The most popular game in crypto
Pokémon-meets-crypto game Axie Infinity’s revenue dwarfs the ten biggest DeFi protocols … combined [Image via Axie Infinity]
If you ever tried to catch ‘em all, a Pokémon-style crypto game called Axie Infinity might be your jam — but is it also a good way to make money? We’re exploring the growing phenomenon. Also this week: Bitcoin’s inflation-hedge cred is in the spotlight as prices dip below $30,000, and Axe has unleashed a Dogecoin-themed body spray. Let’s get into it.
The rise of Axie Infinity and crypto gaming
Is BTC really an inflation hedge?
Hot takes from the cryptosphere
NFT pets game Axie Infinity booms while the broader crypto market struggles
In the last week, Axie Infinity — a crypto-meets-Pokémon game in which players raise, battle, and trade cute NFT pets called Axies — generated roughly $40 million in revenue, more than all of Ethereum's gas fees in the same period. As the broader crypto market struggles, Axie and its two native cryptocurrencies have been booming. So what's driving the popularity?
Vietnamese developer Sky Mavis launched the game in 2018, and it got a boost from investors including Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian in May. It runs on the Ethereum blockchain, with most in-game transactions supported on a speedy, bespoke sidechain called Ronin, which Sky Mavis designed to have lower fees.
To start playing, you need to buy at least three Axies from the game’s marketplace. Sky Mavis takes a 4.25% cut of all the Axies, virtual real-estate, and other items users sell each other.
Players can also “breed” new Axies, which costs some of the game’s two native cryptocurrencies: Axie Infinity Shards (AXS, which is also a governance token that gives holders a say in the future of the game) and Small Love Potion (SLP, awarded to players for spending time in the game).
Axie Infinity has a “play-to-earn” model — and it can be legitimately profitable for some users. Rare Axies can sell for as much as 30 ETH, and desirable real estate in the fictional world of Lunacia can go for nearly 270 ETH. The game also rewards hardcore players with as many as 200 SLP a day — often worth over $50 at recent weeks’ prices.
Axie Infinity has more than half a million daily players, according to Coindesk, with around 60% hailing from the Philippines. Why? In part, because chronic underemployment has long sent millions of the nation’s citizens to work overseas. Now some younger Filipinos are wondering if it might be better to stay home and grind in a virtual universe.
Both AXS and SLP can be traded on many exchanges — and as the game’s popularity has spiked, prices have taken a wild ride. On Monday, AXS lost nearly half of the 971% surge it had been gaining for the previous three weeks. Still, prices remain up for the year. And game revenue tops virtually all other crypto protocols, dwarfing popular DeFi apps like Aave, Sushiswap, and Compound combined.
Why it matters… Some critics have noted that Axie Infinity‘s marketplace fees are many times higher than those charged by most crypto apps — a compelling business model that’s already giving rise to competitors. But because the bulk of revenue does go to players, “play to earn” might be more than just a slogan. It might even be the start of a new crypto-powered relationship between work and play.
Bitcoin prices just fell even though inflation is soaring — isn’t it supposed to be a hedge?
Since 2020, central banks and governments seeking to buoy economies rocked by COVID have created trillions in new money. Now, goods are getting more expensive at a record pace in the U.S. as inflation reached a 13-year high in June. These are circumstances that would seem to give Bitcoin a boost, given its fixed supply of 21 million and reputation as a hedge against inflation. But that hasn’t happened. Instead, prices are down nearly 10% since the beginning of July. What’s going on?
Inflation may in fact be giving BTC a boost, while other forces are simultaneously driving prices down. Declines in recent months were likely impacted by China’s mining crackdown and concerns around Bitcoin’s energy use. But now that Bitcoin mining is becoming both increasingly powered by renewables and geographically decentralized, its core value proposition could still win out. As Bloomberg notes: “Though Bitcoin’s been declining in recent days amid hotter-than-expected inflation prints, it could still prove to be a good hedge over the long term.”
Axe releases Doge-themed body spray, ETH co-founder cuts ties with crypto
Clean break… Ethereum Network cofounder Anthony Di Iorio plans to sell his blockchain venture Decentral to focus on philanthropy and other projects unrelated to crypto. “I want to diversify to not being a crypto guy, but being a guy tackling complex problems.”
So Axecite… After an apparent joke about developing a crypto-influenced body spray this past Doge Day (aka April 20), Axe followed through on Tuesday, releasing — and quickly selling out of — a Dogecoin-themed spray called “48H CRYPTO SCENT … WITH A DANK MUSK.”
Boom and busk… Data collected from The Busking Project highlights the use of digital payments, including BTC, among street performers. “[Bitcoin is] my absolute favorite way to get tipped,” says one performer.
Bitcoin backer… New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley announced his plan to have $10 million in endorsements paid in Bitcoin: “We’re seeing inflation and we’re learning you can’t save wealth. That’s why I am going to be taking my marketing money in bitcoin.”
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