Sorare built its Ethereum NFT-based fantasy soccer platform into one of the most popular blockchain-based games on the market—and a startup valuation of $4.3 billion. Now the firm plans to bring that formula to an entirely new sport this summer: baseball.
Today, Sorare announced that it has signed both Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association to launch a new baseball fantasy sports game based on the U.S. league. It’s the first new sport that Sorare is launching into after debuting its original soccer game in 2019.
The MLB game will similarly offer up digital trading cards of professional players represented as Ethereum-based NFT collectibles, which can be bought and sold. Users can slot their owned NFT player cards into fantasy lineups and earn points based on the pros’ respective real-world performances in MLB games.
“MLB is, for many people—myself included—their first experience with fantasy sports,” Sorare COO Ryan Spoon told Decrypt. “It is a sport that is very rhythmic, math-driven, and stats-based, with tons of positions and players, scouting and prospects, and stars versus call-ups. It's going to be a blast.”
Spoon also highlighted the long legacy of trading cards and collectibles with baseball, which Sorare aims to continue in the digital space.
Sports collectibles have been a significant part of the NFT market boom, with NBA Top Shot and Tom Brady’s Autograph platform among the most notable efforts in the space alongside Sorare. An NFT works like a blockchain-backed receipt for a digital item, and can represent goods like artwork, collectibles, profile pictures, and unique video game items.
Major League Baseball has an existing NFT deal with startup Candy Digital, which is majority owned by sports merchandise giant Fanatics. Trading card stalwart Topps has also released digital MLB trading cards, although the firm was acquired by Fanatics earlier this year and now is under the same umbrella as Candy.
Sorare’s MLB card artwork is still being finalized, but Spoon said that it aims to maintain the approach of the current soccer NFTs—with visible stats and edition numbers—while capturing the spirit of baseball. Every MLB player will likewise have the same total number of NFT cards available across varying rarity levels, although that number has yet to be determined.
The current soccer game is a free-to-play experience that provides users with a starter pack of player cards that are not tradeable NFTs, although the NFT cards tend to be more beneficial for users trying to win fantasy leagues and win rewards. The MLB experience is likewise billed as a free-to-play game that won’t require the purchase of NFTs to play.
Unlike Sorare’s soccer game, which spans partnerships with nearly 250 teams across an array of international leagues, the baseball game will exclusively focus on Major League Baseball and its 30 clubs.
According to Sorare, it now has 1.8 million monthly players for its soccer game, and logged $325 million in NFT trading volume in 2021. The firm claims that it is on track to double that sum this year. As previously mentioned, Sorare reached a valuation of $4.3 billion last September on the back of a $680 million Series B funding round.
The MLB deal is the latest step in the firm’s American push, following a March deal with Major League Soccer that brought the U.S. league and its teams to Sorare’s platform. At the time, Michael Meltzer—Sorare’s head of business development—told Decrypt that it planned to announce two U.S. league partnerships in the coming months.
Launching a Major League Baseball game gives Sorare an opportunity to target what is primarily a U.S. audience, albeit in a sport with global talent and fans outside of North America.
“We have a very global footprint today, both in users and obviously partners, but also our players,” said Spoon. “We think we can take a lot of the heritage of the software platform and translate that into a way that makes a ton of sense to baseball.”