yet before we see a resolution.

EPL on the brink?

One thing that might act as a distraction and calm the nerves in the community would be if Sorare announce the Premier League is coming on board. We’re not there yet but that prospect is looking closer with every passing day, so I’m feeling cautiously optimistic about this.

Sorare are widely seen as the front runners, going up against Dapper Labs (best known for NBA TopShot), Candy Digital (the league partner for Major League Baseball) and ConsenSys (the developers behind MetaMask). The highest bid is reported to be in the region of £434 million with the final decision due within weeks, if not days.

With the track record and financial muscle behind them, Sorare look the likely winners, despite the potential controversy of the Gambling Commission ‘investigation’ into their activities, as reported a couple of months ago. Getting the EPL licence would push growth further and faster than we’ve seen before but would also push Sorare to make improvements to the platform, to keep those new users engaged and to ensure that they can make the most of the massive financial outlay.

Communication issues?

Before the hoo-ha around BlackPool kicked off, there was an underlying sense of agitation on the platform around the lack of communication from Sorare. Some of this was fuelled by speculation that Sorare were manually reducing the prize pools after the automatic calculation from the dynamic rewards. This was denied by the team but kicked off a lot of comments about Sorare needing to be clearer in their communications with the community and, frankly, just to do more of it.

We’re long overdue an AMA, we’re still waiting for an update on the division and prize structure, and there is no public roadmap for Sorare, which perhaps isn’t unexpected for a company operating on this scale but is definitely adding to the feeling of managers being a bit in the dark about what’s going on.

Sorare’s response to this was that they don’t want to share anything until they are fully happy with the rewards model and their gameplay process and plans, giving a date of the end of March as when they will feel ready to next share an update.

This frustrates me as much as the next person, but I can also appreciate that the Sorare team have been through a period of rapid growth and hiring, which will have undoubtedly taken much of their time and energies. Hopefully, once the new team settles in and the EPL negotiations are completed, we’ll see the focus return to addressing some of the community concerns. Despite everything I’ve talked about above, I still have faith in the team to make this right and complete confidence in the potential of the platform.

Scouting season

Sticking with the communication theme, February was the quietest month I can remember for announcements from Sorare and the only notable thing was the news that March will become Sorare’s first ‘scouting season’ with opportunities to scout new players and to line up ‘underdogs’ (low scoring players) across all rarities in Special Weekly events.

The Special Weeklies have been a bit neglected recently so it’s good to see more of a focus on these and Gameweek 250 (4th-8th March) looks particularly tasty with Uniques on offer for the podium places and prizes for all of the top 500. Uniques appear again in Gameweek 252 (11th-15th March), aimed at those who can line up some Super Rare underdogs.

These events might cause some short-term price increases on players, which could be a good time to shift some unwanted squad players too.

Phishing scams

Sorare has been targeted by a few phishing scams this year so far, where websites impersonate the real Sorare site in order to steal people’s details and drain their accounts, bypassing 2FA on the way. Please be on your guard and bookmark the real Sorare site so you don’t get caught out.

Sales volume and manager numbers

The total number of managers with at least 1 blockchain card crossed 100,000 on 23rd February, a huge milestone for Sorare. Looking back a year, the growth continues to be staggeringly exponential:

This growth, coupled with the return of the Asian and American leagues pushed the total entrants in All-Star Rare division to its highest ever level at the end of February with 18,287 lineups submitted. The number of lineups in the All-Star Limited division was just shy of 25,000 too. Incredible.

More teams means tougher competition too and we certainly saw a bit of discussion around the prize pools during the month as I’ve touched on above.

Auction volume in ETH rose a little in February, continuing the upward trend seen in January. Balancing this against the dip in the value of ETH, we’re probably still seeing roughly the same turnover in fiat terms. Other than the big sale of the month (Vinícius Júnior for 132 ETH), the auction volume seemed to average out at around 215 ETH per day (approx £430,000).

My performance over the month

After a terrible start to the year, my teams performed a little better in February, despite no real standout results.

My rewards for the month were 0.1 ETH in threshold rewards plus two Tier 3 Rares (Anderson Santamaría and Juriën Gaari) and a Tier 2 (Ghislain Konan). A total value, including the cards, of around 0.352 ETH, over £700 at the current rate – considerably better than my January returns!

Aside from my reward cards (two of which I’ve since moved on), I added a couple of MLS stars to my gallery to help me prepare for the start of the new season.

My gallery continues to sit at around 100 cards, which is probably more than I really need so it might be time to try to downsize a bit… although I feel like I say that every month!

Let’s see if my new arrivals can help to bag me some good rewards in March!

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