Suppose you are one of those kids whose childhood memories are filled with playing Pokémon for hours and hours to complete the Pokédex. In that case, chances are you'll like Axie Infinity, especially if you're also into crypto investment. But what is it, and how does it have anything to do with cryptocurrencies?
A simple analogy to explain Axie Infinity is "Pokémon, but all of the game's data is stored on a blockchain instead." The Ethereum-based game was developed by Vietnam-based studio Sky Mavis and published in March 2018. The developers took their inspiration partly from CryptoKitties, another NFT-based game. The developers analyzed CryptoKitties' flaws, mainly their subpar long-term economic strategies.
In CryptoKitties, after breeding several virtual cats, there weren't much more things to do other than collecting the different breeds. Sky Mavis saw this weakness and implemented more customization options and economic incentives to Axie Infinity. This strategy allowed them to "steal" some of the CryptoKitties' player base back in their early days.
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The game's main focus is catching Axolotl-like creatures called 'Axies' and training them to fight other players. Each Axie belongs to one of eight categories, with its benefits and drawbacks. The type-advantage mechanics work like the one used in Pokémon, and this is where the similarity ends.
An Axie is divided into six body parts randomly selected from more than 500 body parts. Additionally, each body part comes with different Dominant, Recessive, and Minor Recessive abilities and stats. The breeding system slightly randomizes these abilities and stats, similar to how our genetics work.
After installing the game from the official website, you'll need three of these Axies as starters, which you have to buy in the Axie Infinity marketplace. You'll also need a Metamask account and a crypto wallet, as transactions are performed using an Ethereum-based blockchain. The basic, cheapest Axies are up for sale in the marketplace starting from 0.003 ETH, while the most expensive ones are practically impossible to purchase.
The game mechanic lets you trade, battle, and breed your Axie NFTs. Trading Axies allows you to breed different types of Axies with each other, creating an 'offspring' that has partly randomized stats and abilities based on the parents' traits. The most fun and interesting part of the game is the battle. You can put your Axies against NPCs in the Adventure mode or battle other players' Axies in the PvP arena. By winning a match in both scenarios, the game will reward you with something called SLP we'll talk about this later.
The main selling point of this game is the play-to-earn (P2E) system. You can fight NPCs in adventure mode to rank up and win SLP. You can also fight other players to earn this SLP. NPCs in adventure mode are generally weaker, so the stakes are low, and the amount of SLP you can obtain daily is capped at a certain point. Meanwhile, you can play as much as you can in the PvP arena, but remember that other players' Axies could be way stronger. Either way, the more you play, the more SLP you can earn.
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SLP is an abbreviation of Smooth Love Potion, a cryptocurrency token you earned from winning battles in Axie Infinity. You can trade SLP for other tokens and sell those other tokens for real-world money. Inside the game itself, SLP is used for breeding the Axies. You can breed Axies up to seven times, with more SLP needed with each breed. However, breeding Axies requires another token, the AXS.
Aside from SLP, winning a battle in the PvP arena will reward you with another cryptocurrency: the AXS, a short form of Axie Shards. Unlike SLP, you have to buy AXS in the marketplace. The top rank positions of the PvP leaderboard will be rewarded with certain amounts of AXS by the end of the season, so if you are on a tight budget, make sure you are in the arena.
These tokens lay the foundation of Axie Infinity itself. AXS is the governance token, and the one you used as a fee from breeding will go directly to Axie Infinity treasury. Aside from breeding your Axies, SLP allows you to buy in-game items. Every time you use SLP to breed Axies or buy something from the marketplace, that particular SLP is burned and completely disappears.
Both of these tokens were known as ERC20 tokens, a part of the Ethereum network. In April 2021, they were mostly placed on the Ronin Blockchain, a side chain to Ethereum's main chain. The developers sacrificed a bit of the token's decentralized status to lower the fees to play the game.
As an NFT game that laid its foundation on top of two different cryptocurrencies, Axie Infinity suffers the same controversy. The overreliance on new users' inflow also highlighted their market's instability.
Their P2E model is often mocked as "pay to play to earn" because the game requires you to spend money to buy starter Axies not unlike depositing a gambling lair. Since starters are purchasable using Ethereum, their actual price fluctuates according to ETH market values.
The value of their two main tokens was nosedived by over 99% as part of the greater NFT and cryptocurrency crash in February 2022. The token value drop prompted Sky Mavis to remove any references to "play-to-earn" branding on its website and marketing. The situation is further worsened when hackers managed to break into Ronin Network on March 23, 2022, and run away with more than $620 million on tow, making it the largest-ever breach in cryptocurrency network by dollar value.
What is Axie Infinity? To summarize, it's an NFT-based, play-to-earn game that rewards you with cryptocurrencies by playing the game. The gameplay looks fun, and the Axies are the cutest looking Axolotl-like creatures ever featured in NFTs. The fighting and breeding system are engaging, as it may reconnect you with the Pokémon trainer inside you.
Axie Infinity comes with its own set of drawbacks, mainly the high entry cost. Yes, today, you can buy a set of starter Axies for around $70 but imagine how much you have to pay during Ethereum's peak value to start playing the game.
But is Axie Infinity worth the hype? All controversies aside, Axie Infinity is a nice idle game to have. To play it casually or as a source of side income is entirely up to you.