· 8 min read

Masters of Blockchain: Lessons from Axie Infinity

We spoke to Jeff Zirlin from Axie Infinity, to learn the ins and outs of Blockchain gaming, and what makes their Blockchain game such a success.

I spoke with Jeff Zirlin, Growth Lead at Sky Mavis (the developers behind Axie Infinity), to learn how they became the leaders in Blockchain, and their predictions for this new sub-genre of gaming.

1. Hey Jeff, thanks for chatting with us today. So tell me a little bit about Axie Infinity and your game

Sure, would love to. Axie Infinity is a virtual world full of fierce, adorable pets called Axies. These pets can be battled, collected, and even used to earn cryptocurrencies with real value.

On the surface, Axie might seem similar to Pokemon, Tamagotchi, or even animal crossing. And you’re not wrong to think that. But the big difference is that the markets for in-game resources are open and controlled by players. We reckon games with real, player-owned economies will become our digital homes; places where a new generation can live, work, and play. Axie is our monument to this mission.

This new type of game with a real economy is only made possible by blockchain technology (I’ll go into a bit more detail about this later). It powers things like our marketplace for in-game assets, as well as the markets for in-game resources that can be earned by playing.

To prove that this concept is worthwhile, so far:

  • Our players have sold 300,000 Axies (and growing).
  • Our players have earned over 9 million USD of tokens by playing.

And 9 plots of land in the Axie universe were sold for 1.5 million dollars on February 8th.

2. Wow, that’s impressive. Before we move on, would you go into a bit of detail into Blockchain for any of our readers who aren’t quite up to speed?

Sure. Blockchain is a new technology that allows people to own their data with no middlemen or intermediaries. The most famous application of this is with money. Through Bitcoin and Ethereum, people can be their own banks. But this concept of complete data ownership is starting to affect other industries (at quite the pace, too).

Blockchain games prove that Blockchain can work. Here’s why:

  • It lets players have complete ownership of their game assets. Which in turn allows them to easily sell to anyone and anywhere in the world (without running into the “you send first” problem). You don’t need to trust anybody. It’s like D2jsp forum gold but trustless.
  • It’s transparent, fair, and tamper-resistant: anything affecting the economy, or even the scarcity of assets, can be seen by everyone in the community. So there’s no funny business.
  • It turns players into game owners: through new ownership models such as our governance token, AXS. Axie will be the first game owned by the community that plays it.
  • And it creates a new genre of game: play to earn. In these games, players can earn cryptocurrencies through gameplay as a reward for their engagement.

The graphic below, created by Piers Kicks of Delphi Digital, illustrates the base benefit that Blockchain games provide: a free market for game assets.

3. What makes your game different from other blockchain games?

First, Axie is the largest Blockchain game. We have 21,000 DAU and there are 33,000 people that hold Axies. We also have the record for the largest Blockchain game item sale of all time at 1.5 M USD.

Axie is known for pioneering play to earn – an idea that a well-balanced and constructed in-game economy can allow anyone, anywhere, to earn an income from the game by putting in time and effort.

And our game has attracted thousands of players from developing countries. Usually, those who are in pursuit of a new income stream during the Covid pandemic. Many of these players are fathers, aunts, and even grandparents who have never even used Blockchain technology before.

4. How exactly do these players earn money in your games?

There are a few ways. But in short, they make money by:

  • Competing in PVP battles to win leaderboard prizes. For example, there are $30,000 in leaderboard prizes for the ladder.
  • Breeding Axies and selling them on the marketplace.
  • Collecting and speculating on rare Axies (such as rare Mystic and Origin Axies).
  • Farming love potions (SLP tokens), which are needed to breed Axies. These can be sold on exchanges, such as Uniswap and Binance.

And starting this year, players can earn a governance token called AXS. This represents a real slice of the game universe as it has governance rights and fee-sharing built into it. Since players can earn this token by playing, a ‘Ready Player One’ type quest starts up where players can actually earn part of the universe. But unline RPO, these quests are not ‘winner takes all’. It rewards each player based on their effort and skill, just to keep things fair.

Axie also has a burgeoning ecosystem of contributors from the community. The core developers and community are working on Axie together, making it a group effort. There’s almost like a hive-mind effect happening, since the game has thousands of token holders.

You can find a list of community-run initiatives here.

5. And how do you use GameAnalytics for these types of games? What are the top things you track?

Before I dig into that, I want to point out two key parts of the game:

  • First, our marketplace which uses blockchain technology
  • Second, the unity app for gameplay (used for battling, for now).

We use GameAnalytics to track DAU (Daily Active Users), WAU (Weekly Active Users), and retention data for our Unity app (which is not on the Blockchain). These stats have seen consistent, rapid growth over the past year.

Particularly, we’ve hit a record high of 65% day 1 retention. Which is incredibly promising.

6. Wow, 65% day 1 retention is amazing. What’s your secret?

Axie is a new type of game, so we’re not surprised to see interesting data. We believe these insane retention figures are the result of combining cute and fun gameplay with the ability to actually earn a digital income stream. With the current macroeconomic conditions, there are many people who need to replace physical jobs with digital work. Games like Axie will be a big part of the solution.

A lot of players find that once they discover blockchain games, they can’t go back to traditional games. It just feels like a waste of time, when they could be making money (and having fun, of course).

7. So tell us a bit more about your analytics. Which country is doing well for your game? Any tests or models you can share with us?

Great question. The Philippines has been a great market for us so far.  And it really started to heat up after this Coindesk article came out, highlighting how players in The Philippines are playing Axie to feed their families.

Here are some images from our Philippines Facebook group that tell the story of lives we’ve touched:

This player was able to buy baby diapers and milk with their Axie earnings.

This player started a WI-fi vending machine business.

JY bought 2 bags of rice with some of their earnings.

James, a student, bought cellphones as a gift for his parents.

To us, the freedom and opportunities that Axie brings to players (like what we see here) is a big part of our mission.

8. Do you have any other games in the pipeline? Would you do anything differently?

Our main priority at the moment is fleshing out the Axie Universe. We’re currently building the tools and infrastructure to allow it to grow and flourish.

When we look back, we probably could have started working on our own infrastructure a bit sooner. We used something built by another team for our marketplace, and it ended up being a pretty bad experience. But even then, we learned a lot about the requirements of building things for other developers.

9. What are your predictions for Blockchain games?

I strongly believe that in 10 years, Blockchain games will be a major sub-genre of games in the industry. And will be famous for their:

  • Fanatic communities.
  • Real economies.
  • Beautiful collectible design. Rare game items, that are both beautiful and useful, always sell for hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars on a regular basis. Especially as gamers choose to spend more on things that they actually own.
  • Viral rags to riches stories of hardworking players.

The metaverse will run on Blockchain.

10. And any recommendations for developers looking to give Blockchain games a go?

Of course. For anyone wanting to try out Blockchain gaming, feel free to reach out to us. We’d love to have a chat and help them find new ways to supercharge their communities, unlock new fundraising mechanisms, and create new types of games powered by real economies.

We’re also hiring and looking for the next group for adventurers to join our quest to upend gaming by empowering players. You can find a list of jobs here. And if you’re a game developer and want to learn more about NFTS and how they can help your games, reach out to us here: Publishing@Skymavis.com

You can also reach message me directly through:

And if you’re in the mood for some more research on Blockchain and NFTs, check out our article on the ins and outs of Web3.