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Axie Infinity is the single largest NFT project of all time in terms of trading volume, but it has fallen on hard times in recent months between a failing play-to-earn economy and a $622 million hack to its Ronin network bridge. However, there are small signs of life that suggest that the top Ethereum NFT game might be mounting a comeback.
Over the past week, Axie Infinity NFT sales rose nearly 198% over the previous seven-day period, per data from CryptoSlam. Granted, the $1.38 million worth of NFTs is a small fraction of what Axie was selling last summer when it regularly topped $100 million in weekly sales, but it’s a notable week-over-week jump all the same.
Jeff Zirlin, co-founder of Axie Infinity developer Sky Mavis, tweeted last Thursday that some 22,000 Axies had been sold in the previous 24 hours—a rise from 7,000 sold during a 24-hour span a few weeks prior, he suggested.
22,000 Axies sold in the last 24 hours. Was at 7,000 a few weeks ago.
Origin growing quickly with the new Alpha Season. 4,600 downloads yesterday.
Bridge is up. Land (90% staked) is emitting AXS.
Nature is healing. pic.twitter.com/AdNzi8x4cb
— The Jiho.eth 🦇🔊 (@Jihoz_Axie) July 7, 2022
He added that downloads of the new Origin version of Axie Infinity—which implements a new battle system, visual upgrades, and other enhancements—were on the rise, and that 90% of Axie land owners had staked their NFTs to earn AXS token rewards. The land staking feature launched on June 30, and the tally has risen to 91% as of this writing.
“Nature is healing,” Zirlin added.
An NFT is a blockchain token that serves as a proof of ownership for an item. In the case of Axie Infinity, NFTs represent things like unique Axie monsters that users bring into battle, as well as virtual land plots that players can customize and monetize in the future.
Axie Infinity has dealt with significant challenges since near the end of 2021, as its AXS and SLP token prices collapsed amid a failing play-to-earn economy. The Ethereum-based game, which runs on the custom Ronin sidechain, is implementing a number of changes to make its token rewards model more sustainable. However, both token prices are still down significantly.
AXS is currently priced at about $14 per token, according to CoinMarketCap, down 91% from its peak price of nearly $165 set in November, and 22% over the past month alone. The SLP token, meanwhile, is valued at nearly $0.004—a 99% fall from the July 2021 peak of nearly $0.40, and down nearly 20% over the past 30 days.
On top of the economic woes, the bridge that connects Ronin to the Ethereum mainnet was hacked in March and exploited for $622 million worth of ETH and USDC stablecoin. North Korea’s infamous state-sponsored hacking group Lazarus was pegged as the culprit by the United States Treasury, which sanctioned the wallet used in the attack.
Sky Mavis reopened the bridge in late June and fully refunded users whose crypto assets were stolen, although the value of ETH has fallen significantly since the hack due to a broader crypto market correction. The developer raised $150 million in additional funding to help fuel refunds, and is still working with law enforcement to recover stolen funds from the hack.
In a blog post yesterday, Sky Mavis Game Product Lead Philip La wrote that media reports about the game’s declining token and NFT prices are presenting “misleading narratives” about the game. He pointed to the ongoing transition from the previous play-to-earn version of Axie Infinity to the new “play-and-earn” Origin version.
Origin is available to play in a soft launch format that doesn’t yet offer token rewards. Sky Mavis also plans to expand the game into official mobile app marketplaces, since Origin doesn’t require NFTs to play due to its new free-to-play starter monsters. He wrote that Sky Mavis is also actively hiring and still building the Axie ecosystem via grants and other initiatives.
“The game still exists with major improvements rolling out regularly, and we will continue to come out with more games that apply all of the learnings we’ve had over time,” La wrote. “The narrative that we are in an existential state and running out of time is false.”
Whether Axie Infinity’s short-term NFT sales growth turns into an ongoing trend—and whether the game can recapture the immense buzz of 2021—remains to be seen. But Sky Mavis is apparently still building with such a turnaround in mind.