Could NFT Games Be ‘The Gateway To Financial Equality’? | Vietcetera
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Could NFT Games Be ‘The Gateway To Financial Equality’?

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people in the Philippines turned to play NFT games to make money. What about in Vietnam?
Could NFT Games Be ‘The Gateway To Financial Equality’?

Source: Trung Nguyen for Vietcetera

ISEV x Vietcetera

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Gaming, just like music and movie, is a form of entertainment that’s becoming more and more popular among users worldwide. NFTs and NFT games are all the hype lately and with prices and the number of users skyrocketing, many studios catch the wave, using a blockchain platform to develop their games.

These games inherit the financial advantages of blockchain. But despite the puffery, the public remains skeptical or highly resistant that gaming can lead to financial independence. The question is, how does the NFT game transform the lives and finances of the players?

To explain more about the latest cryptocurrency phenomenon to go mainstream, Vietcetera met with Nguyen Thanh Trung (Trung Nguyen), the CEO and co-founder of Sky Mavis, the third Vietnam-based startup to become a tech unicorn, following VNG and VNLIFE. Trung is also the man behind the leader in play-to-earn (P2E) gaming, Axie Infinity.

What is Axie Infinity?

Axie Infinity is built on a blockchain platform, where players battle, raise, and trade fantasy creatures called Axies. Its gameplay is similar to Pokémon’s, but what makes the difference is that Axie players can actually generate real income just by playing. The better your gaming skills are, the more tokens (cryptocurrency) you can earn.

Majoring in engineering, Trung Nguyen had never thought of working on games or blockchain till early 2018, when these ‘utopias’ have all come to reality. Out of curiosity, Trung decided to try an NFT game developed for the international community by Filipino talents. Through the game, he met Alek from Norway and Jeff from the US, who became the co-founders of Sky Mavis and Axie later.

Source Axie Infinity
Source: Axie Infinity

When working with startups, Trung's desire is to create a product that changes people's lives by solving a problem. After parting with his first startup project – Lozi, Trung completed his education at FPT. Whether in a leadership position or as an employee, Trung felt satisfied because his goal is to improve society.

As one of the four co-founders of Axie Infinity and Sky Mavis, Trung found a shared passion for gaming in his two international friends. In the past, gaming was not seen as a stable career. Compared to other gaming corporations who have reaped the benefits from the community of gamers and codebase (programming code written specifically for a program) accumulated over many versions, Trung was just a tenderfoot in the gaming industry without any of the above advantages.

Trung was not surprised by Axie's milestones, this is not something of a sudden but has already been foreseen. What moved them was the intensity and positive feedback they got from the public. For those who are unfamiliar with NFT games and blockchain, Axie’s staggering growth is impressive.

After bagging investments from the world’s biggest funding firms, Axie has gained more public recognition. Of course, people’s interest to experience the game followed. This is a good sign for Trung on the NFT game journey.

How was Axie built?

At first, Trung was not really familiar with NFT. What he knew about blockchain was only drawn from the conversations with his international friends, under different perspectives. However, the Axie team was already exposed to NFT at the early stage, when it was simply defined as a technical standard for data representation. Every project working on NFT would follow that standard, making it easier for both parties to collaborate and integrate with each other.

Source Trung Nguyen for Vietcetera
Source: Trung Nguyen for Vietcetera

NFT allows users to trade and own items on a virtual platform. Its transparency is also very high, enabling users to track every transaction history. Therefore, developing NFT games is completely different from building traditional games. For instance, if the process is divided into three parts, two parts will be devoted to solving technical problems, to put games on the NFT platform, and only one part will be dedicated to game content.

After nearly four years since they founded Axie, building NFT games in the market became easier than before. Axie was first built on a platform called Ethereum. The problem was, every transaction on Ethereum is too expensive. So whenever the network is congested, it could charge from $10 to $50, or even $150 for a single transaction. Axie's first mission was to reduce this cost for their players.

To address the issue of the pricing, the Axie team came up with a solution called Ronin – an Ethereum-linked sidechain made specifically for Axie Infinity. With Ronin, the cost for transactions is much cheaper, and each account gets 20 free transactions daily. This is the secret to Axie's miraculous growth.

Currently, Ronin is catering exclusively to Axie and some of Sky Mavis' services. After the trial period, Sky Mavis would strengthen and scale Ronin in other activities.

A gateway to financial equality

At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people in the Philippines who lost their jobs turned to play Axie's games at home to earn a living. And that's also been Axie's mission from the beginning – to make the game a tool and bring technology closer to people and help strengthen their finances.

According to Trung, 25% of Axie players have never had a bank account before. Through Axie Infinity, these players are naturally exposed to financial concepts for the very first time. From accessing to setting up and using financial services such as e-wallets, these steps could happen within hours or days.

While building a game on the blockchain, Trung met a Filipino friend named Gabby. Gabby runs a “scholarship,” which provides scholars – players who don’t have adequate financial support to play on their own – Axies for free. The Axies belong to the players, or managers, who have too many of them and can’t manage all. When the scholars win any battles, the rewards will be split between the managers and the scholars. This model is booming in the Philippines.

There are some reasons why Axie’s model exploded in the Philippines, rather than Vietnam. First, Axie first chose to approach the international market to gain more feedback from players. From this, the team could progress to perfect their game in the future versions.

In addition, the concept of NFT games has not been defined as "stable" or “secure” while this is a prerequisite for Vietnamese people when it comes to investment. After many tests and evaluations, Axie is now rising in its "home" country. After nearly four years, Axie has expanded from 6,000 to about two million players.

Axie also participates in the open market, whose characteristic is that fluctuations only follow the law of supply and demand, rather than financial scheme. The constant change makes Axie different from traditional financial models:

  • The market is in the players’ hands and not manipulated by the creator.
  • The players can experience entertainment value and emotional variation while playing, whether they win or lose.
Source Trung Nguyen for Vietcetera
Source: Trung Nguyen for Vietcetera

According to Trung, the NFT game industry is still young, and the content can’t have the same depth as traditional games. In the future, Axie aims to perfect the content and put Axie's games on the App Store.

Through the form of a game, Axie is able to provide instrumental support for the community to quickly access financial concepts. And that remains to be the guideline of both Trung and Axie in front of the huge potentials of this industry.

The story was produced in partnership with the Initiative for Startup Ecosystem in Vietnam.

This story program "Initiative for Startup Ecosystem in Vietnam until 2025" (also known as National Program 844) was approved by the Prime Minister on May 18, 2016 and assigned to the Ministry of Science and Technology of Vietnam in charge of implementation. The program aims to create a favorable environment to promote and support the formation and development of fast-growing businesses based on exploitation of intellectual property, technology, and new business models.
Translated by Bich Tram