As blockchain technology grows more mainstream, more and more decentralized apps (DApps) are being created. The best-known DApp is Cryptokitties, which was one of the first DApps to receive mainstream coverage and still a popular DApp today. To the outside world, spending so much money on the digital image of a kitten must seem like an investment that’s difficult to justify.
But the unjustifiable can be intriguing too. We live in a world where our lives are increasingly digital. In fact, we leave so much of ourselves online that algorithms can accurately model and even predict our behavior. Social media companies use this data to make billions of dollars in ad revenue.
This monetization is in the process of being decentralized through blockchain technology. Additionally, it’s not just data on our behavior that will have monetary value. Anything can possibly have value, from a house bought on virtual land to indeed a CryptoKitties.
That’s what ultimately attracted me to try out a gaming DApp. Isn’t it cool to think you could buy a digital collectible, play around with it, and then sell it for more later? Is that even possible with today’s DApps? I was curious, so I decided to find out.
Which DApp to Play?
First of all, I had to decide on which blockchain platform I wanted to play. This was a relatively easy choice. A handful DApps are built on TRON, a few on EOS, but most are built on Ethereum (ETH). For each blockchain platform, you need to buy its respective cryptocurrency.
And while ETH is relatively easy to buy on Coinbase with fiat, EOS or TRON can’t be bought with fiat. You need to sign up for a crypto to crypto exchange like Binance, and exchange BTC or ETH for EOS. I took the easy route and decided to play a DApp on the Ethereum blockchain.
Next, I wanted to find a game that wasn’t only fun to play, but that seemed popular enough to possibly yield a return on my investment. So I had a look on The DGaming monthly report, which is an excellent source to see how gaming or betting DApps on different blockchains are performing.
I didn’t want to play CryptoKitties, because I felt like much of the hype it’d seen in December 2017 had blown over, and there were more interesting alternatives. Plus, I wanted a game where you could gather something that had value, but also where you could do something with the collectibles you gathered. Simply buying something and selling it again didn’t seem all that interesting to me. I wanted to play.
The one that jumped out to me at first was Gods Unchained TCG. Its volume was on par with that of CryptoKitties. Unfortunately, when I went to their website, a blank page appeared. I couldn’t get the site to load. When Googling, no one else seems to have the same problem.
And here’s the thing. I’m just a guy looking to play a DApp. I probably could’ve solved the problem by clearing my cookies or trying out their website in a different browser, but I didn’t want to start troubleshooting from the very beginning. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. There are plenty of other choices.
I don’t want to generalize for the entire gaming population, but I like to think that most gamers are like me: browsing through multiple DApps and making snap decisions on whether to play a particular game or not. It’s not a rational decision-making process.
So I moved on. My eye fell on Axie Infinity. It had the second-largest volume and I vaguely recalled having read something about it. It wasn’t the #1 game, but it was still top 10 on DAppRadar. And I personally like the name better then some other DApps on the list. What’s an Axie?
Signing Up For Axie Infinity
On visiting their website, I immediately liked the cute and somewhat goofy design of the Axies. The game seemed somewhat of a blend between Tamagotchi and Pokemon, where you have to take care of your Axies and where you can battle them against other people’s Axies.
I decided to try out the game. Of course, you can’t just start playing a DGame. Every action you do in a game built on Ethereum requires a transaction fee, so you need to have some Ethereum in a wallet. I decided to buy some ETH on Coinbase Pro (tip: this is exactly the same as Coinbase, but with way lower transaction fees).
I sent some euros to my account and waited a few days for them to arrive. Then I bought 0.1590 ETH for €25 at an ETH price of €156.76 and a few days later 0.2646 ETH for €30 at an ETH price of €113.03 (to give you an idea of how quickly this market can move, ETH price today is €78.47).
Then I installed the MetaMask plugin on my Chrome browser to send all my ETH there. Axie Infinity is a browser game and it needs access to the wallet where you store your funds. It’s a straightforward install and a secure way to play DApps.
There’s no avoiding this initial process, but once you have MetaMask set up and once you have a coinbase account, it’s a relatively straightforward process. This being said, it’s still not seamless at all, and will throw off most mainstream gamers used to a frictionless experience.
The Mechanics of Axie Infinity
I had 0.42 ETH (around €55) in my wallet and was ready to play! Of course, I needed to buy an Axie first. In fact, I needed three, because Axie battles are always 3v3. So I did what I always do: read everything on the game before making a single decision. Luckily, they have an excellent manual that explains the game, the battle mechanics, the different types of Axies, and so on…
The goofiness of the game’s design hides the vast complexity that underlies it. To give you an idea, there are six different classes, four levels of rarity, four base stats (health, morale, skill, and speed), and four moves per Axie, each with an attack, defense, and accuracy stat. Considering there are six Axies on the battlefield in each battle, this makes for wildly varied games that stay exciting no matter how many battles you’ve fought.
I ended up buying three Axies for 0.04, 0.07 and 0.17 ETH. All three were some of the cheapest Axies on the marketplace, yet they cost me 2/3rds of all my ETH. As it stands today, collectibles in any DApp are really expensive. Although this might attract investors, I doubt whether casual gamers would be willing to spend €100 on a few Axies. Game developers need to understand if they’re making the game for investors or for gamers. If the latter, digital collectibles need to be cheaper.
Regardless, I was happy with my Axies. I named them, positioned them on my battlefield, ranked their battle moves, did a few practice matches, and sent them out for battle. You can fight three times every twelve hours, and I settled in a routine where I would send my Axies out for battle three times a day, watch how each fight went, and adjust their battle moves as I learned.
I’m still not very good at the game. I’m currently ranked 246 on the leaderboard, with 19 wins and 26 losses. I don’t know whether that’s my awful strategy or whether it’s my cheap Axies (it hurts my heart typing this; they fight so bravely every time).
However, my Axies have gained a significant amount of experience and are almost ready to level up. I might try to sell them on the marketplace for say 50% more than I originally bought them for, just as an experiment. Of course, if I wish to make a return on my investment in euros, I’d need to sell them for considerably more, because of the collapse of the Ethereum price.
There’s so much more I could say about Axie Infinity. I’ve not spoken about breeding your Axies, the Terrariums where you can grow and take care of your Axies, the individual Axie body parts that have different characteristics, and so on… All I can say is that I play the game to this day and enjoy doing so.
As game mechanics get better, I can see Axie Infinity become a next-gen Pokemon game, where players walk around a generated world, catch or buy Axies in that world, and fight other players. But contrary to Pokemon, you can sell your Axies for cryptocurrencies that have real value, and actually earn money with them. That’s exciting, and an extra incentive to come back and play.