Axie Infinity is catching fire as its mobile blockchain game takes off, with the value of its token soaring and land in its virtual world is selling for as much as the cost of a Sydney flat.

The game has over 350,000 active players and its forum for selling in-game items has recently been the most popular NFT marketplace in the world, with US$111.7 million in items purchased in the past week.

This morning Filipino entrepreneur Gabby Dizon sold this piece of land for 269 Ethereum (worth about A$824,200), after buying it for 40 Eth in late January.

Dizon is the co-founder of Yield Guild Games, an online gaming guild that last month raised US$4 million in a Series A funding round. “We are settlers of the new worlds in the Metaverse,” its Twitter bio says.

‘Play to earn’

Axie players can earn Smooth Love Potion (SLP) tokens through battles or adventures and the ERC-20 tokens have real-world value. Today they were trading for US22c, up 68 per cent from a week ago, for a total market cap of US$120 million.

In the Philippines, players have been earning a living playing the game full-time, with its popularity in the country taking off after Australian expatriate technology consultant Leah Callon-Butler wrote about the phenomenon last year.

Dizon says that at the current price of SLP, Filipinos can a good living by playing the game, which is also popular as a full-time occupation in Indonesia and Brazil.

Meanwhile the Axis Infinity (AXS) governance token was up 31 per cent to US$14.12 this morning, and had hit an all-time high hours earlier of US$16.64. Its market cap of US$744 million made it the No. 94 crypto.

The AXS token is up 144.8 per cent in the past week, 276 per cent in the past fortnight and roughly a hundredfold in the last year.

‘The crypto Angry Birds moment’

The game is the creation of a Vietnamese startup, Sky Mavis, which in May raised US$7.5 million from US billionaire Mark Cuban, Twitch co-founder Kevin Lin, former and other investors.

Former ASX-listed company Animoca Brands invested US$420,000 in Sky Mavis in November 2019, as the lead participant in a seed round that raised US$1.5 million.

“We think Axie Infinity is delivering the crypto gaming Angry Birds moment and are showing at scale how play, to earn. Can really help developing countries,” Animoca founder Yat Siu told Stockhead in an email.

The game is about collecting, raising and breeding Pokemon-like characters known as Axie, which can battle other squads of Axie in an arena.

The creatures are non-fungible tokens (NFTs), meaning they are owned by players and can be bought and sold.

In the past day, week and month, the Axie Infinity marketplace has been the most popular NFT marketplace by trading volume, according to DappRadar, outranking art marketplace OpenSea and the NBA Top Shot market.

More than 58,000 traders have spent US$110.1 million on Axie Infinity items in the past seven days, DappRadar data shows.

Axies were trading this morning for around 0.2 Eth (around A$600), while the average price for land seemed to be around three or five Ether (A$9,000 to A$15,000). (The land that sold for 269 Eth was in a “genesis block”.)

In September, New York-based Delphi Digital paid 473.5 Ethereum – worth about A$213,000 at the time – for five super-rare “mystic” Axies.

“Delphi now holds the only Bug and Reptile 3x Mystics, as well as 1/3 of all 4x Mystics in existence,” the firm boasted in a mind-blowing report that dived deep into the body parts and magical attributes of the fantasy creatures.

Sky Mavis uses its own Ethereum sidechain, Ronin, to avoid the congestion on the main Ethereum network.

LightspeedVP partner Amy Wu said in a Twitter thread yesterday that Axie Infinity seemed to be seeing exponential growth.

Capitalism at work

The soaring value of the three Axie creatures needed to play the game does create a barrier for new players from developing countries and those without funds.

To solve this issue Axie owners are creating competitive “scholarships” for new trainers, who are loaned Axies in return for generally 40 per cent of the profit.

A Twitter search finds many offers and requests for scholarships.

There’s a certain dynamic to it, with capitalists making money off third-world labour, that might raise eyebrows in some quarters. But Axie “scholarships” are free and the game does appear to be quite fun.

The latter half of this short documentary by Callon-Butler, the aforementioned Aussie tech consultant whose Coindesk article touched off the craze in the Philippines, features interviews with local players.

How to get started

For those who want to play the game, here’s a guide. Again, you’ll need to buy a squad of three Axies to play. They can be bought on Opensea as well as the official marketplace. The SLP and AXS tokens can be bought and sold on Binance and Uniswap (which is not to suggest one should do so).