What Is Axie Infinity, And Why Did It Become So Popular?

By November 19, 2022NFT
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Axie Infinity logo over a cartoon blue sky with Axie pets on both sides

Axie Infinity is currently the most popular and successful NFT-based Play-To-Earn (P2E) crypto game ever created, and pioneered the P2E genre for many other games that would follow after it. P2E games use blockchain technology to turn in-game items and currencies into tradable assets with real-world value, and they provide one of the most compelling use cases for non-fungible and semi-fungible tokens (NFTs).

P2E games often advertise themselves as income opportunities for their players, who join the game on the idea that they will make money playing the game, and some games like Aavegotchi combine DeFi and NFTs to provide gameplay features that generate income for their owners. Most P2E games suffer from the same economic problems where scarce in-game assets become prohibitively expensive while common in-game items oversaturate NFT markets and become worthless. P2E games also suffer from low production quality, as many were created during the NFT bubble of 2021 and sold in-game items to raise money long before the game was released (if it ever was).

However, Axie Infinity was the first P2E game to achieve major popularity, and it is still the most popular crypto game today. Decrypt describes Axie Infinity as a Pokemon-like battle pets game where players own all their Axies as NFTs on Ethereum, allowing Axies to be sold to other players. Axie Infinity is a turn-based card game at its core, and rewards players with in-game items like power-ups and crafting materials when they win battles. Players can compete in Player-Vs-Player and Player-Vs-Environment battles, and earn Smooth Love Potion (SLP) cryptocurrency as a reward. SLP is Axie Infinity's in-game currency and is required for breeding Axie pets, while Axie Shards (AXS) are the game's governance tokens that allow players to vote on new developments.

Axie Infinity Has Evolved Considerably

Axie Infinity logo on blue background with various Axie pets

At its height, Axie Infinity was profitable enough for players in low-income countries to make a living just by playing the game. However, the game's long-term economics were unsustainable, as player profits were based mainly on selling Axie pets to new players, and SLP's poor economics ensure it is not a good long-term hold. When SLP temporarily exploded in value (twice) in 2021, players rushed to cash out their crypto rewards on exchanges rather than spend them in the game, causing the token's value to collapse both times. Eventually, the developers had to alter the game's economic model by advertising itself as a 'Play-And-Earn' game rather than a 'Play-To-Earn' game, and adjusted some mechanics to lower the barrier to entry for new players.

Today, new players are given three free starter/trainer Axies, and they can earn more by playing in Adventure Mode, but trainer Axies are not NFTs and cannot earn SLP or be bred with each other. Players who are serious about Axie Infinity must purchase real Axies from other players on the Axie Infinity marketplace. Entry-level Axies cost around $1, and Axie eggs cost $25, with the main difference being the ability to name an Axie egg after it hatches. Axie Infinity is much more affordable to begin playing now after its NFT prices crashed, though the rarest Axies still command five figures or more on the Axie Infinity marketplace, and many in-game items are still worth a couple bucks.

To this day, Axie Infinity is still the most popular crypto game in the industry, and constitutes the overwhelming majority of gaming NFT sales. Its in-game economics have drastically shifted away from enticing players who just want to make money, and now focuses on players who want to enjoy its gameplay instead. Although casual gamers won't touch crypto games like Axie Infinity with a 10-foot pole, crypto gamers are familiar with creating and using crypto wallets and aren't shy about spending money on NFT game items.

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