Ethereum-based video game Axie Infinity has rapidly become the most popular crypto game around, and its play-to-earn model is enabling some players—especially those from developing countries—a chance to earn a living just by battling monsters using NFT characters. Now, cryptocurrency exchange FTX will help boost the number of players doing just that.
Today, FTX announced that it will provide funding to 137 new Axie Infinity “scholars” in partnership with Yield Guild Games, which already has some 4,600 such players in its program. FTX’s deal provides funding to breed new Axie monsters in the game for scholars, and each Axie is represented as a unique NFT. (For the uninitiated, an NFT is a type of blockchain-based token that can be used to demonstrate proof of ownership in a digital item, such as an image, a music file, or—in this case—an in-game item.)
FTX will have lifetime naming rights to those players’ Axie Infinity Sponsor-a-Scholar accounts. The players sponsored by FTX hail from the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Latin America, and Brazil. Yield Guild Games raised $4 million in Series A funding in June to help expand its play-to-earn business model, and last week held a $12.5 million token sale that sold out within 31 seconds.
Axie Infinity has taken off over the last couple months, generating more than $900 million in NFT transaction volume in the last 30 days alone. Additionally, the game’s native AXS governance token has soared to new all-time highs recently, and currently sits at a price of nearly $45—a more than 86,000% increase from January 1. Developer Sky Mavis recently reported having more than 900,000 daily active users playing the game.
Scholarship is one of the most interesting wrinkles that has developed around the NFT-driven crypto game. Essentially, the scholars are loaned Axie monster NFTs by the original owners through a profit-sharing agreement. The players earn Small Love Potion (SLP) tokens in battle, which can then be exchanged for other cryptocurrency. The scholar keeps the majority of the income, with smaller shares given to the owner as well as a manager who oversees scholars.
Axie Infinity NFTs are expensive: three Axie monsters are needed to play the game, and they typically start at $200 to $300 each on the game’s official marketplace. Click on any tweet from Axie Infinity’s official account or those of its creators and popular community members, and you’ll find a mass of people eager to join a scholarship program. Yield Guild Games is one of the most prominent programs, but there are many to choose from.
“The expectation is that the new player, or scholar as they are known, will earn enough from playing the game to be able to ‘graduate’ from the program and eventually buy their own NFTs,” Yield Guild Games co-founder Gabby Dizon explained to Decrypt. “This is having a real economic impact on real people’s lives, and FTX gets the added advantage of gaining branding exposure to these new crypto users, who will always remember who gave them their start.”
37M SLP 🥳
Our 10% share is reinvested back towards breeding new Axies! https://t.co/j4T2c2nQpE
— Yield Guild Games (@YieldGuild) August 4, 2021
According to Yield Guild Games, its scholars have collectively earned more than 37 million SLP to date, which is worth more than $8.1 million at the current exchange rate. The firm recently co-produced a documentary short called Play-to-Earn that explored the impact that Axie Infinity scholarship is having on players in the Philippines. FTX cited the short film as influencing its decision to sponsor additional players via Yield Guild Games.
“We were inspired to see how NFT games were providing opportunities for people to lift themselves out of poverty-stricken situations,” an FTX representative told Decrypt. “But the high cost of NFTs creates a very real barrier for the people who would benefit from these play-to-earn games most. YGG is solving that problem by loaning NFTs to new players at no upfront cost, so we wanted to get behind their mission and help scale their impact more quickly.”
“Play-to-earn is a new category in gaming, which will likely be the biggest disruptor to the casual gaming market over the coming years, and with it, we believe it’s going to onboard millions of new users to crypto,” the FTX representative added. “We’ve got a big focus on sponsoring organizations that represent these growing crypto communities, and we know that prospective users will be paying a lot of attention to organizations like YGG that can help them get in.”