Sorare, a blockchain-based fantasy soccer game, has raised $680 million in a funding round headed by SoftBank, with ex-England international Rio Ferdinand and Spain’s Gerard Pique among the investors. The firm announced on Tuesday.
Sorare, based near Paris, said the investment was worth $4.3 billion.
Sorare, which launched in 2018, is an online game where participants purchase officially licenced soccer cards and form teams to compete against one another. The outcome is determined by the players’ performance in real-life games.
Non-fungible tokens (NFTs), a type of crypto asset that maintains the ownership status of digital commodities on the blockchain, are used for trading cards.
In 2021, the market for NFTs exploded, with collector and sports-related tokens being the most popular.
In an emailed statement, Michel Combes, president of SoftBank Group International, stated, “We believe NFTs represent a new paradigm in the collectability, use, and interaction with assets.”
“This shift from physical to digital assets is powerful, and it opens up a slew of new business opportunities.”
According to NonFungible.com, a website that tracks NFT market data, Sorare is the largest sports-based NFT platform by sales volume. It intends to create an office in the United States and diversify its business outside soccer.
“We realised the enormous potential that blockchain and NFTs had to unleash a new method for football teams, players, and fans to feel a closer relationship with one another,” Nicolas Julia, Sorare’s CEO and co-founder, said.
“We feel this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build the next sporting entertainment behemoth.”
Sorare, which allows purchases through credit cards and the cryptocurrency ether, has seen $150 million in sales since January 2021.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s card, purchased for 245,072 euros ($287,420.44) on March 13, is the most expensive unique card.
SoftBank made its first investment in Sorare through its SoftBank Vision Fund 2 during the financing round.
According to Combes, SoftBank’s Latin America fund also contributed because SoftBank can leverage its contacts with the US and Latin American soccer leagues. Its stake in broadcaster Televisa-Univision grew Sorare’s user base in the region.