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Everything you need to know about Axie Infinity

Imagine if you could earn money – very large sums of money – whilst playing a Pokémon-style game.

Axie Infinity is part of a new trend in gaming, called ‘play-to-earn’, which combines cryptocurrency and game-play. 

The Axie Infinity boom really took off in the Phillippines, whose economy was particularly badly affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Unable to work in their normal roles due to lockdown, many turned to Axie Infinity as a source of income – and have continued to play-to-earn once restrictions lifted.

But how does Axie Infinity actually work? And what are the possible risks for children and young people? 

What is Axie Infinity?

Axie Infinity is a digital pet community in which you buy creatures – called Axies – and use them to battle, explore and breed with other Axies. It’s developed by the gaming company Sky Mavis and runs through the cryptocurrency Ethereum. The game has an 18+ age rating, but with its Pokémon-style design and no clear age-verification process, it’s visually appealing to younger children. 

To play, you first need to buy three Axies with Ethereum. Purchasing these initial Axies can cost the cryptocurrency equivalent of up to $1,500 or £1,115. Axie is currently working on creating a less expensive version of the game that could be free to play and available to download in the App Store or Google Play Store.

Sky Mavis have developed their own digital wallet called Ronin which you can link to Axie Infinity. Once linked, you can purchase Axies through your Ronin wallet. 

There are two main ways of playing the game that involve seeking out two different assets. One is SLP, or Smooth Love Potion. You earn SLP through playing adventure games or arena matches and by completing daily quests. SLP is the resource needed to breed Axies, and there is an unlimited supply. 

The other resource is AXS tokens. These are a finite resource; there are only 270,000,000 in the game. AXS is an Ethereum token. Players who hold AXS tokens have governance rights in the game, meaning that they can make decisions about its future. If this progression continues, they may also be able to buy out Sky Mavis and run a fully decentralised economy in game. 

Players can also purchase virtual plots of land from the game’s world, called Lunacia.

You can sell your Axies for AXS tokens or find these tokens within the game. These can then be transferred into fiat currency, such as GBP.

Axies and NFTs

An Axie is an NFT: a ‘non-fungible token’. Non-fungible means irreplaceable. If you buy an NFT, you own the unique URL describing it. Even if someone were to screen-shot the image of the NFT you own, they wouldn’t be able to replace its unique data identifier. 

Axie Infinity lets you – as the owner of the NFT – own that character, even when you’re not playing. 

Scholars, managers, guilds

One way people have avoided the high costs of joining is to use Axie Infinity's managers and scholars scheme. 

Managers are users who have either been playing the game since it first started or wealthy users who have been able to purchase a large collection of Axies. 

Managers give their Axies to players who can’t afford the initial purchase price. These players – called scholars – then play the game using their borrowed Axies, earning SLP and AXS tokens. In return, the manager asks for a cut of what they earn. This can be anything from 10% to 60%.

Managers and their scholars can form ‘guilds’ with other manager and scholar teams and take on bigger challenges. 

Applications to become a scholar have become increasingly popular, as users recognise it as the most cost-effective way of joining Axie Infinity. 

What else do you need to know?

Value fluctuation 

As with any cryptocurrency-related venture, it’s important to remember that the value of your currency or your NFT can vary massively. Sky Mavis isn’t responsible for any money you lose if the game goes under or if the value of AXS tokens or Ethereum drops. 

It’s possible to put a lot of money into the game only to find that the value of your Axies has decreased and they are not as profitable as they once were. 

Age restrictions 

Axie Infinity is rated 18+, however there is no age-verification process. When you sign up to Axie you do so via your crypto wallet, and the recommended wallet, MetaMask, does allow users under 18 if they have parental permission. This is also the case with other crypto wallets. Be mindful that if you’ve allowed your child to open one of these wallets, they could quite easily sign up to play the game. 

Children should not be playing Axie Infinity as they are particularly vulnerable to being taken advantage of by other players, and may not fully understand the consequences of the ‘real’ money they are spending.

The manager/scholar model

Axie Inifinity is an easy way to make lots of money without leaving home - in theory at least - but it’s now prohibitively expensive to even join the game, unless you join as a scholar.

Playing Axie Infinity offers no job security. While some managers are interested in creating a community, others are likely to be interested in their own profit. If your manager asks for a cut of more than half what you make through playing, you can end up actually earning less than minimum wage. 

Often scholars are already in precarious positions, and having a profit-driven manager can really exploit this. Children who have got around the age restrictions would also fall into this vulnerable category of players.

What next?

If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, gaming can be a very lucrative career, something we’ve already seen with Esports players. But where Axie Infinity differs is in its use of cryptocurrency which is notoriously unstable.

Until they turn 18, make sure that your child isn’t using Axie Infinity as they could lose very large sums of money or be taken advantage of by other players. 

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