By Earl Jan Delfin

Many people are fond of playing online games as a form of recreation. Online games are played for numerous reasons, such as for relieving stress, competition, and enjoyment at the time of the pandemic. Currently, one of the most popular games is Axie Infinity, which might tempt you with the promise of earning money from the game. For some Filipinos, however, playing Axie led to more financial constraints and not earnings.

Photo Courtesy Jam Sta Rosa/AFP/CoinQuora

Axie Infinity is a blockchain game based on the hugely popular Pokémon video game series. It is also widely considered as the industry leader in non-fungible token (NFT) gaming. NFTs symbolize in-game digital goods, such as the Axie animals. These cryptographically different tokens symbolize ownership and allow the user to sell Axies on the games' marketplace for real money. This is why many Filipinos enjoy playing this game, as it allows them to quickly earn cash.

Money in Axie?

Axie Infinity was developed in March 2018 by Sky Mavis Inc., a Vietnam-based company, as part of the increasing play-to-earn gaming movement. Elite players in other popular games, such as League of Legends and Fortnite, sometimes make a living through sponsorships and money, which they earned from streaming their games to internet viewers. Axie Infinity's earning potential is embedded right into its gameplay. 

To begin with, players must buy three adorable cartoon monsters known as Axies, each with their own set of strengths and weaknesses. They can also buy, breed, and pit Pokémon-like characters against one another in order to win in-game money, known as smooth love potions (SLP). These potions can then be converted into actual money. 

Undoubtedly, this cryptocurrency game is popular with Filipinos looking for a way to generate money, and Samerson Orias is one of them. He was desperate to find a solution to his financial issues, so he jumped into Axie and spent hours battling the cartoon creatures. He rapidly began earning cryptocurrencies, which he converted into peso, allowing him to earn money simply by playing the game. At the same time, thousands of young Filipinos were diving headfirst into the game. 

Furthermore, Owen Convocar, a Rizal-based player, heard rumors of Axie's earning potential for months before deciding to enter the game as a scholar in early 2020. He made $487 in 15 days. He eventually spent $1,200 on his own Axie monsters, splitting the whole cost with his mother 60/40.

On the other hand, the majority of Filipino players, like Orias, have left the game outraged and anxious—along with thousands of dollars in debt. In the instance of Orias, he has come to hate the game. He says that "[he] felt fatigued all the time. [He] became more aggressive in every aspect of my life". This is a common problem just like other gamers who were interviewed by TIME.

The Exciting Part  

Early pandemic-era successes garnered global notice and attracted hundreds of thousands of additional players to the game. As the number of daily active players climbed in 2021, the price of Axies and SLPs increased, prompting concerns about the game's long-term viability.

As a result of this, numerous potential gamers found themselves unable to pay the expenses of obtaining their initial monsters, as the price of SLP began to rise last summer. Thus, an employment plan arose in which wealthy investors known as “managers” would buy Axie monsters and then lease them out to “scholars,” who would do the tedious work of leveling up. The owners of the monsters would subsequently receive between 30% and 50% of the academics' earnings. 

As time passed, the crypto market reached its bottom in spring 2022, rendering playing the game essentially worthless. According to one tracker, whereas Axie Infinity had over 2.7 million daily active users in November, just 760,000 are still active. SLP reached a high of $0.34 last July and is now worth less than half a penny. 

Due to various issues, Sky Mavis attempted to change its game design in an attempt to revive it.  In March, a hacker hacked the "bridge" that transferred funds between Sky Mavis' blockchain Ronin and the larger cryptocurrency Ethereum. (Bridges between chains are among the least secure components of blockchain ecosystems.) Customers accounted for two-thirds of the $600 million that was instantly taken from the network. Even when Sky Mavis refunded all funds, the hack reduced the game's user base.

Sky Mavis is currently making a dramatic pivot, downplaying Axie's "play-to-earn" feature and releasing a new edition, Axie Infinity: Origin, that does not involve cryptocurrency at all. They are hoping that players would stay around it and earn money through in-game purchases and activities.

However, as they strive to revive the game, Filipino scholars who were persuaded that blockchain games would result in significant economic transformation are left perplexed and disillusioned. Several scholars said that they owe hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars to others who helped them pay for the initial investment, only to see their monsters become worthless and all of their efforts in vain as their Axie account has been hacked.

Is this truly a game changer that would allow Filipinos to make some money?  While some may have truly earned cash from the NFT tool, we cannot deny that Axie is still a “game”. And because this is a game, there will be times where you lose and times where you win — this is the reality behind Axie Infinity.