I am stepping down as Managing Director of Moonduck Studios & Agency to pursue a position at Sky Mavis, the creators of Axie Infinity, as their Esports & Creator Program Lead.
Today marks the beginning of a big change for me. After 8 years of focusing on Dota full-time, I feel ready to move on to a new opportunity in the blockchain gaming space.
My interest in blockchain gaming goes back to 2018, when my room mate and I partnered up with JenkinsDota to make a prisoner’s dilemma simulator on Ethereum called Ether Dilemma. We built out a version viable for testing and did exactly one open beta before deciding the project wasn’t worth it.
Programming on the blockchain was difficult, and figuring out how to provide our players with a decent experience was challenging. Variable gas fees on the network made it really hard for us to scale the cost of playing our game. In comparison, working in Dota was just easier, so we fell back to making video content and doing commentary.
Here we are years later, and blockchain technology has continued to evolve. Challenges that didn’t have clear solutions three years ago have now been solved, and improved on multiple times over. The foundation is finally there for great games to be built on top of these decentralized networks that ultimately serve to empower players.
We’re also coming up on a year and a half of covid-related lockdowns, which have given me plenty of time to reflect on my career rooted in broadcasting and live events. Moonduck had planned on running some events in 2020 to follow Midas Mode 2, but the uncertainty around covid thwarted all of our potential plans.
In retrospect we got pretty lucky with the timing of Midas Mode 2, as it took place at the end of 2019 just a few months before lockdowns would go into effect. Our crew was able to weather the storm for the most part, with streaming and working online gigs as individuals, but the last two years undoubtedly changed my outlook on running live Dota events.
Over the last 10 years, I’ve seen first hand what can happen when you enable third party entrepreneurs to monetize their efforts within a gaming ecosystem- and I see that exact same potential here in Axie Infinity.
Even still, I would imagine this announcement might come as a bit of a shock…
There will be more about Moonduck towards the end this article, but if I can indulge you for just a moment longer- I’d like talk about the aspects of Axie Infinity that really attracted me to the project:
What if your NFTs could do stuff?
Axie Infinity is a Pokemon-inspired universe where players collect, breed, and battle NFT digital pets called axies to earn tokens. Axie Infinity is currently the number one blockchain game, with over three years of history developing their ecosystem. The gameplay is actually highly competitive and looks promising as a globally accessible esport.
Axie has been exploding recently, up to about 70,000 daily active users and growing fast. But what really excites me about Axie is the financial ecosystem and how players have control over most of the economy.
I often hear people say that NFTs are pointless because they don’t do anything- but what if they could?
What if your NFTs could battle and get rewards for strategic victories?
That’s where Axie Infinity comes in. Each axie is an NFT that unlocks gameplay, while also having potential to appreciate as a collectible.
The beneficial outcome of facilitating Grey Markets
The key aspect that makes Axie so different from traditional games is the economic foundation enabled by blockchain. It creates the possibility for players to have digital ownership of their in-game assets, and the potential for developers to build a system where players get rewards for contributing to the ecosystem. In this case, simply competing in arena battles with your axies is considered making a contribution.
The rewards for winning battles can be easily sold on exchanges, like Binance, for real-world currency; however, they can also be consumed within the gameplay itself, to do things like breed two axies together to create a new one. This mechanism is what allows players to “earn” and realize some returns on the axies they have purchased.
The other key element is that Axie Infinity doesn’t sell axies directly to players. Players sell axies to other players through the marketplace, making the ecosystem driven by peer to peer transactions rather than developer to player transactions. New axies are only created through the user action of breeding, which means the supply of new axies is truly in the hands of the players.
Players earn by selling to one another.
Designing a system like this, that legitimizes and facilitates the grey market for game items and game resources, ends up enabling players to have more economic power within the system. Anything can be sold to anyone at any time, without the need for other centralized marketplaces that charge high fees and pose security risks.
The primary vision of Axie is to empower players and give them economic opportunities while gaming. The core development team has a strong belief in a future where work and play become one; personally, that’s a future I want to see realized!
Axie Infinity literally changed lives during the pandemic
In places like the Philippines, where lockdowns devastated local economies, being able to earn digital assets that are easily exchangeable for real money was a life saver. Making $10 USD per day for playing a strategy battle game might not sound like a lot, but in many parts of the developing world that’s more than minimum wage.
Global economic systems are quickly changing, and tools like these are the vehicle for more economic prosperity in the hands of people that need it the most.
A mini-documentary was released a few weeks ago illustrating how popular Axie Infinity has become in the Philippines, with rapid growth through “scholarship” programs where players with a lot of axies stake younger players with their extra axies to battle and share the rewards.
From a global perspective, Axie Infinity is poised to raise the floor in developing countries, giving players the opportunity to own part of this universe and realize financial benefit by playing- regardless of location or access to traditional financial instruments.
Access to gaming can also provide a much needed mental escape and dose of fun for people that live in poverty. Having an escape that intersects with earning enough money to survive is a powerful toolset for those without means.
Axie Infinity will be governed by token holders, not developers
Axie Infinity is committed to becoming the first successful game truly owned and operated by the community that plays it. Governance tokens are slowly being distributed to players and contributors over to time, and will eventually be used to vote on future development of the game. This is no easy task, but one with powerful implications and distributed rewards if executed strategically.
An essential aspect of this strategy is the Community Treasury, which receives a portion of revenues generated by Axie Infinity gameplay. These funds will eventually be governed by token holders, once to the network scales to a size that is sufficiently decentralized. Token-holding community members will be able to vote on how those funds should be spent to further the development of the game.
These AXS tokens will continue to be made available in new ways, including more esports initiatives, creator contests, and in-game events. By the end of 2023, it is expected that Sky Mavis will no longer have the majority vote.
I think this is pretty cool. This business model represents a complete shift from the traditional way of doing business, and it excites me to take part in this live experiment. I really like the idea of empowering players and community members to govern the environment they work and play in. I love the idea of playing a part in helping develop this digital nation.
If you’re curious to learn more about DAOs (Decentralized Autonomous Organizations), consider checking out episode 12 of my blockchain podcast, The New Blocks.
Funded and well-positioned
Lastly, Sky Mavis, the company and developers behind Axie Infinity, recently secured a $7.5 million Series A investment round, giving them the backing to scale their team and operations for the next few years at least.
The Series A was led by Libertus Capital and includes recognizable investors, such as: Mark Cuban, Alexis Ohanian (Reddit), John Robbinson (100 Thieves), Kevin Lin (Ex-Twitch), and many more.
Aside from financial security, Sky Mavis is also working on blockchain scaling solutions that will have a big impact on NFT gaming. Most of the Axie Infinity gameplay now takes place on an Ethereum sidechain called Ronin, helping to take gaming transactions off of the Ethereum Mainnet and hence reducing network congestion that causes high gas fees.
These types of scaling solutions are often referred to as “layer 2” solutions, and they will play a key role in making the Ethereum network more efficient for everyone. Sky Mavis is already looking ahead and working on blockchain solutions that will have an impact beyond just that of Axie Infinity.
With all of the above in mind, it felt like a good time to make a change.
Moonduck will still continue to exist, mostly as a content hub and twitch stream team for our creators. We have some tentative plans to run some community events when the time is right, but nothing we’re ready to announce right now.
In the mean time, Moonduck talent will continue to pursue independent gigs and projects on their own channels.
Moonduck was something really special and, though I think some potential unrealized, we were able to do some pretty cool stuff. To this day, we are still the only event organizer to have run an official DPC event in a game mode other than the official Captain’s Mode.
Similarly, we created the wildest game mode Dota 2 has ever seen with Midas Mode- and made the magic happen on a shoestring budget with just a single producer.
Let’s take a moment to appreciate some of our best moments:
And our worst moments..
From absolute creative insanity..
To moments of genuine friendship and laughter..
And some of our best stories told.
To a bright future
I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the last two seasons of South American Dota DPC, which was an absolute privilege to cover. Diving so deep into that region opened my eyes to a side of the Dota community I previously neglected. South American Dota is filled with rich story lines and incredible players competing through rough conditions.
I strongly believe it’s South America’s time to rise in Dota and hope the region starts to get the respect it deserves. Viva Peru, vamos Brazil… I’ll be forever cheering for SA Dota and hope to continue working with Bowie to facilitate more English content focused around the region.
As far as my podcasts and twitch streams go, I will continue to do both, though on a more irregular schedule and hobbyist capacity. I won’t be actively working on events or content around Dota, but I’ll still be watching and playing some in my free time.
One thing about Dota I’ll always cherish is how open the ecosystem is to entrepreneurship. Tools like the workshop, DotaTV, and in-game tournament tickets have enabled countless businesses and individuals to make a full-time living from Dota without being an elite player.
Moonduck would never have been able to deliver the events that we did without access to these tools; ultimately they enabled us to advertise our events within the game itself and monetize digital goods in a way that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.
As I said at the beginning; I saw firsthand through Dota the benefits of enabling third parties and entrepreneurs to execute events and sell digital goods. I see much of that same potential here in Axie Infinity and look forward to enabling the next generation of creators!
For anyone that wants to take the deep dive, I would recommend the following metaversed article. It’s long and rather dense, but explains fundamentally why crypto and NFTs are so important to our digital future.