In this week’s Crypto Corner episode, Philip La, Game Product Lead at Sky Mavis, the makers of Axie Infinity joins your host Nico Vereecke today to discuss all things Blockchain Gaming. The duo dives into what has made Axie Infinity so special, and where the title is headed with Axie Origin and Axie Land Gameplay. The team also chats about the future of play-to-earn and discusses Philip’s view on the long-term sustainability of the industry.

Guest Background

  • Previously worked as PM for Pokémon GO @ Niantic
  • Niantic has dabbled in web3 tech, but Philip entered into crypto through Axie Infinity...ended up being best choice to contribute to crypto gaming
  • Most excited about combination of a fun game, experienced team, and a loyal & widespread community - creates a wide canvas for many experiences to be built on

Biggest Surprises Entering Web3

  • Working with community
    • Great opportunity to bounce ideas and inform key decisions that are made within game and tokenomics
    • Can be very overwhelming to manage communication - people care a lot and while transparency is difficult, it’s important for entire team to cater to the public
    • Axie Infinity is one of the best examples of how to build a community that’s constantly active on Twitter, Discord, etc.

 Learnings From Pokémon Go

  • Philip worked on the economy side - leading the different resource sinks and sources
    • Although open economy of tokens makes crypto game economies a bit different, balancing supply & demand of resources is similar throughout all games
  • Analyzing community & player research
    • Lots of work figuring out what processes and experiences would be fun from the player-side → lots of work done looking at on and off-chain data of Axie Infinity to make key decisions
  • Past decade working in:
    • Growth → Boost creator & marketing side
    • Product → Building internal product management practice

Changes to Axie Infinity

  • Has been around one year since Axie v2 saw it’s enormous boost in player activity, when the Play-to-Earn narrative was popularized and players flocked to the game to “earn more money than traditional jobs”
  • Most of changes have been in balancing, updates, and season rewards
  • Focus has been to migrate to Origin (Battles v3) - New gameplay, graphics, future of the Axie game
    • Economic loop is still similar → earn SLP within game, earn AXS for making it to leaderboard, spend AXS & SLP to breed new Axies

Axie Infinity Origin

  • Needed to improve game because the team thought classic game (Battles v2) wasn’t good enough in terms of graphics, gameplay, and player progression
  • Currently in early-access Alpha
  • Main changes:
  • F2P mode is designed to introduce more players into blockchain gaming, in a way that isn’t overwhelming
    • Free axies are not NFT’s, are only there for players to learn the gameplay before purchasing their own axies for more complexity
  • Shift in product focus around creating a fun-first experience like traditional games, so that players are not coming in with strictly an expectation for earning

Purchasing Process for New Users

  • Using Ramp Network to allow users to purchase tokens directly with fiat (instead of CEX → ETH wallet → bridge → Ronin wallet → Axie marketplace
  • Working to simplify sead phrases in the Ronin wallet UX

Terminology of P2E, P&E, P2O

  • Have mostly embraced P&E (Play-and-Earn) as a team
  • There will always be a combination of people who want to pay to progress faster in a game, and people who are willing to grind
    • As long as you have people who want to progress in the game, then the earning component will always be secondary

Grander Vision of Axie Infinity

  • Origin game is the absolute focus now, but land gameplay is also being built out
  • eSports is a large focus as v3 aims to become more competitive
    • Some aspects of game like cosmetics and upgrading weren’t possible until v3

Asset-centered universe vs. IP-centered universe :

  • Axies are the tickets to all kinds of Axie experiences
  • Builders Program : allow community members to build new experiences around the existing Axie Infinity IP
    • Requirement that either initial or premium experience of Builders Program games requires ownership of Axies

Land Gameplay

  • Has seen multiple iterations throughout the years
  • Core experience: Farming simulation game
    • Use Axies to collect resources, build up structures, and complete tasks
  • Philip sees two examples of land in the industry between explorable virtual worlds, and game experiences built on top of the land
    • Axie land is designed to encompass both areas, where there are robust game loops built on the land, but you can also travel around with your Axie to explore

 Ronin Network

  • Want it to become the premier gaming blockchain
  • Already have an enormous audience, and want to make sure that quality of anything put on the chain is high-quality

Hot take: Seems like a similar model to the gatekeeping that Apple’s App Store does:

  • In early stages, don’t want to jeopardize the reputation of the chain since there is a disproportionate amount of bad actors in the space right now
  • Natural goal is to be more open as Ronin progresses

Philosophical Questions for Phil

Is it possible to have a sustainable game where >20% of player-base makes a living from participating in a game ecosystem?

  • If the game itself is designed with that in mind, and if it’s innately fun enough
  • In Web2 F2P, all revenue comes from the top 5-10% of players
    • In Web3 models like Axie Infinity, 95% of money spent goes back to players
  • If Web3 games can build systems where all the money is redistributed back into the system, then the economics for player-bases to sustain themselves is possible

What can crypto do better to onboard the next traditional gamers?

  • Education of it’s importance and value-add
  • Making great games that bring people in regardless of the blockchain component
    • Have people feel the value of earning an NFT or token through game