For those who have been keeping up on the recent surge of web3 gaming interest, you may have heard of a project called Axie Infinity.
With a Pokemon and Tamagotchi like feel, Axie Infinity is a digital pet community centred around collecting, training, raising, and battling fantasy creatures called Axie. It combines collectable NFT assets with unique card and skill game mechanics which have garnered attention from the sector’s top gamers.
In lieu of the start of season 2 and their latest Play-To-Earn addition of Kyber Network Crystals, we took some time to catch up with Aleksander Leonard Larsen – the cofounder and COO of the gaming studio Sky Mavis – who’s responsible for the creation and growth of Axie Infinity to date.
⚔️Alpha Season 2 is live!
😱As a special surprise, you’ll be able to earn KNC (Kyber Network Crystals) as rewards!
— Axie Infinity (@AxieInfinity) March 9, 2020
As we continue to explore the intersection of DeFi and gaming, Axie has been quite strategic in their approach to bring their Ethereum based application to the masses through subtle DeFi integrations such as earning Dai when playing competitively.
In this article we touched on:
- Competitive gaming roots
- Play to Earn mechanics
- eSports Guilds
- DeFi and gaming
- Current and future partners
- How virtual land works in Axie
- Future DeFi integrations
We’ve got a lot to cover so let’s dive right in!
Tell us a bit about your background and role at Sky Mavis!
I come from an eSports background where I was competing at a high level for games like Warcraft 3, Dota and Dota 2. This taught me a lot about building communities in gaming which has translated nicely to the blockchain ecosystem.
As far as my role is concerned, I’m in charge of all things business-related and help out on the marketing and community side. Since starting the company in 2018, we’ve been heads-down focused on building the best game possible.
What’re some advantages of coming from a competitive background?
In competitive gaming, the only people who make money are the 0.01% of players. Even in Dota, Tier 2 teams (which are extremely talented) can barely make ends meet.
With Axie, we wanted to open source the business model and create a Play to Earn environment where I expect at least 20% of the player base to be professional gamers which can live by simply playing the game.
The biggest question really comes down to – How do you make a fun enough game that people want to keep playing?
Let’s talk about those Play to Earn mechanics – How did you go about designing them?
The best thing about Play to Earn is that it teaches players how to play the game in simple ways.
With Axie, some find it difficult to play again humans. If you lose all the time, you don’t feel like playing. That’s why we introduced a Play vs Environment aspect with Adventure mode which is not as brutal as PvP but teaches the players the game while letting them earn rewards.
We are trying to find the right balance of rewards to keep players interested while being conscious that they cannot be too high or else you get players who are only in it for the money.
If we design the game correctly, these players will be attracted to the PvP aspect and at that point, they’ll create a lot of the content themselves. To us, the PvP aspect is orders of magnitude more important. Seeing as this requires much more skill and knowhow, PvP players inherently have the opportunity to earn more.
Speaking of PvP, I’ve noticed a bunch of eSports Guilds popping up within Axie recently. How did those come about?
The cool thing is, it was all very organic team formations. We’re very focused on rewarding those teams and want to work closely with them to deliver tokens with inherent value to help seed the ecosystem.
— Leeky Games (@LeekyGames) February 28, 2020
We’ve always been very transparent almost to the point of being too transparent. We chose a very open way of building the game to encourage guild creation like we’re seeing now.
Let’s talk about your rollout strategy – How do you approach new features/updated?
Here at Axie, we take a very open-source approach to the business model we’re creating.
We like to think of new updates from the mindset of – How can we disrupt the bigger legacy studios?
Seeing as not all studios have the same tools, we’re really focused on highlighting the benefits of building in a blockchain ecosystem. In doing so, we look to align the incentives between developers and players – specifically the economic incentives – which gives Axie a competitive advantage over legacy games.
By rewarding the players and offering revenue sharing in the game itself, they’re able to play a compelling game while earning tokens with real-world value.
Make sure to Claim your DAI rewards from Season 1!
It's payday in Lunacia!
— Axie Infinity (@AxieInfinity) March 6, 2020
We see this more as a bootstrapping mechanism. There’s an inherent need to monetize and reward users but we need to be careful as to not create an unstainable model. We’re happy to share the revenue with token holders and slowly continue to decentralize over time.
We’re even exploring things like a native token which can be found within the game and earned for completing various quests and challenges.
It seems like you guys have been doing a lot of stuff with Kyber Network recently – What’s the story there?
Our team is based in Vietnam and Kyber has offices there. We used their liquidity pools for the sale of land within Axie, so naturally, it seemed like a perfect fit.
With features like in-game statues and earning KNC, we hope to evangelize their ecosystem in the same way that they are helping ours.
📖Read about why Axie integrated Kyber for token payments: https://t.co/JRykrTvfcD
— Kyber Network (@KyberNetwork) March 2, 2020
Let’s talk about the intersection of DeFi and gaming – What’re the important things to keep in mind there?
With games like Axie, you simply can’t build it as a silo. If you’re building a blockchain game and choose to use a permissioned chain, you’re restricting all the awesome on-chain tools like Uniswap, Kyber and MakerDAO just to name a few.
While this might not seem super important on a smaller scale, I like to highlight an example like our community making a SLP Uniswap pool. All of these things can theoretically be done in a controlled ecosystem, but for now it’s much easier (and more advantageous) to use these tools to offer deeper liquidity and unique incentives that you couldn’t otherwise.
And how does Axie approach its in-game relationships?
We’re a big fan of the composability of NFT assets. When it comes to other games – other people are integrating Axie assets all on their own. This is really interesting because most of the time, we let the games come to us.
Since our NFTs are permissionless it’s easy for other companies like OpenSea and other games to integrate Axies.
Help walk me through the land in Axie – What should people know about it?
We have a different way of looking at land. We’re very focused on turning Axie Infinity into it’s own virtual world. If you look at something like Decentraland, they’re making a framework for an open world.
That’s all good but our approach is slightly different. We believe in attracting users by creating fun and engaging games, and then letting them explore the virtual world.
I’ve heard rumours of a native token within Axie – What can you tell us about that?
In the past, we did not see a real use case for a fungible asset. Now that we have a functional product, we can start leveraging the advantages it brings. By incentivizing the right kind of behaviour with a native token that is tied to revenue streams inside the game, we expect to see tremendous developer interest.
This will also take our Play to Earn mechanics to the next level. Imagine playing a game and earning tokens which allow you to govern the future of that game!
Let’s look at some other DeFi integrations – what’re you looking for outside of DEX liquidity?
With most applications, people lock up their money when they interact with layer two solutions. When capital is locked, we aim to earn interest on that stored value. Right now, smart contract risk is a little iffy for us, so we’re hoping to integrate DeFi in other creative ways as well.
For example, a user can build something on top of their land – collateralize that land, and use it to unlock additional liquidity which can be used in the wider ecosystem.
The possibilities that we’re currently testing are really pushing the new envelope of real-life value. Over time, we aim to make it easy for people to understand these new gaming ecosystems in a compelling and appealing fashion.
With this in mind, we thought hey – maybe we should start with the lowest hanging fruit. Let’s help gamers understand this new ecosystem and then work with them to offer unique integrations which keep them interested.
What’s next for Axie Infinity?
Well, we just recently introduced new features like daily quests. Over the next few months, we’ll be offering a suite of Axie giveaways to help onboard the masses.
One of the cool things about our game is that the player base is decentralized. We have players from all over the world. While this is fantastic, we’re always looking for ways to encourage IRL interactions through things like meetups.
In the next year, people should also be on the lookout for the announcement of an Axie world championship – something we’re extremely excited about here at SkyMavis.
To recap, we’re really starting to find a home in the blockchain ecosystem. We’re spent the past two years finding real product-market-fit and are stoked to work on bringing that out to the masses.
If you’ve yet to hear about Axie Infinity, we hope this interview can show why we’re so excited about what’s in store.
To get started, head on over to the marketplace and snag three Axies to battle your way through adventure mode.
Cooper is the Editor of DeFi Rate and an active contributor to leading DeFi media outlets like The Defiant, DeFi Pulse, and Bankless. He works with early-stage teams through Fire Eyes DAO to incubate governance models and grassroots community development. He is an ambassador to Set Protocol and an author of a weekly publication called Token Tuesdays. To stay up with Cooper, follow him on Twitter.