Axie Infinity has teamed up with Cloud9 esports and its Stratus fan club to promote the game and showcase its esports potential.

Axie Infinity, a popular play-to-earn game, has partnered with Cloud9 esports and its Stratus fan club to promote the game’s potential in the esports industry. Axie Infinity, developed by Sky Mavis, is a simple game that combines elements of Pokemon and Slay the Spire, featuring NFT monsters that players can collect, breed and battle. The game’s simple mechanics and lack of physics make it a competitive experience with depth that appeals to both casual and professional players. To make the game more accessible, a free-to-play version called Axie Infinity: Origins has been launched and several esports-friendly features added such as a dedicated esports server with less frequent balance updates and built-in anti-sniping feature for observers. The partnership aims to build the game’s community and reward its most active members by hosting tournaments that pay out winnings in the game’s governance token, AXS.

Some players in the wider gaming ecosystem have grown to associate play-to-earn games with pay-to-win or scams. Etienne acknowledges the skepticism and concerns of esports fans towards blockchain technology, citing the recent high-profile failures of FTX, Three Arrows, Celsius and a massive hack that resulted in the theft of $620M from Axie Infinity in March 2022. He believes that building trust can only be done through consistent and responsible behavior over time and not just words. He wants to focus on showcasing the potential of the technology, and why he believes the game is fun. He wants to move forward and see how the technology evolves, and wants to show the potential of Axie Infinity.

Andrew Campbell, director of esports for Sky Mavis, the developer of Axie Infinity, agrees. Campbell believes that the play-to-earn economy is based on meritocracy, where the best players should be rewarded disproportionately. He sees esports as an extension of this concept and wants to use it to build the Axie community and reward its most active members. Axie esports tournaments payout winnings in AXS, the game’s governance token, which can be sold on the open market. However, Campbell’s goal is to use esports as an effective distribution tool to funnel these tokens to players who view them as votes rather than money.

Additionally, the game uses smart contracts to ensure timely payout of winnings, addressing a problem that esports has traditionally struggled with. According to Campbell, esports is more than just a marketing spend, it is an effective way to build up the DAO and aligns with the values of the Axie ecosystem.

Sky Mavis, the developer of Axie Infinity, is taking a responsible and sustainable approach to building its esports ecosystem by slowly and steadily growing the community. This approach is meant to avoid overhyping the game and facing issues later on. The company’s decentralized ethos allows it to work with various partners to build the esports ecosystem, including both P2E focused organizers and traditional esports teams. To that end, Sky Mavis has issued several AXS grants to fund the prize pools for its esports program. The third grant, which totals 160,000 AXS, equivalent to $1.25 million at the time of writing, will be used to fund tournaments throughout Q2 2023. This approach aligns with the company’s DeFi roots, and it will help to ensure the sustainability of Axie’s esports ecosystem.

Some other notable examples include Method’s MetaGuild and Team Secret’s guild and scholarship program. The participation of these organizations gives the game more legitimacy and helps to establish it as a leader in the industry. However, there is also a risk that Axie Infinity, which runs on the Ronin blockchain, may become an isolated island in an industry pushing for interoperability.

According to Campbell, these partnerships are beneficial in that they help to build trust with users by showing that there is a growing network effect, reducing the risk of becoming isolated. He believes that the more traffic that can flow in and out of the game, the more robust the economy will be. The partnership with Cloud9 is the biggest esports partnership that Axie Infinity has had to date. The companies began discussing a deeper relationship in mid-2022.

Cloud9, one of North America’s most popular esports organizations, was an ideal partner for Axie Infinity to expand its reach beyond Southeast Asia where the game is most popular. Its roster of both competitive talent and streamers, coupled with its targeted approach and more reasonable pricing compared to traditional marketing agencies, made it an attractive choice for Axie. The organization’s openness to promoting the potential of blockchain technology was also a key factor in the partnership. Both Campbell and Etienne, CEO of Cloud9, share a belief in the importance of codifying ownership of digital assets and want to communicate the potential of blockchain technology in a way that resonates with the traditional gaming audience. They also want to avoid the pitfalls seen with other NFT projects, so as not to appear like a scam to users.

According to Campbell, both Axie Infinity and Cloud9 are focused on building something of quality for users, rather than chasing a hype cycle or trying to get rich quickly. The recent activation between the two companies was a tournament using the free-to-play version of the game, Axie Infinity: Origins, that pitted Cloud9’s members against seasoned Axie players, with commentary geared towards introducing new players to the game. The stream on Cloud9’s Twitch channel had an average viewership of 180, which is more than double the game’s average viewership. However, for Sky Mavis, viewership is not the most important metric for success, the goal is to reach engaged viewers who become excited enough to set up a Ronin wallet, rather than thousands of people who just click away. The partnership with Cloud9 is also beneficial because it allows Sky Mavis to directly reach its most engaged fans through Stratus, a paid membership that offers unique access to the team.

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