|Launch Date: October 2018|
Developer: Sky Mavis
Publisher: Sky Mavis
Platforms: Android (side loading), iOS (closed TestFlight Beta), Windows, Mac OS.
Genre: TCG / team battler.
Similar to: Hearthstone, Pokémon, CryptoKitties.
What is it?
Axie Infinity is a NFT-based collectible battler developed by Vietnamese studio Sky Mavis, who are an alumni of Ubisoft’s Enterprise Labs. The developer is also behind various dapps (decentralised apps), including a marketplace and Steam-like crypto game launcher, as well as a crypto wallet app.
Why is it important?
In recent months Axie Infinity has become a hot topic due to its explosive growth, hitting 1 million DAU and an accumulative $1 billion in lifetime trades. This growth has been predicated off what Sky Mavis promotes as ‘Play-to-Earn’ (P2E herein): The ability for players to cash out their in-game winnings to provide a real world living. This has been promoted in the Philippines as an alternative to COVID impacted professions.
However, many have warned that Axie Infinity’s economy’s ability to support P2E is based on the continued influx of new users looking to profit. Without these new users the demand for new Axies (the essential characters needed to play) drops, with their price (and so P2E earnings) falling alongside. This has resulted in some comparing the situation to a Ponzi scheme.
As a completely new type of deal between developers and players there are several key questions this article will address about Axie Infinity:
- How does it play?
- How does the economy work? Including, how does Sky Mavis profit?
- What’s good?
- What could be better?
How does it play?
For all the discussion about Axie Infinity, the core gameplay gets very little attention. At the simplest level the game is a hybrid of a team battler and a TCG, with clear influences from Hearthstone and, as noted in the Sky Mavis’ white paper, the Final Fantasy Tactics games.
The player creates a team of three floating monsters known as axies, positioning them strategically in a grid. This positioning impacts both the default target as well as the interaction between the axies.
Each axie is defined by four stats (Health, Morale, Skill and Speed) that impact combat performance. Secondarily each axie has four cards which can be considered like abilities. Both stats and cards attached to the axie are defined by six body parts (eyes, ears, horn, mouth, back and tail). Finally there is a rock, paper, scissors set of classes, which are strong and weak against each other.
In combat players are dealt a hand of cards across their axies, which cost a mana amount to play. These cards define how each axie will attack, defend and support, including targeting, buffing, debuffing and the like. The RPG and TCG mechanics sit alongside each other very harmoniously, such that team composition and positioning strategies work in conjunction with concepts such as card advantage and tempo sympathetically. This creates a game that is subtly deep in strategy, while not being overly complex to initially pick up and play.
In fact, the simplicity of play and depth of mechanics, alongside very fine balancing, makes the game very compelling to play. Some ostensibly simple mechanics take time to fully understand and strategically master.
There are two ways to play once you have your squad:
- Adventure: A set of simple PvE campaigns where levels are connected in saga map style. Players play against AI controlled non-axie enemies.
- Arena: An Elo ranked and matchmade PvP mode, where players face off their squads.
These two modes form the basis of the game’s economy. Energy is used to reward gate, and replenishes over time based on how many axies the player has, while winning itself rewards SLP (Smooth Love Potion), the token used for breeding (more on these resources below). In addition, Adventure mode rewards axies with EXP which increases their level, ultimately benefiting their stats.
But there is a reason why this core gameplay is overshadowed by the rest of the game, despite being good – it’s the least novel or interesting part of the product. Instead it is the economy of breeding and the marketplace that generates the profiteering behaviour that is ultimately what makes Axie Infinity one of the most exciting games in a decade.
How does the economy work?
At the core of Axie Infinity are three resources, alongside the axies themselves. They are:
- Energy (off chain): Each PvP and PvE match uses up one unit of Energy. If a player is out of energy they can still play both PvE and PvP but they will not receive SLP or EXP (EXperience Points used to define an axie’s level). This means Energy is reward gating. The amount of energy a player can have and how quickly it regenerates is dependent on the number of axies they own. This is a rather arbitrary way of encouraging players to purchase more axies than gameplay reasonably requires.
- SLP aka Smooth Love Potion (off and on chain): A grindable resource that is granted upon winning matches in either PvP or PvE. It is also one of the two resources, alongside AXS, that is used to breed new axies.
- AXS aka $AXS (on chain): An ERC-20 governance token for the game. This smart contract backed token has a number of uses, from voting on development decisions to staking, but most key is it’s use alongside SLP in breeding.
SLP Grinding and P2E
Smooth Love Potion is the key resource at the centre of Axie Infinity and the driver of P2E.
Players gain SLP in two ways:
- Arena (PvP): Almost every win rewards the player with an amount dependent on their current ranking, with higher rankings rewarding more SLP per win. At lower rankings no reward is paid.
- Adventure (PvE): Completing a level rewards players depending on the star rating (directly related to the number of axies still alive).
SLP can only be gained if the player has Energy, ultimately making Energy the gating factor in SLP creation. Although increased axie ownership brings up the rate of energy creation.
At set intervals (currently every two weeks) players can claim their SLP from the game into their Ronin wallets (i.e. putting it on chain). From here SLP can either be traded on an exchange like Binance or used to breed axies.
It is this selling of SLP that has given rise to a gig economy of players grinding the game, earning SLP and selling it for fiat. It’s reasonable for players to earn around 500 SLP per week, with three hours of play per day. At the current SLP price of $0.064 USD that amounts to $32 per week and $1,664 per year. Although many players will be playing through scholarships (an axie loaning group) and cashing out around 70% of their total earnings ($1,164).
With a mean salary in the Philippines of around $3,200 USD, running three Axie Infinity accounts could currently provide a good living. However, there appears to be a strong downward trend on SLP prices recently, meaning that soon P2E may become unsustainable. The causes of this are discussed in detail in P2E is Unsustainable, later.
AXS, Community Treasury and DAO
AXS (Axie Infinity Shard) is an ERC-20 governance token. That is to say, an Ethereum smart contract token intended to act similarly to shares of a company, where owners will receive ‘dividends’ and use their tokens to vote on important issues around the game and its economy. AXS exists on the Ronin blockchain (an Ethereum Network sidechain) and is traded on several exchanges, including Binance.
Like all ERC-20 tokens there is ultimately a finite number that can be created. In this instance 270m which will be allocated in several stages and differing amounts to various parties and for various purposes. The allocations are well defined in the whitepaper, with just over 22% currently in circulation.
The ‘dividend’ aspect comes from staking: Locking coins up in return for a percentage of the Community Treasury (AXS and wETH). The Axie Infinity Marketplace is subject to a 4.25% fee (aka tax), meaning that each trade funnels 4.25% of the total wETH value (lost on the seller’s side) into the Community Treasury. Likewise, all AXS sunk in breeding are also transferred here. It is argued that staking and for treasury rewards act as a way of stabilizing AXS value as, as AXS shouldn’t drop below the wETH held by the treasury:
The Community Treasury will create a base value for the AXS token. Why? Since the treasury will eventually be governed by AXS holders, the minimum market cap for AXS will be influenced by the size of the Treasury. For example, if there were 5,000 ETH in the Treasury, it wouldn’t make sense for the circulating market cap of AXS to be significantly lower than this since over time, this will be distributed back to stakers. To kick this process off, Delphi Digital has proposed sending 5% of the Community Treasury to stakers each week.https://axieinfinity.medium.com/the-community-treasury-an-overview-52a42ed2186b
At the time of writing the Community Treasury holds around 35k wETH (~$100m USD value) and 18m AXS (~$1.18b USD value). With a total current circulation of around 60m AXS, that means the treasury currently holds around 30% of all AXS. Also on the basis of a base value based on wETH treasury value (USD) / AXS circulation cap, then we derive a value of $1.67 USD per AXS. However, at present AXS is trading around 40x that value at around $70 USD.
The tokens are also intended to allow governance votes on specific issues around the game. The type of issues votable will seemingly change from distribution of treasury to divorcing fully from Sky Mavis in around 2023. The whitepaper proposes transfer to a DAO (Decentralised Autonomous Organisation) as the game “gradually evolves into a community-owned Decentralized Organization”.
Staking has just been enabled as of time of writing (30 September). However, at present governance votes are not currently active, despite being due live by the end of the first half of this year. Meaning, AXS does not really function as a governance token yet, but only as a breeding token. And of course it’s possible Sky Mavis may change their view on AXS usage, as they are not legally bound to their plans.
While some games already allow players to vote on feature development (see Old School Runescape’s polls), the radical power seeding of a game as proposed by Axie Infinity’s whitepaper is mostly uncharted territory. While the claims are that AXS will help to align interests of players and the commercial interests of a game, it is of course possible that populism amongst the player base or the voting power of wealthy parties could actually harm the game’s performance. So how much real governance Sky Mavis will give to AXS holders remains to be seen.
Breeding and Marketplace
All axies exist on the Ronin blockchain as an NFT. The process of breeding is therefore the process of minting a new axie NFT. In order to initiate the breed, the player must spend both SLP and AXS, where the amount of SLP is dependent on the breed count of the parent axies. Each breed increases the SLP cost of subsequent breeds, with a maximum of seven breeds per axie possible. The current price to breed two virgin axies is 300 SLP and 1 AXS, but prices are frequently being changed by Sky Mavis as an approach to balancing the economy.
The newly bred axie is generated using a genetic algorithm, much like that seen in CryptoKitties, where the child axie will inherit properties of the parent axies. The parents therefore determine type and body parts.
Axies can then be sold via the Axie Infinity Marketplace for wETH (Etherum token).
How does Sky Mavis profit?
With Axie Infinity’s economy being so new, complex and atypical, it can be hard to unpick how exactly Sky Mavis is profiting from the game. So we want to be clear that we are unsure of the full accuracy of this section and if you spot errors, please reach out to us.
There are understood to be several revenue streams from the game to Sky Mavis:
- ICO (Initial Coin Offering): When AXS was launched there was a public and private sale of tokens.
- AXS Holding: Sky Mavis will own 21% of the total AXS token circulation. These AXS have market value now, but will also generate revenue from staking.
- Service Agreement: It is implied Axie Infinity Limited pay Sky Mavis to continue developing the game, however this is not explicit in the whitepaper.
As mentioned at the top of this deconstruction, the core gameplay of Axie Infinity is a really solid combination of mechanics borrowed from turn based JRPGs and TCGs. While the interaction is rather simple, drag cards to play, gameplay is the complex exchange of various resources. Cards, turns, mana and health are in effect exchanged as a match is played.
This leads to considerations around tempo (speed of play), card advantage (having more play options) and mana ramp (having more mana), while axie rollout leads to consideration of deck building (finding synergist abilities) and team placement (finding optimal ordering and spatial ability advantages). In second order strategy bluffing, as well as turn passing and beatdown (aka roll identification) theory all become important.
But what’s nice is that these strategies emerge rather quickly and logically from play. It’s soon obvious that tank axies or axies with healing abilities should be the target of an alpha strike, meaning passing a turn without a play is required to build those resources (cards and mana). On the flip side, predicting and defending against alpha strikes, as well as predicting skip turns, becomes central too. These basic strategies can then quickly expand into mana counting and card tracking.
All of this description is to say that the game is easy to pick up and deep enough to feel mastery progress, the holy grail of strategy game design. However, realistically players quickly run into familiar situations that only become more frequent. The pool of cards, defined by the pool of axie parts, is ultimately rather shallow, with lots of design space available for more mechanics. This is discussed in greater depth in Solution: Sets and Formats.
P2P Trading and Economy
The headline mechanic of Axie Infinity is in the P2P trading and on-chain economy aspects, which will be explored in greater detail later. While this is perhaps a novelty to those new to crypto gaming, it’s not entirely unique.
Similar kinds of asset trading have existed in games such as Magic the Gathering Online (formerly Magic the Gathering with Digital Objects) which saw the fluid exchange of semi-fungible cards anchored with real world costs and in-game utility. While in MTGO the economy emerged semi organically* Axie Infinity was built with this trading in mind. The tools, both official and external, allow for comparatively easy exchange of assets.
The ease of trading facilitates some new, or previously poorly served, players behaviour and roles, including:
- Collectors: Players who buy items only for their aesthetic, rarity or province value alone.
- Speculators: Players who buy axies on assumption of value appreciation. These predictions of future value may be due to an anticipated shift in meta, a feeling of current underpricing or future collector appeal.
- Arbitrage Resellers: Players who search the marketplace in search of bargains, only to relist at higher prices. Perhaps using some external marketing to promote their stock.
- Breeders: Players who breed axies from good stock to create new, highly desirable axies.
These roles have analogs in real world hobbies, such stamp collecting and pet breeding, and serve psychographics often underrepresented in most traditional games. The financial link to hobbies, be they net negative or positive, is often a core aspect for many: It may be a side hustle or way to invest and own a part of their interest. The Axie Infinity Marketplace, therefore, can be considered to serve a role akin to hobbyist swap meet or breeder show; a gathering of people and an exchange of value.
* The famous crypto exchange Mt. Gox was originally an MTGO card exchange designed to allow for fluid speculation on cards.
Linking to the above comparisons to hobbies, one of the big positives of Axie Infinity is the size and quality of the community. At the time of writing the official discord has nearly 780k members, there are a lot of community-built third party tools, Twitch viewership is on the rise and YouTube is well served for content.
Players who are actively social in a game form bonds that outlast any game mechanic, not dissimilar to friendships forged in hobbies. It is commonalities of interests that hold humans, very social creatures, together.
Additionally these communities seem very positive and open compared to other games. This friendly aspect of the community is likely strengthened by the somewhat aligned motivations of developers and players: Both want assets to appreciate and so both want more players.
Regardless, the size and quality of the community is a huge asset for Sky Mavis not just for the continued prosperity of Axie Infinity, but any future games the team may release. It represents a ready-made playerbase who can be mobilised to a new release quickly, seeding it financially and with player liquidity.
What could be better?
P2E Is Unsustainable
Axie Infinity’s income potential has been widely touted by Sky Mavis, scholarship programs and the player base. And while this has been true for recent months, much has been written about the long term sustainability of Axie Infinitie’s economy.
However, the foundations are beginning to look unstable. SLP prices have steadily declined since mid July, dropping 85% from $0.40 to $0.06 today (29 September 2021). This is due to a fundamental problem in the P2E mode: The demand, once satiated, becomes supply.
The value of SLP is driven by demand for axies. But as there’s a low finite cap for how many axies a player could reasonably want to own, a constant stream of new players are needed to keep demand stable.
While this seems reasonable, there is a second order problem: Those new players become suppliers. Effectively playing Axie Infinity is the process of turning Energy into SLP. This reduces the player’s need for purchasing SLP and any excess is pushed to the market. Additionally, when these players eventually churn from the game they’ll likely liquidate their axies, which increases axies supply, reducing breeding demand and so SLP demand.
The problem above is exacerbated by P2E players who are interested only in maximising the creation of SLP for the secondary market and not for the game. These players become taps for the economy and their viability only attracts more players (or workers) to do the same.
Therefore, it’s not just a steady flow of new players that are needed but an increasing rate of new players: As the player base grows so too does the supply of grinded resources. Exponential increase in new players is possible in the short term, but unsustainable long term.
This has been borne out in the economy where the supply of SLP has increased, resulting in the price decline of the last few months. It is possible that below a certain SLP price that P2E players and scholarship managers give up on the game and cash out, resulting in an exodus of value in the game and so crashing prices across SLP, AXS and axies.
Sky Mavis has made temporary moves in reducing the reward rate of SLP and AXS requirements for breeding. While this has reduced the market supply the prices have continued to fall.
Longer term the dev team have been very open about the need to manage the number of players and the impact they’ll have on the economy. The current plan has three elements:
- Increase axie demand through new gameplay mechanics outside of the core gameplay, such as the long anticipated land mechanics. Land combines some resource gathering and management as well as what appears to be some Final Fantasy Tactics like PvE.
- Breaking axies to craft or upgrade other items.
- Soulbound axies, that are free to players, but have no SLP earning potential.
However, these proposals are not convincing in solving long term demand. Specifically, the land feature, despite appearing interesting, moves away from the core game that has made the game popular and places a lot of risk on the product. Land effectively dilutes the proven product market fit, complicates an already convoluted onboarding process and, like any new gameplay, could prove not to be enjoyable.
Breaking axies to craft or upgrade items is a more sane solution, by becoming an additional sink in the economy. However, how this is handled has some big implications. Firstly, asking players to break items worth hundreds of dollars may be a big ask. But secondarily, if breaking axies to upgrade other axies results in significant benefits in PvP then it will become a defacto requirement to being competitive, ultimately resulting in pushing up the starting price.
Finally, soulbound axies are great inclusion. If implemented correctly they may serve as a way of smoothing out the onboarding process (see Accessibility below), however they could run the risk of sating the gameplay needs of players with no interest in axie breeding, ultimately harming the upfront buy-in and thus decreasing axie demand.
Solution: Sets and Formats
There is a proven solution to continued sinking that has been employed by TCGs for decades: Sets and formats. In Magic, for example, new cards are frequently released via sets. These collections of cards are designed to have new mechanics, specific synergies amongst each other and ways of disrupting the current PvP meta.
As new sets are released, the pool of cards increases and older cards become resigned to the secondary market with the most powerful becoming increasingly valuable (see Magic the Gathering’s Black Lotus). This is good for the speculative economy for NFTs, but bad for new players as cards required to be competitive become cost prohibitive.
As such, formats restrict the cards that can be played, with some covering only the most recent cards, while others cover all or large percentages of the printed card pool. These formats allow for those with the deepest pockets and those with the oldest collection to continue playing and spending in the widest pools, while new players can buy in with the most recent releases.
By releasing new sets of axies (and ultimately restricting via formats) that disrupt the current PvP meta, a fresh demand amongst existing players would be created for breeding, which in turn means a greater demand for SLP, more AXS sunk and so greater profitability for AXS holders.
There is also a second benefit behind the introductions of sets: While the core PvP gameplay of Axie Infinity is good, the number of cards and mechanics faced compared to similar games is pretty low. Ultimately the gameplay becomes rather stale as most situations are either solved or well trodden. Other TCG use sets as a way of introducing new mechanics that result in new strategic possibilities.
For example, it would be possible to introduce axie types that reanimate dead axies or others who steal cards from opposing axies. These would change the way players need to consider targeting and play order of their cards, resulting in new strategic thinking and reinvigorated play.
However, there is a risk that new sets may anger players whose axies are weakened in the new PvP meta, thus diminishing their value. This is solved by the introduction of breaking, where players can destroy axies in order to gain back a percentage of the SLP and AXS used to create them, thus increasingly shortening the supply of axies in the P2P market.
One of the biggest issues with Axie Infinity, and many NFT games, right now is accessibility. Unlike a regular mobile game that can be simply downloaded from the store and played, Axie Infinity has a number of roadblocks.
Firstly the app isn’t available on either Google Play or Apple’s App Store. While Android players can sideload the game, iOS players need to install the game via a Testflight open beta. However, at the time of writing the beta is currently full.
However, there are builds available for Mac OS and Windows, via Sky Mavis’s Mavis Hub.
The next blocker is that in order to actually play Axie Infinity players need a starting team of at least three Axies and those Axies will reside in the player’s Ronin Wallet (the wallet app created by Sky Mavis). So the player must install Ronin and set up an account, then link it in the game.
Once the wallet is set up there are two options to get this starter team: Buy them or join a scholarship. Let’s discuss the most direct route of purchasing first.
Purchasing axies is done via the Axie Infinity Marketplace. But without having played the game it’s hard to know which axies are good or offer value as the stats and abilities of each are unique. This is compounded by the fact that axies are prohibitively expensive starting at around 0.05 ETH (approximately $170 USD) at time of writing for zero breed examples. Players will need at least three axies to play.
The next roadblock is that Axie Infinity requires a specific token known as wETH or ‘wrapped Ethereum’, an ERC20 compliant token that can be exchanged (unlike regular ETH) for dapp (decentralised) tokens.
Fortunately purchasing of wETH is relatively easy via Sky Mavis’s Ronin Wallet, as it uses an external exchange provider.
However, in many countries the purchase of crypto currency requires personal verification as part of know your customer regulation, which adds an additional step. In an additional layer of annoyance Department of Play’s UK bank has silently blocked all card purchases to Ronin’s exchange Ramp, despite it being FSA regulated.
To summarise playing Axie Infinity requires a totally new player to:
- Download and install (or side load) Axie Infinity game client.
- Download and install Ronin Wallet on a web browser.
- Set up an account on Ronin Wallet.
- Set up an Axie Marketplace account.
- Link the Ronin Wallet in game and to the marketplace account.
- Load the Ronin Wallet with wETH (this may require ID verification and even swapping payment methods).
- Identify and buy three starter axies via the Axie Marketplace.
- Sync the wallet with the game.
This is both a huge upfront financial and time commitment, compared to even the most hardcore of games. And unsurprisingly a large number of players are dropping off the process: On 6 August 2021 Axie Infinity’s official account claimed it had reached 1 million DAU, but later clarified that axie ownership is still below 1 million people, with many downloading the app without having axies.
How severe the drop is is unknown, but we wouldn’t be surprised if the funnel completion from landing page to playing with owned axies sits in single digit percentage points.
Solution: Better Crypto Integration, Free Axies and Officialised Scholarship
The onboarding funnel is key for the game’s growth and while there are some immovables in the nature of crypto technology there are some massive improvements that could be made. To start, allowing players to download and play with some sandboxed axies that are off chain and completely free (aka Sky Mavis’ proposed soulbound axies). These free axies, rewardless PvP and some associated free PvE campaigns would allow players to get a feel for the game and which axies are worthy investment, overcoming the big upfront leap.
Following that, integration of the Ronin Wallet and the Axie Marketplace directly in to the game, even if just webviews, would mean that players aren’t having to switch between browser tabs and that the whole process of setting up a wallet, marketplace account and purchase of wETH could be much more streamlined and tutorialised. Creating a natural in-game flow that doesn’t require external guides or websites. This streamlined onboarding is something that Dapper does very well with NBA Top Shot.
It is worth noting that there is a rather unique solution to overcome much of the onboarding cost and headaches: Scholarship.
Scholarships are an emergent behaviour in the game where players are loaned axies by a manager, usually an elder player, in an agreement that gained SLP are split (e.g. 50/50). Often the scholarship can go beyond simple loaning, to a mentoring relationship between the scholar and the manager, where the players are coached to farm SLP efficiently through optimal play.
However, as scholarships are not an official element of the game, and rather an external ad-hoc arrangement, finding and gaining access to scholarship requires some leg work. Bringing this twinking behaviour into a game and formalising it, perhaps as part of a clan-like feature, would make the process of finding and managing scholarship relationships much easier for both parties.
These solutions would ultimately allow for much smoother onboarding. Players join without needing a wallet, using free soulbound Axies, then join an in-game clan scholarship, prompting them to setup a wallet and begin earning SLP. Additionally clans would open up new opportunities in the creation of in-game esport-like teams, which could be expanded on with various overlaid features.
Axie Infinity has designs on becoming an esport and, as such, has PvP battling at its heart. These one-on-one games are matchmade against a strict Elo rating implementation. The rank of each player not only dictates the difficulty of the opponent being served but also the amount of SLP the player stands to earn.
However, as discussed in our guide to matchmaking, Elo rating systems are problematic. Originally designed for chess, Elo systems adjust each player’s rating after each match based on the outcome of the match, with points transferring between players.
Why this is problematic is that Elo is zero sum, meaning that no points are ever created or destroyed, only ever transferred. As such, each player entering the system is assigned a number of points that can be considered “average”. However, a new player entering a Elo system is very likely to be considerably below average. This is doubly true of a game like Axie Infinity where a player’s success is impacted by the resources they bring.
A new player to Axie Infinity will likely have poor quality axies on top of being without strategic skill, yet they’re matchmade against players of an “average” rating. Those average players get an easy ride against the newbies, while the newbies endure a painful losing streak as they are adjusted to their accurate rating. This is compounded by the fact that as the player becomes adjusted downwards, they earn less SLP on each win as rewards are tiered by rating.
While PvE exists, the core rules and opponent creatures are different enough that they don’t adequately prepare players for the PvP environment. Ultimately, Axie Infinity’s PvP is unrelentingly punishing and demotivating to new players who have just dumped a few hundred dollars into the game. And likely a large cause of churn and liquidated axies.
Solution: Inflationary Rating and Practice Mode
For better retention, not only do players need to feel that they’re appropriately matched, but also that they are prepared and making continuous improvement.
As such there are two solutions that would drastically improve the Axie Infinity experience: Inflationary ratings and a practice mode for PvP.
Inflationary ratings is a way of describing the many systems of rating and matchmaking players without zero sum points. Instead new players come into the system at zero points and the consideration that they are the worst players in the pool. As the players progress they move from inflationary points (more granted for winning than losing) to zero sum systems.
Inflationary rating systems provide an initial rewarding progression, as a loss has no or reduced penalty. Ultimately senior players are progressed to be inside a more accurate ranking system that may be zero sum.
For Axie Infinity, a system similar to Apex Legends Ranked is proposed. Players begin with zero RP (Ranked Points) and are rewarded, promoted and demoted inline with something like the below:
|Rank||Promotion (RP)||Demotion (RP)||Win (SLP)||Win (RP)||Loss (RP)|
This kind of system onboard players gently with little consequences for losing but little reward. Ramping up the harshness and accuracy of the points system. Meanwhile the ranks offer players clear goals, rather than nebulous numbers, and become an easy bragging right.
In addition, the introduction of a practice mode where players can play without the risk of harming their RP or losing Energy, would allow new players to get to grips with the core gameplay against real opponents while more senior players can test new axie loadouts or strategies. This in turn reduces the harshness and improves accuracy of ratings, as players testing or learning are self-excluded.
Axie Infinity is a really solid battler, with an interesting economy that purports to embrace ideals of crypto egalitarianism, despite not being there. Neither the Ronin sidechain nor governance of the game are decentralised, even in part. At least not yet. Whether the game and technology will get where it claims is a matter of trust between players and Sky Mavis. And maybe computationally.
It is unfair to claim that the success of the game is singularly due to the NFT gold rush or the hard sale of an easy job to those in developing countries. But it’s also hard to ignore these factors as part of the game’s rocket-like growth.
The economics dictates that P2E players will get squeezed in a race to the bottom as the rate of new player growth declines and supply floods, as we’re seeing. However, if or when P2E becomes unviable is dependent on a number of factors, internally and externally to the game. It seems possible that a crash could occur as P2E players and scholarship programs see declining value and so cash out. This would harm perception in the short term, but may not ultimately harm Axie Infinity as its player base makeup adjusts to more gameplay-motivated players.
However, in all the speculation over the developer’s intention, debate over the game economy, the fact that the core game is really good is missed. However, the relative simplicity and strategic depth stop it from being a great game. It’s in expanding on this core, improving gameplay, bettering matchmaking and simply focusing on the experience which will dictate the future success of the game. It has the potential to become exceptional with dedication and focus.
Loyal players enjoying the game is what ultimately drives revenue. Blockchains, governance and decentralisation are interesting but largely second order problems that could prove to be a fatal distraction.