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The game’s struggles call the sustainability of play-to-earn gaming into question
When Axie Infinity reopened its cross-chain Ronin Bridge last week, the game’s community was hopeful that users with renewed access to their funds would resume playing the game. Instead, Axie continued to hemorrhage users. About 368,000 gamers logged onto Axie Infinity last week, continuing a steady decline that began after the game peaked with 2.7 million weekly users in November, according to Axie Infinity co-founder Jeff Zirlin. 
The loss in value for Axie Infinity and its play-to-earn competitors has outpaced the recent downturn in the crypto market. Axie hopes to reignite growth by upgrading its gameplay, but some experts question whether play-to-earn games are sustainable at all.
Axie Infinity has been likened to Pokemon with NFTs. Gamers battle each other using NFTs (non-fungible tokens) of monsters dubbed Axies to earn a cryptocurrency named Smooth Love Potion (SLP) which users can sell on secondary markets or use to breed more Axies. The Axie NFT floor price and SLP price tend to move in tandem. 
Hailed for pioneering “a new generation of games,” Axie received investment from Andreessen Horowitz, and Binance led a $150 million funding round for the game following its Ronin Bridge hack.
But in the wake of Axie’s 2021 bull run, the game’s economy appears to be in free fall. The NFT price floor for Axies, once $340, now sits at $6. SLP’s market price has fallen from a high of $0.40 to $0.004. The decline in NFT price, SLP value, and users are all connected, says Lars Doucet, a game developer and contributing writer for reports on Axie for the gaming research firm Naavik.
Axie Infinity monetizes “growth in users, which is a disastrous thing to monetize,” Doucet told Blockworks. SLP’s and Axies’ prices will rise as users join the platform, but “the minute there are fewer people added today than there were yesterday, that whole cycle unwinds.”
As earning potential dried up, many Axie players lost interest in the game. In the Philippines, where nearly half of Axie Infinity’s users are located, many gamers once treated Axie as a job and can no longer support themselves through gameplay, according to Doucet.
Axie Infinity is continuing to release game updates and hopes it can resume growth with a more dedicated user base.
“Shakeouts are happening, but this is good in my opinion for the long-term community. We’re left with the gamers that love playing the game,” the head of community for Axie’s tooling partner told Blockworks.
Axie Infinity’s struggles, which predate its bridge hack and the crypto market crash, appear to be endemic for play-to-earn games. 
StepN is a “move-to-earn” exercise app with a business model nearly identical to Axie’s. The Web3 app’s supporters believe it is more sustainable than Axie Infinity, because exercise is a beneficial activity “regardless of financial rewards.” Yet the price of StepN’s NFTs have fallen from a high of $1,400 in April to $90 today, and StepN’s crypto token has fallen from a high of $9.03 to $0.11. 
Play-to-earn games need to be more realistic about gamers’ financial prospects, says Devin Becker, a Web3 consultant specializing in game economics.
The “idea that every single player can earn is flawed,” Becker told Blockworks via LinkedIn. “Players earn from other players, so some have to pay” if a play-to-earn economy is going to be sustainable in the long run.
StepN did not respond to a request for comment.
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