Source: Axie Infinity

Sky Mavis is gearing up to go mainstream with Axie Infinity's new interface, art, VFX, storylines, battle mechanics, tutorials, and SLP sink! Origin (Battle V3) Alpha has been announced to launch at the end of Q1 2022 and will be available globally via Mavis Hub and Android APK. After Sky Mavis raised $152M in early October 2021, this new update has been highly anticipated. With the introduction of Origin, Sky Mavis has two goals:

  1. The team wants to enter the mobile card battler category in order to funnel F2P players to its crypto game. Entering the F2P market is important to scale its userbase. Axie's growth lead, Jeffrey Zirline, recently stated about the game’s growth strategy: “a simple, fun, accessible game that centers around collecting pets is the most accessible and most scalable type of game of all.”
  2. The team wants to make the game more economically sustainable, broadly defined by adding players who are playing for fun, not just seeking to make a profit, which defies economics at scale.

With that in mind, let's delve deeper into the specifics of Origin.

Origin (Battle V3): The Changes

A post by The Lunacian provides a high-level overview of the various changes made. Sky Mavis has also frequently referenced Slay the Spire and Hearthstone as fundamental sources of inspiration, and numerous mechanics and the interface were benchmarked from these games.

A New Interface

When comparing Axie Infinity and Slay The Spire side-by-side it is quite revealing what the gameplay could look and feel like. To see how Battle V3 compares to the game’s inspirational references, I recommend watching this video from AxieFaction.

Source: Slay The Spire, Axie InfinityNew Battle MechanicsThe most notable new battle mechanics include: sequential turns (like chess), cards and energy reset per turn, eyes and ears now have abilities, HP is the only axie stat remaining, and the rage system has replaced critical hits to reduce the arbitrariness from the battle. Essentially, the changes transition the battle game design from speed gameplay to a more typical turn-based card battler gameplay, familiar to F2P players.OnboardingAxie Infinity will implement new tutorials, progressive features unlock, and most interestingly will be giving three free starter axies. We can read the inflationary precaution associated with those free axies in The Lunacian post: “These starter axies are not NFTs, and players can’t earn SLP from using them (for now at least!).”Players will also be able to collect more starter axies from PvE and use them in PvP. This is a powerful content inflow tactic that will allow F2P players to feel a sense of progression as they gradually transition to the competitive feature of the game. For context, new players currently need to buy three axies to play the game, which costs $110 (for context, it used to cost thousands!).By launching a F2P tier, the team should be able to exponentially onboard more players into the Axie ecosystem. Some small percentage of those players will convert to the crypto/NFT side, increasing demand for existing Axies. This increase in demand may drive up prices in the near/medium-term if demand rises faster than the pace at which new axies get bred. Of course, this success hinges on the game resonating with F2P players, which remains an assumption. An additional unlock will be adding sinks for Axies, which we don’t know much about yet but expect to eventually happen. For prices to sustain in the long-run, the crypto side of the game will also need to shift toward adding experiences that encourage spending, not just earning. Origin doesn’t solve for this last point, but it’s still a positive step.SLP Burn Mechanic: Power-Ups: Runes & CharmsThe current season addressed SLP inflation through major inflow cuts from all game modes. However, the SLP excess balance problem still remains. To sink the SLP surplus, runes and charms were implemented in the game.According to a recent post on Substack, runes and charms are new power-ups that will make players’ axies stronger. At first, Moonshards, an off-chain in-game resource, will be required to craft non-NFT power-ups. Later, both Moonshards and SLP will be required to craft NFT-based power-ups. Each Season’s runes and charms will be removed from gameplay and new ones will be introduced in the subsequent season. Charms will be class-specific. An example, as outlined in the square below, players would need a level 3 purity axie beast to equip this charm.
Source: Axie Infinity

The power-ups feature was benchmarked from the relics of Slay the Spire, but Slay the Spire is a premium game. Having this feature as the main lever to better monetize an existing player base is vastly different from what is seen from leading mobile RPG competitors. Based on my experience, most monetization usually comes from new character content acquisition and upgrades. A minority would come from external power-ups.Conclusion

At first glance, it appears that Netmarble is jumping into the deep end of the Web 3 gaming pool; however, it’s important to note that Netmarble did not announce that it would integrate blockchain into any of its existing large titles. Given the hit-driven nature of the business, these bets are very much future-facing and do not put any of the core business at risk (apart from the fact that reinvestment dollars are increasingly redirected).

As an interesting aside, Bang also highlighted that the plans to pursue ‘metanomics’ and ‘metahuman’ in VR could serve as the main building blocks of its metaverse business. The team appears bought into the idea that web 3 games may provide players alternative sources of income.


Axie Infinity: Origin details are not yet finalized and are subject to change, but it will be fascinating to see how the pioneer of P2E continues to adapt. With the Origin update, Axie Infinity will become more comparable to major F2P card battler games. It will have similar interfaces, familiar battle mechanics, classic F2P onboarding, and as an added bonus, new power-ups to spice up each season and sink excess SLP.

Perhaps most importantly, Origin may allow the team to scale its userbase:

  1. Introducing free starter axies removes the barrier to entry that prevented the vast majority of players from playing.
  2. Production value increases and becomes more on par with market competitors. Furthermore, most of the new mechanics introduced are proven within the category, thus reducing the risk of failure.
  3. The new tutorials and progressive unlock implemented will allow Axie Infinity to onboard new players less familiar with the genre mechanics.

I remain skeptical that Origin addresses the economic sustainability of the game. The new power-ups can eventually sink SLP surplus, but nothing is done to improve the economic fundamentals of the game.

Origin will likely allow new F2P players to be funneled into the crypto game, but will Sky Mavis be able to execute user acquisition campaigns at scale? This endeavor is challenging, both in terms of resourcing and technicality, and best practices about converting F2P players into play-and-earners are still coming together.

Unlocking F2P is a major step forward, but it's not a complete solution since it doesn't actually make the economy fundamentally sustainable... at least yet.

Big thanks to Jean-Philippe Mallette for writing this essay!

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