With FI suspended and facing an uncertain future, many in the FI community are finding that we miss the connection it gives us to the beautiful game outside of our own team.
I know I am! How disappointing is it right now when you see something good happen for one of your (former?) players and the momentary joy ends a heartbeat later when you remember the game isn’t there anymore?
If FI does not return, is there anything out there that could fill that gap?
In the last week, many readers have asked me what I think of other products, or if I will be moving to another platform if FI does not continue.
As I have throughout all this, I remain focused on the FI situation and I do not think that is hopeless.
There are compelling reasons why the betting industry will not want this scandal to continue. And any company considering a takeover will surely see a dedicated user base that would love to see the product continue under new management.
However, we don’t know what will happen. I would consider using and creating content for other platforms. But only if it was fun and I felt I could actually add some value.
So whilst we wait for more FI news, it is worth being aware of what is out there, and having a full understanding of other platforms before we jump into them.
The last thing we want to do after being burned by FI is leap straight into another product without a full understanding of it.
I’ve chosen Sorare first because it has enjoyed a great few months and has a real buzz about it right now.
Until now I have largely steered clear of commenting on other products. It can be divisive and people can be very tribal about this, thinking that they have to pump up their own game and trash the one they don’t use.
I don’t want to get involved in any of this. I can see no reason why Sorare and Football Index (or something like it) could not co-exist peacefully. As you will see below, they are quite different games.
So to be clear, this is going to be a fair and balanced review as I see it with no affiliate links in sight. I am not a long time Sorare user but I do have thousands of hours of experience over many years with football games and their various scoring systems. Plus the market mechanics and the psychology behind it etc.
I’ll just go ahead and give a summary straight at the top, as this is an in-depth review and for some people the summary might be enough! But I know many people will want to know the reasoning behind my conclusions.
I particularly recommend, if you plan to use Sorare, that you understand the bit about cryptocurrency and how that can influence your success or failure.
I’d like to thank @Football_MDJ for her help in answering all my questions. She is an Official Sorare ambassador (great title).
And thanks also to the Sorare Growth Director for spending an hour on the phone with me this week to help me understand the future direction of the platform.
- The overall concept is brilliant and exciting. The potential for using these cards across multiple games in future is great. But there are significant weaknesses in the current main game. Some FI users will like Sorare, but I can see why opinion is divided right now.
- And indeed, we have to bear in mind that Sorare isn’t necessarily targeted at an FI audience – there are many people using Sorare who are using it because they like collectibles for example, rather than trying to win or enhance their enjoyment of match days.
- Cryptocurrency has its risks that must be understood. But I am personally optimistic on cryptocurrency in general in the longer term at least, and think it is overall a strength of this platform rather than a weakness.
- Is it a “safe” place to put your money if you are feeling burned by the FI debacle? Well, no! It’s a crypto tech start up and it’s about as safe as that sounds. It’s got huge potential but like almost any game of this nature the organisers can change the terms, the rules of the game, and do things that will impact the value of cards. They have to be able to do that. And they will. It’s up to Sorare to prove they are good custodians over time.
- I do not think the current Sorare game is a major replacement for FI in its current form. The biggest concern I have is that early adopters, quite literally, hold all the best cards. And it is just too hard even for a good player to catch up without pouring huge sums of money into the platform.
- However, I think there is scope for playing it for fun even now in a low stakes form, possibly targeting the “threshold” wins and hoping for a few card wins along the way, perhaps with 3 figure sums rather than the 4, 5 or even 6 sums people were used to using on FI.
- Yet this won’t be easy, to get any kind of competitive team that might hope to win cards for 3 figure sums will require some very shrewd selections. And yes, to find value we will have to dip into Leagues we would not normally care much about, like the Chinese Super League.
- The team behind Sorare seem competent and have good backing now from Benchmark and Accel, two very well known venture capitalist firms with a history of backing good products.
- There are growing pains with the platform, and whilst the recent surge in the price of cryptocurrency was a blessing for Sorare – it also created problems with the economy of their game and gave them some issues to fix too.
- However, chatting to their team gave me the impression that they are aware of these issues and have promising plans to fix them. So I would suspect that the offer from Sorare will get better as time goes on.
Sorare - In Depth Review
I won’t spend too long explaining what Sorare is, their website will do a better job than me on that.
But I’ll share what I think it is. Because unlike FI which has a very clear objective even if we all go about it in different ways – Sorare can be different things to different people.
I would see Sorare as a game where you select a team to win prizes. I want to win enough money for it to be worth my time. And I want to have fun doing it – I want a reason to care what is happening across the big games of the day.
But for some, Sorare is actually about collectibles. The same way we might have used a sticker book as a kid, buying a pack of football cards from the corner shop hoping to get a “shiny”.
This concept of digital collectibles is really taking off. Some people just cannot resist being that one guy who owns the “unique” Ronaldo card. Check this out:
And this is far from unique to Sorare these days. NFT’s or “Non-Fungible-Tokens” (I promise to never use that phrase again) are hot right now. Christie’s auction house last week sold its first piece of NFT-linked digital art, with a winning bid of $69 million.
Personally, I struggle to get my head around this. When you buy the Mona Lisa, that literally cannot be reproduced. It has what I’d call soul. It has unique brush strokes you couldn’t replicate exactly if you tried. You can take a picture of it. You can copy it. But it is just obviously not the same. This retweet from Elon Musk nailed it for me:
With a digital asset a copy is a copy. What people are buying here is a “feeling” of ownership.
Some people are clearly sold on that concept. Personally, I’d rather hit the “print screen” button than pay $69 million.
But hey it’s their money. For me, if I am buying a digital token, I need a practical use for it.
Fortunately, there are practical uses for Sorare cards! In fact there must be hundreds of possibilities for how Sorare cards could be used in future. Ubisoft, one of the major computer games producers, are already starting on a game that uses Sorare cards.
I guess the dream would be that one day you might use your cards in major computer games or big money Las Vegas style tournaments. And the more ways there are of using them, the more likely they are to always retain some value even if the original reason you bought them isn’t there anymore.
For me, I am not a “collector”. I won’t be making a collection of players just so I can brag about who I digitally “own”. Coming from Football Index, I will be wanting to play in hope of winning money but I also want that connection to the game. A reason why I care what is going on in the Bundesliga next weekend.
But I really like this idea of having multiple ways to use the cards, it’s very exciting and full of potential. This is made a lot easier and more transparent by the game living on the cryptocurrency blockchain. Which is likely Sorare’s greatest potential strength. And also, as things stand anyway, likely it’s greatest barrier to entry.
Sorare and Crypto
Before we can get into the game itself, we have to understand at least the basics of cryptocurrency before we can take a rational view on Sorare.
Many will be worried about the link to crypto. And rightly so. We have to talk about the risks inherent in cryptocurrency here – which are in no way the fault of Sorare in particular – but as things stand there’s just no getting away from this. It’s fundamental to the platform.
I have been following and investing in crypto for years, so I have a better understanding than most in this space, though I am far from an expert.
Now, I have long term optimism on cryptocurrency. Just my opinion of course, but I believe the larger ones are quite likely to establish and eventually see mainstream real world usage. But there are also plenty of smart people who still think crypto will never become mainstream.
But one thing I’ve learned after years of watching crypto is this – I never try to predict the shorter term price movements of crypto.
Instead, I just try to avoid getting myself into unacceptable situations. If losing all my investment is utterly unthinkable, I don’t gamble with it. If I can accept losing what I have and am willing to bet it on a big win – that’s fine. But I’ll never delude myself into thinking I know what will happen next in this volatile space.
Sorare users have had pretty much perfect conditions in recent months.
There is also a general explosion of NFT’s in general right now which puts Sorare bang on trend. Add to that the struggles of other games like Football Index to help them pick up new users?
No surprise whatsoever that Sorare has picked up a lot of momentum here.
A longer term Sorare user has been experiencing a golden period similar to what we had on FI for long periods. And as FI users are well aware right now, the good times cannot last forever. If things slow down, that euphoria can turn to frustration in the community very quickly.
The last month has been slower in crypto. And you can already start to see the community frustration creep in as the gains slow down, creating pressure on Sorare to provide more and more prizes. A familiar story to FI users – and this is a tough balance for the Sorare team to get right.
Our success or failure in Sorare could (and likely will be) determined as much by the swings in the value of cryptocurrency as it will be by our performance in the game.
For example. I could enter Sorare with 1 Ethereum today (the cryptocurrency used in the game) which is the equivalent of $1,850 at time of writing. I could do brilliantly in the game, doubling the value of my collection after a month or so. And normally we’d expect to finish the month with $3,548 there.
But underneath me, crypto might have swung. The price of “Eth” might have risen from $1,775 to $2,500 giving me vastly more than I truly “deserve” for playing the game.
Or, Ethereum might have crashed to $800, wiping out my profit despite my good performance.
It won’t be quite that exact of course. If Eth crashes, it might cause some people to leave or panic sell, but it could also trigger lots of people to join the game (if they were waiting for lower prices) increasing demand and helping prices recover.
And people might be reluctant to sell cards for less than they paid, causing prices to hold a bit better than expected. But overall, the swing in the value of Eth is going to have a major impact on success or failure in the game.
Now, in the last 3 months, Eth has powered from $650 dollars to an all time high of $2,022 and then fallen back down to $1,850 today. That is a massive jump.
And there is that nagging fear with cryptocurrency that after a pump like that, things can come back down to earth quite rapidly. And that will give Sorare much tougher conditions in which to thrive.
Traditionally, big pumps like this in crypto have always been followed by a crash.
There is chatter out there from many smart people far more informed than me saying that this time is different. And some credible arguments about why that might be the case. Stimulus cheques from the US Government being dropped into crypto, fears of inflation in traditional currencies – all of these things and more could well keep crypto powering away and may well do.
I’m used to the volatility in crypto by now. It doesn’t scare me per se, but I would want anyone thinking of putting money into crypto to be aware of this, particularly now when things are frothy in the crypto market. And whilst people are still feeling raw and burned by FI.
Whilst the above health warning might feel quite stark, there are ways of managing this and it would not personally stop me using the platform.
I would personally wait until market conditions are a little more favourable before putting significant sums of money (by my standards) into the game. And by favourable, that could be a drop in the price of Eth, or it could be an increase in the supply of cards in the game which should also take some of the heat out of current prices. Ideally both, from the perspective of the new entrant.
Once you are in, you would also probably need to be prepared to be in for the long haul. If Eth did crash, you could potentially wait out the dip and hope that cryptocurrency rises again. But that may well take years and you might have to be prepared to be patient.
There are also things Sorare could do to help here.
They have already changed prices so that they show in Euro rather than Eth on the front end. This can have some benefits to usability – it’s better for most users if they never know it runs on Eth at all and just see prices in a currency they understand better.
But fundamentally, the platform runs on Eth as the base currency. Showing front end prices in fiat currency doesn’t change that. And as FI users will know – psychological price shenanigans like FI’s flawed “Average Offer Price” are often ignored or just don’t work – you have to fix the underlying problem.
I would personally like to see Sorare move away from Eth as the base currency altogether. But not away from cryptocurrency, which is a major strength for the product.
Eth is always likely to have major price swings at least for a few more years. However, “Stablecoins” exist. Stablecoins can be linked 1 to 1 to the value of the US Dollar for example, allowing us to play the game without being subject to the wild swings of crypto. (Assuming of course, you believe the dollar will remain stable!).
I’d strongly welcome this. If I am playing a football game in hopes of winning cash – I want my results to be determined by how good I am at the actual game. I don’t really want to be winning or losing because of the currency swings going on in the background.
Playing the Game
Ok, the crypto stuff is heavy going I know but I think it is crucial to understand that before you can really understand the game itself. Let’s look at that now!
I’m not going to cover how the game works in general, because that is all set out here in Sorare’s FAQ. If you have no idea about Sorare, it is probably a good idea to read that first. I’ll be focusing on the differences with FI and how we would need to adapt our game (or not).
The first thing we’ll notice is that we now have far more leagues to cover. 23 of them, currently, with plans for far more to come.
In focus groups, FI were constantly told “I would join FI, but I only know about the EPL and having to know about the other 4 leagues is too much work”. So, this barrier is even bigger on Sorare.
But we have to understand here that this is a global game, and not just for the UK market.
So it’s entirely sensible for Sorare to cover a lot of leagues. And they need to cover a lot of ground so that they can mint enough cards to give people a lot of options.
This is… mixed I guess. On the one hand, I can see how it is fun to dig out an obscure Belgian league player and win. (Interestingly, Vanaken, one of my site favourites from Europa League scouting on FI who had success for us, is a cult figure on Sorare! It is nice to see that the legend of Vanaken will live on if FI does not make it).
Certainly, if like me you will be joining to win and get the best possible value… we are just never going to be doing that by picking Neymar, Kimmich or Mbappé. We will, as things stand anyway, have to do it by going for less popular players, often outside of the big 5 Leagues.
The game makes no distinction for the importance of the match. Messi can smash in a hatrick to seal the title in La Liga, or I could score 3 against the Dad’s at the local 5-a-side league. If I was in the game, that would count for the same points.
So for some, this creates problems. Is that sporting or particularly fair? Of course it is not. Those are not comparable sporting feats, however much I might want to think they are. And, do we want to have to care what is going on in the Belgian League or J-League? For many from an FI audience, the answer is they don’t.
There is no reason why Sorare has to attract all FI customers of course! Globally, they will probably find enough people to fill the game and then some.
Personally, I would consider playing both types of games. I would enjoy winkling out some obscure players, assembling a relatively cheap but competitive squad and using it to beat up people who are buying more conventional and expensive cards. I might enjoy that a lot, in fact.
But it will be a different experience from cheering on our usual heroes from the big 5 European Leagues. This is neither good nor bad, it is just different and it is really just about personal taste. I’d like this. but I would do this alongside FI ideally, rather than as a replacement.
The Scoring System
Here is where we are on more familiar ground.
Like almost any digital football game players get points for various actions. Some of them do more good things than others, and they get more points.
Once I had spent a little time adjusting to a few of the quirks, the thousands of hours of experience in scouting players across a range of international leagues I have developed over the years? That can very much be brought to bear here right off the bat.
So if you feel like you can pick a player on FI, I really do not think you will have much trouble adjusting to Sorare’s system. And all this experience would likely be a huge advantage over a new player who is only using Sorare as their first platform.
It’s still goals and assists heavy just like FI. But also with a lot of points for baseline actions. This is very familiar. And it is absolutely no accident that our brothers and sisters on Sorare discovered the points magnet that is Vanaken just as we did.
A major difference is that there are no points for the team winning or minus points for them losing. So again, this widens the net and brings a lot more players into regular contention. We’ll be looking outside of the big teams more often than we would on FI. Again, some will see more variety as good. Others will not want to be assessing the strengths of mid-table Chinese Super League players too often.
But again, the tougher this is and the more obscure, the more space there is for good players to fly under the radar. And again, much as we can on FI and possibly more so, we’ll be able to exploit the fact that most people do their analysis based purely on historic data in various tools.
By focusing instead on match data and what is statistically likely to happen in future games, rather than what happened in recent games, we would be able to utilise the same edge that benefited us on FI.
However, this is a genuine accessibility point. A lot of people just will not have the time to scour multiple leagues like this. I could do it on FI but only because people paid me to do the heavy lifting for them. A normal human with a normal job? It will be very difficult to find the best value around without investing an enormous amount of time in doing so.
The shortcut of using historic data tools displaying average scores across recent games for example just does not compete with good analysis. Yet this method seems to be very commonly used in the game.
So on the one hand – there is huge scope for a dedicated person to exploit value here. On the other, doing that right takes a lot of time, effort and experience.
Value and Winning
Every market has its own quirks.
On FI we are generally familiar, at least on this site, with the concept of a “rational” or “true” value.
And we also know that hype, desirability and general sentiment can play havoc with prices too. We are well used to dealing with things other than performance that impact value. Age. National team. And yes even just that X factor that makes people want to hold a player “just because”.
But on Sorare, it seems much, much harder to peg a player to a rational value based on what cards you might win. Even if you can reliably beat other players, the card prizes at least are randomised. I cannot currently assess these odds, it may be possible, but it would be a significant feat. (If anyone has ever tried to do this, I’d be fascinated to see it please DM me!).
If you finish in a high position in the division, you get a chance of winning a rare, super rare, or even unique card which could result in a major jackpot with prices the way they are right now.
However, users I have spoken to report this is currently very difficult to achieve. This is tough for new entrants because it is just inescapable that the original users hold all the best cards already and just have a higher chance of winning.
So, even a good player joining now making the best possible value selections is in probability terms unlikely to catch them up. It is more likely in fact that anyone holding good and expensive cards will win even more good cards and get even further ahead, even if they aren’t all that great at the game.
If I pick great players at the entry price point, perhaps trying to assemble a team for £1,000 to £2,000 say, I will have to work very, very hard and show exceptional skill to beat an early adopter or someone with a bigger budget. This is a game where you can pay to win, even if you are a bad player.
This gap increases once people start to introduce Super Rare and Unique cards that give a potential 20-40% advantage. So my selections may have to be 20-40% better just to match them! There are mechanisms, through the Leagues, that keep such high rollers away from the majority.
But overall, this is not a game where we can necessarily expect the best managers to be at the top on merit. And I don’t like this at all. But it is just fundamental to the way it is currently set up and many people with a competitive mindset will not like this.
This could be fixable though – I don’t think many will begrudge early adopters for reaping the rewards from the risk they took in going early. But new players need to be able to compete more fairly amongst players of reasonably equal financial muscle – with enough prizes on offer that they can dream of moving up and one day competing with the high rollers.
This has a comparison to FI. A £10,000 portfolio holder never expected to compete with a £100,000 portfolio holder for overall gains in cash terms. But we could beat them in % terms and get a better reward through higher skill. So some form of “catch up mechanic” where a lower value manager has a credible shot at big rewards for demonstrating consistent skill could be a winner.
There is, interestingly, a “threshold” prize. You can win a small amount of Eth provided your team makes it over a scoring threshold. But we are talking perhaps £10 to £25 right now depending on the price of Eth (and that is near a current All Time High).
So here, there might be scope for a fun low stakes game where we attempt to assemble a very cheap team or a few teams that can make that worth it. We could win more than once, racking up a few £25 wins for example. But even then it is not quite the big bucks many are used to playing for on FI.
This will primarily work for cards that have little desirability beyond the ability to win. No name players that you’d only ever hold if they could score big for you in tournaments.
For Mbappé? Haaland? Good luck getting good value on those cards. Because the value will not be rational in a traditional sense. Particularly for the Unique and Super Rare cards.
See, on FI, Haaland could have a million shares. And we never hit a point where scarcity ever really became a major factor. The price therefore settles around the average the traders, as a collective, were willing to pay.
But what if there is only 1 share in Haaland? On Sorare each season only has 1 Unique Haaland card. This price is not dictated by his rational value, or even by the average person’s perception of value.
This price is set by that one person, in the entire world, who is the most desperate or enthusiastic and wealthy enough to bid a sum that would seem ludicrous to most. This is how Ronaldo’s Unique card can sell for €289,920.
And because these “collectors” exist, who are not playing to win but are involved for the prestige of owning the big names, a value trader playing to win is never going to be competing with them for popular cards.
So, if the enjoyment of watching and holding big stars is the game as we did on FI… it would not seem rational to hold your favourite players if your goal is maximising returns. On FI, you could often both rationally hold a favourite player and win with them.
You could however argue that you want to keep your big name cards, not so much to win, but because you believe they will only become more collectible in future. But then, this is a very long term bet and more about collecting. It isn’t the week in week out trading around form and fixtures we would be used to on FI.
I could get on board here with finding “hidden gems” from lower leagues that I can use to beat people holding big and expensive cards. That’s a fun pursuit.
What I really struggle with though is the sporting unfairness – the fact that someone with more money in the game than me can beat me for that reason alone, even if he plays fairly badly and I play well.
It is worth noting that Sorare plan to introduce (“mint”) more new cards in the near future, possibly introducing a whole new class of cards beneath “Rare” that should be cheaper. However, they will also be less competitive than the Rare cards. This might release some pressure and lower prices a little, as supply is increased.
But I am not convinced it will fully solve this “competitiveness” problem – this is baked in to drive more and more purchasing of higher value cards for commercial reasons.
So it gives the Sorare team a real dilemma – they need to make money – and nobody should begrudge them that.
But how do you create an ecosystem that both drives the purchasing of high value cards whilst allowing lower stakes players to feel like they are competing? Is that even possible? Do they even need it to be accessible to everyone if globally there are enough wealthy people to fund the game?
There is already growing frustration in the Sorare community about these issues.
Sorare could start raining prizes down on players as a short term solution – but as we know from FI – this can eventually put the business in a precarious situation should tougher times hit, new customers stop joining and existing customers stop trading.
It’s easy to give more prizes and everyone will cheer. But once you give, it is very, very hard to take anything away without disappointing customers. This is the spiral that got FI in such hot water.
It’s a huge challenge for Sorare to get this right.
As I said at the start, I love the concept and I can see big potential for Sorare. But it does not surprise me that it does not completely satisfy an FI audience because it was never designed to.
At the moment, with cryptocurrency on a high and cards in short supply, I can see why it is quite daunting to get involved in for many.
I would probably wait to see if cryptocurrency takes a fall and relieves some pressure. But who is to say whether that will happen or not? Crypto being crypto it has the capacity to surprise us all and increase even further from here.
Many on FI right now for understandable reasons are wondering if Sorare is safe or stable. The answer is no! It’s a tech start up built on crypto and about as stable as that sounds. It has huge potential to be fun and rewarding. I really like the concept.
And the team behind it seem solid and have great backers. But they have to prove they can be good custodians of the game over time. And walk that difficult path between respecting the value of their existing customers assets whilst making it accessible to new customers too. That is not easy.
Just like FI, they can change the terms, the rules, and do things that impact the value of cards. And they will. They have to. The game has to adapt to changing circumstances. We must go into it with our eyes wide open.
But I will keep playing myself at least at fairly low stakes for me, because I am one of these people who will enjoy finding some obscure players and seeing how far I can get them.
And I also think, with what seems to be a good team behind Sorare, they have a good shot at solving a lot of the growing pains that the platform has.
One of their strengths is that the platform is very flexible. So I would be optimistic that the offer from Sorare can get better as time goes on.
I hope you found this review helpful and if you have any questions or would like me to review any other platforms, let me know!