SoftBank fund leads investment in Hong Kong-based NFT gaming firm The Sandbox

A consumer tries a gaming console during the Lunar New Year holiday at a duty-free shopping mall in Haikou, south China's Hainan Province, Feb. 14, 2021. (Xinhua/Pu Xiaoxu)

A consumer tries a gaming console during the Lunar New Year holiday at a duty-free shopping mall in Haikou, south China’s Hainan Province, Feb. 14, 2021. (Xinhua/Pu Xiaoxu)

The Sandbox, a Hong Kong-based gaming platform that allows users to build a virtual world using non-fungible tokens (NFTs), has raised $93 million from investors led by SoftBank’s Vision Fund 2, the company said.

The latest fundraising came a little over a year after its last round, as the company saw fast growth in monthly active users and crossed $144 million in transaction volume on the platform. It also marks Vision Fund 2’s first investment in a company that issues cryptocurrency.

The Sandbox, majority-owned by blockchain gaming developer Animoca Brands, allows players to build, own and monetize their virtual gaming experiences on the Ethereum blockchain. It provides creators with ownership as NFTs and offers tools to create assets on the platform.

It has announced partnerships with brands and celebrities, including rapper Snoop Dogg, who will create a digital replica of his mansion in The Sandbox’s metaverse.

The company declined to disclose its valuation, but the cryptocurrency it backs, The Sandbox coin, has a market capitalization of nearly $2 billion. The company said it owns about 22 percent of the tokens.

The price of the coin has jumped over 200 percent after Facebook announced it would change its name to Meta Platforms last week, which spiked investor interest in companies that build metaverse gaming experiences. Metaverse refers to the idea of a shared virtual platform that people can access through different devices and where they can move through digital environments.

This investment will help fuel the growth of The Sandbox creators’ economy as it expands from gaming into fashion, architecture and virtual concerts, Sebastien Borget, chief operating officer and co-founder, told Reuters in an interview.

“We are creating this open metaverse. We are positioning The Sandbox against those giant tech companies who are claiming the metaverse to be theirs, offering an alternative where users are first,” said Borget.

Amid explosive growth for the NFT market, SoftBank has led a series of funding raisings in NFT-related companies this year. Its recent investments include sports NFT start-up Candy Digital as well as NFT fantasy soccer game Sorare.