Jeff Jiho Zirlin - Co-Founder of Axie Infinity Ep #47

In the 47th episode of the Solana podcast hosted by Anatoly Yakovenko, Jeff "Jiho" Zirlin - Co-Founder of Axie Infinity talks about this NFT-based play-to-earn online video game. From scratching the surface to building a high-end game that pays, he explained everything that the audience wanted to know.

Feb 10, 2022 - 11:38
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How did It start Through CryptoKitties? 

Zirlin started by greeting the host and the audience for their immense interest in knowing all about Axie Infinity. He thanked everyone for reaching out to him from the traditional gaming space and started telling how it all started through CryptoKitties. He talked about the huge potential within the NFT games segment. He unveiled that the majority of the Axie community consists of people from the CryptoKitties community because it was the time when people started to know about the blockchain community and CryptoKitties was the most prominent blockchain-based game at that time. He added that all early Axie members met while playing CryptoKitties. This included co-founders Sky Mavis, CEO Trung, and many others.  

What is Axie Infinity?

According to Zirlin, Axie Infinity is a blockchain game. It allows the users to battle and collect adorable pets that are called Axies. He added that they have kept a precise balance between the in-game economy and supercharged it through blockchain resources that are ERC-20 tokens whereas the Axies are non-fungible tokens or NFTs. Along with that, they offer their own marketplace where users can find unique decks to exchange in-game resources. So, the basic idea behind this game is to introduce people to something new and based on blockchain   

Game Design and Constant Iteration

The game runs on a card-based battle system like other famous games such as Pokémon. Each Axie has six different body parts corresponding to different cards that users can withdraw during battle. There are numerous body parts and combinations of Axies. Instead of requiring the users to make transactions and engage in auto-battle action, Zirlin came up with an idea to provide them with a more engaging and exciting game experience. 

He infused real-time decision making and battling against opponents. After sampling and testing, the team of experts finally decided to go with the card battle system. He also revealed that his team is planning to release a whole new version of the battle system upgraded with new features which can also be determined as a new game experience.  

What Is a Blockchain Game? A Mix of Social Network, Gaming and The Start of a New Economy

Zirlin answered the question by explaining that a blockchain game is a unique combination of fun and adventure that have deep roots in the digital economy space. He said, instead of game development, these games have emerged into a rapidly thriving market that focuses purposefully on allowing the in-game economy to prosper. 

Compared to most traditional games where the real money is not encouraged, NFT games allow the autonomy to play with digital currency in the form of minting fees, incentives, etc. The core objective is to give rise to a peer-to-peer or player-to-player economy as large as possible. Similar to any other modern game that attempts to maximize the use of premium features for monetization, NFT games have revolutionized the segment with this new concept of the digital economy. 

Why Is Crypto Important to Axie?

The global gamers community consists of billions of users. Some of them play for fun while some aim to gain global fame within the gaming segment. Compared to traditional games, NFT games involve cryptocurrency. It allows the users to not only play the game but also earn some potential money. It can be done without crypto but the various layers of decentralization and the centralization of the ownership allows 95% of the value flowing through the game goes directly to the player. Zirlin explained the relationship between the value of the game and the need for increased decentralization which indeed requires the use of blockchain in terms of monetization, security, and many other aspects.

Building and Relying on Your Community  

Zirlin highlighted the importance of the community by agreeing with the fact that NFT game developers have to take good care of the game users’ demands and believe in continuous improvements and developments. If the developer is delivering something that accompanies the users’ dynamic needs, then it can transform into an overnight success. In the beginning, there were just hundreds of users and within three years Axie Infinity accounts for more than 680K users globally. By deploying their sidechain ‘Ronin’, Zirlin’s team was able to witness hypergrowth backed by the expansive scalability of the concept which was impossible without engaging with the community.   

Is The Future of Gaming the Metaverse and User-Owned Assets? 

Axie Infinity has taken gaming to a new level by introducing user-owned assets with their property rights based on Metaverse. According to Zirlin, it is a new genre of gaming that will allow a new type of gamers to gather under one roof just like PC games, console games, and mobile games. At the same time, this will continue to thrive as NFT games allow people to make money which is a great value addition. It will change the perception of many who believe that gaming is a waste of time. 

The Feasibility of Crossover Between Games with NFT Ownership

Zirlin says that this unique idea of interoperability between different ecosystems has been around for a while and Axie brings the exclusivity to use different NFT assets in multiple games as they own them. The Axie ecosystem is like a theme park where every asset has a base value. Axie Infinity brings a unique game universe with different experiences and a unified type of NFT game asset that the users can use across other game experiences. It is more like cross-marketing or some kind of cross-pollination that allows users to interoperate their assets across multiple ecosystems. 

Where Are Axies Users from and What Kind of Players Are They? 

Zirlin said that he already had the idea that Axie is a community and cannot be just called a pool of gamers as it is more of a social network. Axie Infinity has users all over the world except the Central African Republic which makes it a geographically dispersed game. He also added that 60% of the users are from the Philippines, followed by North Americans, Europeans as well as a lot of users from developing markets. While explaining the types of players, he added that there are two types of users from those who want to play for fun to those who want to play and earn money.   

What's Axie's Endgame? 

Zirlin and his team believe that Axie is something that has brought complete freedom to a lot of people in terms of bringing a major societal change backed by this cute game that looks simple on the surface but gives a new concept and economic freedom to the gamers. According to him, if Axie can be called the Pokémon of blockchain then there is a lot more to come soon within this community-owned form of the game. He is highly motivated to push the number of NFT gamers to a huge extent allowing the gamers to live in a free society. 

Thoughts On Competitors

In response to market rivalry, Zirlin said that he wants to see more experimentation in the games industry by testing new features, possibilities, and capabilities. He is motivated to test economic features within modern games through different types of NFT game crafting systems. He agrees that if it is the start then the industry requires new people as well to take part and contribute their expertise.

Generative Art and Creating an Axie

Axies have a breeding process and users can easily recognize their characters. As he mentioned earlier, it is super easy to create an Axie by using the various combinations of body parts that are available to the users. So, it is a kind of generative pet that comes in the form of the minting or bonding process which is a part of economic sustainability.