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Decentraland vs Sandbox vs Upland: Which Metaverse is the best?

With the NFT craze still in full swing from earlier this year, blockchain savvy developers are taking a crack at creating all-encompassing NFT-based video games, or a “Metaverse”. This is where users can trade blockchain-based deeds to virtual real estate that can be exchanged for cryptocurrency. Today, we explore the early contenders in this space including Upland, The Sandbox, and Decentraland.

Decentraland runs on MANA

What is an NFT-based Metaverse?

There’s quite a bit of jargon in this phrase. An NFT is a Non-Fungible Token. These tokens have taken the crypto space by storm this year and some are already valued in the range of millions of dollars. Mostly they function as a kind of digital collectable ranging from physical and virtual real estate to digital art and sports memorabilia.

The term metaverse has a number of definitions, but in the case of something NFT based, it is a digital “deed” to something represented by a blockchain. These are often created by an artist or a user on a given platform. With video games and other creative mediums meeting the blockchain, it comes as no surprise that the creation of NFTs are becoming streamlined, made for entertainment, and more accessible to content creators and gamers.

What Are the Differences?

Decentraland, Upland and The Sandbox all of slightly different ways of approaching the metaverse space. First and foremost are the graphics. Decentraland is somewhat reminiscent of Second Life while the Sanbox has taken a more Minecraft-style approach with its polygons. Meanwhile Upland has more in common with Google maps than a common video game.

Here’s a look at some of the other differences in more detail:


Getting into deeper detail, Decentraland, as a platform, provides a good example of just how this NFT metaverse stuff works. Decentraland is a 3D modelled, virtual reality simulator, similar to Second Life.

The sky’s the limit for creators in Decentraland, one can create works of 3D modelled art, challenges for other players to complete in exchange for prizes, and much more. For example, one user showcased a virtual car dealership on their youtube channel. In the video linked, the price for a vehicle produced by CryptoMotors is 1 ETH. This provides users of the virtual world with the opportunity to trade digital items as seamlessly as trading digital currencies.

A throwback to anti-piracy ads – now you really can download a car with the power of NFTs.

The advantage of an NFT vehicle, though compared to digital goods on the older Second Life, is that NFTs are compatible on multiple platforms. If you buy and download your car in Decentraland, you could theoretically take it to another platform like The Sandbox. You could also sell it on any platform where CryptoMotors NFT’s are available. Compared to older games that weren’t built with interoperability in mind, the standardized nature of the ETH blockchain is what makes this possible.

You can also purchase LAND. LAND is a non-fungible smart contract, to keep it brief. LAND is divided into parcels which record X,Y coordinates that function like an address. This address also keeps a record of ownership or who owns the “deed” to the NFT. This is only the tip of the iceberg with Decentraland, it’s quite a complex platform with tons of future potential for digital ownership.

How to Play Decentraland

You can actually already play Decentraland through a web browser. It’s really as simple as hitting the “play as a guest” button but you can also connect with a crypto wallet to actually save your character.

Keep in mind that Decentraland is very much a work in progress at this point and it’s glitchy — to say the least — but you can get an idea of what it will be like when it eventually leaves Beta testing. You’ll already see some of the foundations of the space (NFT galleries, crypto exchange sponsored buildings, etc.).

The Sandbox

The Sandbox is similar in concept to Decentraland but the key difference is that the total number of LAND parcels is limited to 166,000. The Sandbox is much more focused on the concept of digital real estate and has a ton of interesting partners including, but not limited to, Deadmau5Atari, and the developers of The Walking Dead games. It’s important to note that The Sandbox is in an alpha stage of development, however do not be deterred by this. Minecraft was in an alpha stage for a long time and it was an excellent content creator long before its official release.

The Sandbox provides a unique environment unlike any other game. It’s a step away from developer-focused content creation and puts more responsibility of the in-game metaverse into the hands of players and creators, including investment and acquiring the digital space. All items in The Sandbox can be tokenized and sold using the game’s SAND token, which is a utility token that is fungible with other currencies.

To quickly reiterate, SAND is the money portion of The Sandbox, that can be traded for both LAND and cryptocurrencies. LAND is the NFT portion.


Currently in open beta, Upland is the odd one out of the three NFT metaverses being discussed. Upland is even more invested in the idea of virtual real estate, however, it is mapped to the real world. It’s a “parallel metaverse” to our own. Theoretically, if you can beat the other buyers to the punch, you could buy your current street address in Upland and then build your virtual dream house in the parallel metaverse. Upland has a number of additional features such as in-game events, collectables to accumulate, challenges to complete, and much more. Mainly, it brands itself as a virtual real estate platform and social network.

Unlike The Sandbox and Decentraland, Upland is based off of the EOS blockchain rather than ETH. So you won’t be transferring your Upland version of your dream home into other metaverses. At least at this point in time.

In addition you must buy the Upland token (UPX) directly from Upland.

Which is the Better Investment?

This is not investment avice but it seems likely that the strongest contender — at this time — is The Sandbox. The developers have been around since 2006 and have formed strong institutional partnerships. Even though it’s currently only in the alpha stage, Minecraft was once in the same situation and became immensely popular. Upland is in its nascent stages, compared to The Sandbox, although the idea of buying and selling virtual properties mapped to the real world has potential to take off.

While Decentraland is also a strong contender for the top spot, it serves as more of an NFT gallery, true to it’s real-world holders, the Decentraland Foundation. Decentraland’s model simply feels outclassed in terms of in-game experience by Second Life. Comparatively, The Sandbox is creator friendly and robust as a platform for both players and creators. The Sandbox is definitely something to keep an eye on if you’re hooked on the NFT craze.

What’s the Future of Metaverse?

It’s anyone’s guess at this point. While there is clearly some inherent demand for a virtual shared space it’s not clear exactly what it will look like in the future. Everyone from Facebook at Apple has been taking a close look at the space trying to figure out where it’s going.

Who knows if the Decentraland or the Sandbox come out on top. There’s also a decent chance the dominant metaverse application has yet to be released.

Where Can I Buy SAND?

SAND has become one of the more popular Metaverse tokens and is available on a wide variety of crypto exchanges including Binance and

Binance Logo


  • Easy sign-up process
  • Lowest transaction fees of any major exchange
  • 175+ different digital assets available
  • Free deposits
Funding Methods Debit & Credit Card, Wire Transfer, ACH
Cryptocurrencies 175+
Countries 100+
Binance offers a relatively secure, versatile way to invest in and trade cryptocurrencies. The platform could be overwhelming for both beginners and experienced traders. Binance offers lower fees than many other cryptocurrency exchanges. Exchange Logo Exchange

  • One-stop shop for crypto with built-in exchange, app, lending platform, debit card and more
  • Native CRO token gives users a huge variety of perks and can be staked for over 10% APY
  • Potential for earning high amount of interest when storing digital assets on
  • A long-term goal of building cryptocurrency adoption on whole
Funding Methods Crypto, bank transfer, credit card, debit card
Cryptocurrencies 200+
Countries 80+

Where Can I Buy MANA?

Decentraland’s token is also relatively easy to acquire and it’s heavily traded on both KuCoin and Gemini crypto exchanges.

KuCoin Exchange Logo


  • International exchange with hundreds of different cryptos
  • Extremely simple sign-up process
  • Very high level of security
  • Users can invest in the success of KuCoin through KuCoin Shares
Funding Methods Crypto
Cryptocurrencies 100+
Countries 170+
Gemini Cryptocurrency Logo


Funding Methods Banks Account (ACH), Debit card, Paypal, Wire Transfer
Cryptocurrencies 80+
Countries 60+
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Michael Brown

About the Author

Michael Brown

Michael Brown is the acting Chairman of community based thought collective, Subcultural Research Lab. His interest in Crypto began while studying industrial engineering in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. His passion lies in geopolitics, social phenomenon, and the exchange of data. You can find Subcultural Research Lab at

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