Bankless - The Rise of Axie Infinity - Jeff 'Jiho' Zirlin

Primer: Axie Infinity, a game where you collect fantasy pets and battle with them, has taken the Crypto world by storm. In this episode, Jiho shares the story of Axie Infinity: From humble beginnings to what it is today.


  • Co-Founder and Growth Lead of Sky Mavis, the company behind Axie Infinity

Axie Infinity's Explosive Growth

  • A combination of factors

  • Built through the brutal bear market

"So while this [Axie Infinity] may might seem like an overnight success story, it's like a three year overnight success story, these guys have been grinding. And when I say grinding, they've been building like hell."

- Ryan Sean Adams

  • Building a blockchain game is 10x harder than a conventional game

    • Have to get the gameplay right

    • Game needs to be fun

    • Have to get the game economy right

    • Have to have true property rights

  • Deployed to Ronin sidechain in April and those who were on the sidelines because of transaction throughput can finally jump in

  • Flat-to-down market currently and people are bored. They are looking for something exciting and that's currently Axie Infinity

Why Did They Persist Through The Bear Market?

"You cannot form a community like Axies during a bull market, right? You just, you just attract only these mercenaries, right?" - Jiho

  • Have a special community. Even when their community was small, they were making musicals, getting Axie tattoos, and building tools

  • They talk to the users often

  • A lot of them came from a product development background. The way to win is to be early to the right market and just keep building, even right through a bear market

"If you see an amazing community, it's somewhat underground, it's a bear market, but like, doesn't have mainstream attention. But it's just an amazing, incredible community that's somewhat underground. That's a signal for you to go get involved. Like, maybe not financial advice, go buy the asset, right, because good things happen out of good communities. That is a key insight."

- Ryan Sean Adams

Game Progression

"So the creation of an Axie is kind of like a Proof-of-Work system, where each Axie is the result of real time spent in game."

- Jiho

Future Developments

  • Battles V2 coming out later this year/early next year

  • Land gameplay like Clash of Clans/Rise of Kingdoms, where players own their land plot, build structures on it, and harvest resources from it. Resources are actual tokens

  • Long term going to have a Software Development Kit (SDK). Allow community members and developers to use the Axie IP

Game Assets

  • NFTs: Axies, Land plots, Land items

  • ERC-20s: SLP and AXS Governance Token


  • SLP supply is uncapped. Has a reflexive supply

  • AXS Governance Token has a capped supply. Earned through playing the game, but in specific ways (e.g. top of the leaderboard, contribute to the community)

"And it's, it's crazy, it's a phenomenon in the Philippines, there are, it's like a trend where businesses are now starting to be like, hey, like we're cool, we accept SLP."

- Jiho

  • Governance is not implemented yet

  • 4.25% of all NFT volume in the ecosystem goes to the community treasury. The Axie team has exposure to that fee by holding 18% of the AXS supply

  • Part of the breeding fees are paid in SLP; the other part in AXS

  • Worked with Delphi Digital to create the governance tokens to hand control over the treasury to the DAO

What Users Want

  • Peer-to-peer exchange of game assets

  • Ownership of the entire game


  • A sidechain

  • Longer-term, their focus is on security of funds. Just hit 200 million right now. Will upgrade and look at different solutions

  • Ronin contributed to their huge growth

Ethereum's Role In Axie Infinity's Success

  • Everyone is speaking the same language on Ethereum. EVM-native systems building on each other

"We wouldn't be where we are without Ethereum right? It was like our main home. Now it's kind of like our summer home. It's our main home for two years now." - Jiho

Users Of Axie Infinity

  • Different player archetypes

  • Collectors: Into scarcity and aesthetics

  • People who are into the competitive scene: Aim to be at the top of the PVP leaderboards

  • Players/Grinders: Play 4-6 hours each day farming SLPs

  • Liquidity providers: Trading Axie markets/do short term strategies

Borrowing Of Axies

  • Development of a Scholarship system where people who have a lot of Axies, but not enough time to use them, could lend it out to Scholars who want to play

  • Scholars are people who want to play the game, but do not have the hundreds of dollars needed to get started with it

  • Scholars will apply to a programme with a resume/CV/video

  • Scholars get a percentage of tokens earned while playing while the rest goes to the owner of the account

Demographics Of The Community

  • 60% of users from the Philippines

  • Gaining traction in Indonesia, Vietnam, and South America

"I saw photos of people. It looked like a school in Africa, learning how to play Axie together."

- Jiho

Secrets To Their Success

  • Focusing on the game economy and giving economic freedom to players

  • Amazing community that onboarded their family and friends

"The thing with Axie is just so damn fun, right? Like you just like you want to have the important people in your life, your friends and family partake in this cultural game with you. And so you onboard it."

- Ryan Sean Adams

Discord Community

  • Went from 10-20 people to what it is today. Community got stronger by bonding through the bear market

  • On track to become the largest Discord on earth

Discord Management

  • Community members stepping up to provide support

  • Different channels for specific topics

On The Gaming Industry

  • Axie Infinity will become a category-defining NFT game (e.g. Angry Birds, World of Warcraft)

  • Incumbents in the gaming industry are slow to react

"Well, it's, I think the most fanatic communities the world has ever seen are going to be NFT Gaming communities, because of the incentive alignment."

- Jiho

"Even if you knew how to build Axie and copied it. Like, could you actually reproduce its success? Right? I mean, that's, it's like, same thing with Ethereum. Right, like all the ETH killers, they say that they can make better tech, but it's all about the community, the developer community."

- Jiho

Thoughts On Emerging Markets

  • 2 billion underemployed people in the world. Crypto games will draw in these people and increase the pool of potential gamers

All information presented above is for educational purposes only and should not be taken as investment advice. Summaries are prepared by The Reading Ape. While reasonable efforts are made to provide accurate content, any errors in interpreting and summarizing the source material are ours alone. We disclaim any liability associated with the use of our content.