Gonna be in Spain, but the ‘S’ is silent.
Why fly halfway across the world for this?
And before that, why did I even spend this much on a game?
All very legitimate, and very important questions to ask.
And honestly, this entry is more of a note-to-self, a space for me to rationalize the reasons behind this decision, this journey thus far.
The short answer is: this game, Axie Infinity, is my bet on the future of gaming. This is me putting my (straw)hat in the ring, putting some(alot of) skin in the game. Because, being the future of gaming is one thing, but the moonshot goal is that this game will simply be… the Future. Period.
What is an Axie?
Let’s start with the basics. What is an Axie? What is Axie Infinity?
"Axies are like these cute digital pets that you buy or breed to collect while Axie Infinity is the game to make them battle.”
"So kinda like a Pokemon game", you say.
"Yes! But here you play 3 Axies having 6 moves (cards) each. And the position of the Axies in the playing field matters. Plus, here, you own the pets, like you could sell them if you want." I said.
"Cool!", you exclaim.
Right now, the first and main game you can use these Axies in is Axie Infinity, a turn-based battle game where your team of 3 Axies fight against another players'.
Already in development are dozens of new games being built to integrate these Axies (see: Axie DoLL, Mech Infinity).
Eventually, Axies will become your ticket to an infinite world of experiences.
But let’s focus on the main game first.
A genuinely fun game
I love this game.
Like, strip away all the earning potential or crypto or digital property rights bits, and just looking at this as a game. It is very fun.
Of course, fun is subjective, and perhaps this genre of games don’t appeal to everyone, but I am definitely not alone.
How does the gameplay work?
It’s kind of like Pokemon and Hearthstone combined into one game. Your 3 Axies fight your opponent’s 3 Axies, and whoever eliminates the other team first wins.
Axies spring to life as soon as you play cards from your hand.
Reminds me of the classic Duel Masters we used to be obsessed over when we were kids. Except this time, it feels more like the animated show rather than the physical card game.
It’s beginner-friendly, easy to learn, with plenty of room for mastery with a high skill cap.
It’s turn-based, so the strategy in-game comes in several forms:
choosing which Axies and combinations of Axies to put together in a team.
choosing the order and positioning of your Axies.
choosing which cards to play on your turn, sequencing them properly and according to what your opponent has played.
And I can tell you, just these 3 strategy aspects of the game are addictive af. It’s a constant cycle of: can I find better Axies to play with? Can I position them better? Can I sequence my cards better?
Plus, Axies can be upgraded with Runes and Charms, which you craft by progressing in-game. These add another element of variance and strategic depth to the game, and it makes the whole addiction-flywheel go on steroids.
It also further deepens the personal customization and identity connection we players have to these Axies.
(for those who have played Axie Infinity Classic before during last year’s bull market, I am referring to Axie Infinity: Origin here, which is far superior as a game imo)
As a game developer myself, trust me when I say that this has all the hallmarks of a great game. All the game design theory, all the case studies and research of top-tier games. Axie Infinity has these traits.
It is a legitimately well-designed game.
Axie Infinity remains one of the most played NFT games in the world with the following metrics:
771,000 monthly-active on-chain users
370,000 weekly-active on-chain users
2.3 million Axie holders
4 million Ronin wallet downloads
And it is still in Alpha. Just wait till the game is polished, and released in app stores worldwide.
More than a Game
But more than just a game, the world of Axies is an entire economy, buzzing with activity every day.
This in itself is a massive endeavor that the team at Sky Mavis needs to grapple with.
Because apart from just making a fun game, they also need to design a sustainable, healthy economy. In crypto, we would call this tokenomics. But in a crypto-game, this is dialed up to a 100 because of the sheer amount of transactions and incentives built-in.
See, in traditional games like Runescape or World of Warcraft, we have in-game economies too.
Most games have some form of currency, be it Points, Money, assets or accessories.
And for the longest time, people have already been trading these.
We could trade Pokemon, Duel Masters Cards, Runescape items or gold, Mousehunt gold or even just selling entire accounts of nearly any popular game.
All these still exist today.
Worldwide, people spend billions on games. Be it just buying the equipment/software/physical product to play the game, or in-game upgrades, or cosmetics, or tickets for events, or merchandise.
Think bigger than just video games or console games.
Think games like Golf, or Bowling, or Basketball. All these are games, in every sense of the word. It is an artificial construct of rules and rewards. That is what a game is.
And think about how much money flows in each of these games. Think of the jobs created because of these economies.
Of course, not everyone is ‘earning’ from the game. There needs to be people contributing to the economy, in order for anything to be taken out.
Axie became synonymous with the term ‘Play-to-Earn’ in 2021, as millions of players in Phillipines, Indonesia and Latin America quit their jobs to just play this game full-time and earn money, most of them under scholarship programs.
And so, people had this idea that you could put in $5 and take out $6 no matter what - just play the game and the money will come.
But that’s where people got burned.
You need to shift your expectation of games like Axie. It’s true that if you go into this game trying to earn money first without contributing anything, then you are bound to fail. Trying to take without giving first is never going to work.
Its true in basically everything else in life.
Why do we pay money for games?
Because we feel like we are getting something out of it that is worth the money.
The fun experience, the social dynamics, the role-playing fantasy-adventure aspects of stepping into a whole other world.
Games are experiences, after all.
Why does someone spend $69.90 to buy a set of Rats to Riches?
Maybe they just want to support me as the creator, but its pretty undeniable that someone would spend that money on the game for the fun of it.
They are buying Fun.
Paying for an emotional experience. A social one, with their friends and family.
That’s what the money is going towards. And it is a perfectly fine and time-tested exchange of value. A transaction, if you want to be crude.
Money for Fun.
Nobody complains that they aren’t earning any money from playing Rats to Riches.
At least, nobody has come to me with this complaint as of yet.
But it just doesn’t make sense to.
The cheese tokens in the game don’t have value outside of this imaginary world of entrepreneurial rats and sewers.
And so we need to look at Axie Infinity in the same light.
The game needs to be fun intrinsically. Players who spend money to buy in-game assets should do so simply because they want to, not because they feel like the $5 they put in can become $6 the next day.
They should spend because they find the Axies cute, or it helps them win the game more, or they want to breed more and collect them.
Or any other reason.
The earnings part of the game is simply a bonus, and should be proportional to how much that person contributes to the ecosystem.
You wouldn’t expect any football player to earn money, or any chess player to earn money. But it makes sense for the top players to earn money, for the tournament organizers to earn money, for the chess-set manufacturers to earn money. Right?
So it will be the case in Axie too.
The average player probably won’t enjoy the kinds of earnings that we had back in the crazy bull run of 2021. It’s true that the period then was not reflective of a long-term sustainable model.
But it did show the potential and the power of games to create genuine value.
Because clearly, people spend loads of money on games all the time.
So what is the difference here?
Why is Axie the future if this is already in the past?
The only difference between sustainable blockchain games and traditional games is that players can put in $5 and get the intrinsic value, while also owning the assets they earn along the way, with the option to sell them. There will be some people who put in $5 and can get $6 out, and some people who put in $5 and can get $2 out. In both cases players can be happy with the result, as what they take out is just a bonus on top of the intrinsic value they’ve received (e.g. fun, new friends, assets to brag about). Ultimately, for a sustainable economy the overall average inflow needs to be greater than the outflow.
The goal with Axie Infinity is not to create an impossible world where we can give everyone $6 if they put in $5. The goal is to provide intrinsic value through the game, while sharing the $5 that players might put in back with them, in contrast to traditional games where the developer takes the entire $5 for themselves.
We are simply creating the possibility for players to have greater ownership over their assets. Because assets on the blockchain are immutable, unique and transparent to all, we can definitively say that this Axie belongs to you. It is not a copy-paste of some IP like a duplicate Pikachu from the classic Pokemon games.
Being on the blockchain also leads to greater volume and price discovery. Rather than having to barter trade with real-life friends in school for my Pokemons or Duel Masters cards, we now have a marketplace where millions of transactions can happen anytime, anywhere, with anyone in the world. This is already happening, and the Axie marketplace handles >$1millionUSD worth of transactions per week today. Each transaction is lightning-fast, and totally transparent.
And again, this game is only in Alpha. Imagine what this would look like once it is officially released.
“Play-to-Earn” has become a very loaded term that many have interpreted to mean everyone can make money from playing. As outlined above, this is simply not possible, and we are actively looking to shift the narrative to “Play-and-Earn” to be more clear - you can have fun playing a game and maybe earn some things along the way that you can own, but the primary motivation should still be the “Play”! “Earning” here also does not mean extracting from the ecosystem necessarily, it could be that you “Earn” an asset that you just hold onto and value as a collectible.
Skin in the Game
As you might know, Axie did get hacked earlier this year, of $600million. It was terrible, unfortunate, and painful for all of us in the community. Many lost faith.
But not only did Axie weather this major hack, it also repaid all losses to affected players.
Now, if these guys, the development team at Sky Mavis, were just out to make a quick buck and scam people, would they have done this?
To me, this was a testament to the strength, robustness and devotion to the cause. And to its community.
It shows skin in the game.
As a side bonus, it also showed just how deep the team’s war chest and financial strength goes. (current FDV close to $4B (it listed at $27M).
It is rare to find people who are this talented, and this passionate about something so big. I suppose the other person or team that comes to mind is Elon Musk with his myriad moonshot projects.
And so, when I heard that Axie was having its first ever AxieCon, an in-person 4-day long event with tournaments, panels, socials, etc. You could bet your bottom dollar I wasn’t going to miss it for the world.
This is a movement. A revolution. The new Wild West.
And it is exactly where I want to be.