UPDATE – please note Sorare have made a concerted effort to address the concerns raised in the article below through the introduction of changes announced in an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on 6th May 2021.
You can read more about those changes and our thoughts on them here (see 7th May 2021 update).
In summary we believe the introduction of the Academy League and Progress Bar will go a long way to addressing our concerns regarding fairness, although we think a little more work is needed on the reward structure and entry requirements.
We look forward to seeing the changes in full and to continue working with Sorare on building the best product possible.
If you’ve been following our reviews lately you may have noticed we have been getting quite into Sorare, a new global fantasy football game based on digital trading cards.
If you’re not familiar with what Sorare is, we would recommend reading our guide here.
As we’ve mentioned in our review updates, we love the concept of Sorare and think it has huge potential. They recently raised $50m in Series A funding and have experienced significant growth in users and revenue this year.
However, at the same time we believe the platform is fundamentally flawed in its current form.
In short, this is because the game is becoming increasingly “unwinnable” for new users and those on a small budget.
We have dealt with this in more detail in our review updates where we summarised the issue as follows:-
“Essentially the gap between the top few percent of users (the “big whales”) and the rest is getting wider and wider each week and it’s becoming almost impossible for a new user to compete with them unless they have a massive – and we mean really massive – budget.
This is because the top users hold all the best cards and totally dominate the fantasy contests. These top cards now cost thousands of Euros each so are simply not affordable for the vast majority of users.
This is acting like a vicious cycle, because in winning the fantasy contests the big whales also win the best cards as rewards, only serving to increase their advantage further – and so on.
One user won £9,500 worth of cards this week for example!
What this is doing is creating a huge gap between that small percentage of users who were either early adopters or have massive budgets (or both) and everyone else.
So the rest are essentially left fighting for scraps at the bottom end and have little or no hope of ever catching those at the top – unless something changes.”
We feel this is becoming a huge issue for the platform and we know we are not the only ones who feel this, as some of you have contacted us raising the same concern.
We wanted to delve into this issue in a little more detail to illustrate by way of example just what is happening at the moment.
Let’s have a look at the gameweek that just passed, Gameweek #161.
If we look at the results of Global All-Star Division 4, the biggest division on Sorare in terms of the number of entrants, the top 3 placings were as follows:-
- tecomah – joined Dec 2019, owns 178 rare cards and 38 super-rare cards. Current roster value 32 ETH ~ $92,800
- EBr777 – joined Sep 2020, owns 124 rare cards and 15 super-rare cards. Current roster value 42 ETH ~ $121,800
- timshram – joined Jan 2021, owns 129 rare cards and 12 super-rare cards. Current roster value 26 ETH ~ $75,400*
(*data taken from Soraredata.com)
As you can see, these managers all joined before the boom in prices in February 2021 and all have galleries worth substantial amounts of money.
In coming in the top three in the Global All-Star Division 4, they won a Star rare card (e.g. Kimmich, Neymar, Lukaku, Courtois), which will substantially increase their chances of performing well in future SO5 contests. They also won 0.5 ETH, 0.3 ETH and 0.2 ETH respectively, which they could use to buy more cards if they wish.
Now this is not to denigrate any of these managers – fair play to them for joining Sorare at an early stage and for doing well on the platform.
But it does illustrate the point that it is now increasingly difficult for a new user or manager to compete with the likes of these managers unless they have a huge budget.
Of course occasionally a new or lower-budget manager will do well in the SO5 contests, for example “Wfootballtips” won the Global All-Star Division 4 in the previous gameweek.
They joined the platform in January 2021 – so still before the February boom – but have a more modest gallery than those above with 38 rare cards and 1 super rare, with a roster value of 2.6 ETH, which is roughly $7,500 at today’s prices.
But going through the results, a win like this is unusual and becomes even more so when you move up into the higher divisions – where the rewards are more substantial with super-rares and unique cards being won as prizes and the chances of winning a card are higher in percentage terms. Familiar names like PawelTrader, Spicer and Zuraw tend to dominate proceedings. The latter for example has won over 500 cards in rewards, worth over 391 ETH, or $1m at today’s prices.
What’s the Point?
When you have a look at numbers like these, it can leave users wondering “what’s the point” in trying to compete with these managers and indeed we have felt the same ourselves at times.
Other fantasy games like FanTeam, which we are reviewing at the moment, give each manager a fixed budget to use each week, meaning everyone starts out on an equal footing and it is down to skill, research, knowledge – and of course a little bit of luck – as to who wins each week.
This just isn’t the case with Sorare and without significant changes to the structure, it will only get worse. That would leave the vast majority of managers a choice of whether to:
- Just grind it out for the ETH threshold each week (or whatever replaces it) – hardly the most enthralling long-term experience and misses out on a massive potential element of the game;
- Try and make a profit by trading cards (which is limited at the moment due to a lack of liquidity); or
- Leave the platform altogether. We know a few of you have considered the latter option and we have to say if we don’t see significant changes to the structure we may do the same.
The problem for us is not just that it is very difficult to envisage ever competing with the top managers, but if that’s the case for the vast majority of new users who join in future, then the platform is going to struggle to grow and its potential may never be realised.
What Needs to Change
Sorare are in the process of reviewing the reward structure at the moment and announced an outline of their plans on 15th April in a medium post.
Whilst there were some welcome proposals in there, including helping managers with “progression” in the game, we were not convinced that any of the proposed changes will address the fundamental, structural issue discussed above. The Sorare medium post stated:
“We are currently developing a new threshold feature that will allow all Managers on the platform to unlock cards by progressing and accumulating points across multiple Game Weeks.”
Whilst this is a good idea in itself, we are not sure it will do anything to address the inequity on the platform. The larger accounts will be able to accumulate points and unlock cards faster than lower-budget managers so this will just widen the gulf between managers, unless there are some restrictions placed on this progression, perhaps based on a starting point of how many rewards already won for example.
In addition, although they announced that the number of cards distributed as rewards will increase, this will be based on the number of matches in a gameweek, not the number of entries.
So whilst this will be helpful to managers in the short-term in terms of helping them win cards, when the number of users on Sorare increases, we will just be back in the same position we are in now, where only a very small percentage of entrants win prizes in Division 4.
We are surprised Sorare didn’t choose to base the number of cards distributed on the number of gameweek entries, or even on cards in circulation, as we would have thought that would be a more sustainable and manageable model for them too.
Overall we couldn’t see much evidence in Sorare’s medium post of changes to address the structural gulf between managers on the platform and we were really hoping for some action in that direction.
However, it is a dynamic platform that is constantly evolving and they are always open to feedback from the community, so we hope there is some scope to address this.
In our most recent update we suggested three possible actions the team could take:
- Limit use of the top cards – e.g. only one Star Rare/Tier 1 per gameweek
- Spread rewards around more evenly – e.g. distribute ETH currently given to top 3 to more managers lower down
- Create new leagues and divisions – with certain criteria to make them winnable for low-medium budget managers.
Having been in touch with the team, it appears they are not inclined to place any “limitations” on the platform. So it looks like the first idea is unlikely to come to fruition at the moment.
In terms of the second, we hope the current review of the reward structure will mean rewards spread more evenly, not just with regard to cards but also monetary rewards.
It is perhaps the third idea that is the most practical however and would do most to address the current flaws. If there was a separate league with only tier 2/3 cards being eligible to enter, it would give just about any manager the chance to compete for the top places. Taking out the likes of Mbappe, Neymar, Kimmich, Kroos and co would greatly negate the financial advantage the top few percent of managers have and make it much more about skill, levelling the playing field.
Thus low-middle budget managers could conceivably win top rewards without requiring their tier 2/3 cards to beat the Mbappes and Neymars of this world. They would have a realistic way of moving up the ladder and competing with the top managers. It would also give more value to tier 2/3 cards because they would have much more chance of winning you a prize.
We are not suggesting this should replace the current leagues/divisions but would instead run alongside them. Thus you would not be punishing or “limiting” the top managers who could still compete in the free market that is the current league structure (and of course in the new league as well if they wished). But when the low-mid budget managers had won a few top rewards in the new league they might then feel more inclined to take on the top managers in the current leagues.
Conclusion – The Spirit of Égalité
As Sorare is a French company we thought we would end with a tribute to the French motto of Liberté, égalité, fraternité. At the moment there is certainly liberté on Sorare, in terms of freedom to play on the platform and fraternité, with a great community, but not quite so much égalité.
We hope the team can address this by providing a genuine means for new and lower budget managers to compete with the larger-budget/early adopters. We stress this is not to denigrate the latter in any way and credit to them for taking a chance on the platform early on and doing well on it.
But to make it an enjoyable experience and one where anyone who joins feels the game is actually winnable – not just on a given gameweek if they get incredibly lucky (in which case perhaps playing the lottery is a better idea) but in the long-term whereby they can compete based on skill and judgement and not their financial firepower or when they happened to join the platform.
The current gulf is only going to get wider if there aren’t structural changes however and this could prove fatal to the platform. Users will just become frustrated and leave, which we are seeing hints of already.
We have suggested some changes the team could make to address this issue and we hope they will give these and any other ideas the community puts forward to tackle this serious consideration.