The Philippines can be the “Korea of ​​Web3,” says Axie Infinity Co-Founder

Jeffrey Zirlin, co-founder and growth leader of Sky Mavis, said Salamat (thank you) to the Filipinos for being inseparable from the story of Axie Infinity and cited blockchain gaming as a possible vehicle for the Philippines’ rise as a digital powerhouse.

“The Philippines can be the Korea of ​​Web3,” said Zirlin, known to legions of Axie Infinity fans by his nickname Jiho, in his speech at the Philippines’ Web3 Festival.

Touted as the “epicenter of Web3 adoption,” this week-long Web3 celebration in the Philippines encompasses the three-day main conference from November 15-18. Aside from the conference and other side events and activities, Axie Infinity developer Sky Mavis is also hosting the Axie Open Manila eSports tournament. The largest onsite Axie Infinity tournament to date in the Philippines, Axie Open Manila features a prize pool of US$120,000 or nearly 7 million PHP.

StarCraft and South Korea

Zirlin pointed out how Blizzard Entertainment’s StarCraft has transformed South Korea and fueled the growth of its broadband Internet infrastructure on its journey to becoming a virtual national pastime.

This 2010 Kotaku article sheds light on how StarCraft became a phenomenon in South Korea.

Also Read: Axie Infinity Hack Reminds Us of the Vulnerabilities in Crypto Markets: Ravi Madavaram from Advance.AI

“Part of the game’s popularity in South Korea is due to good timing. When Blizzard launched StarCraft in the late 1990s, South Korea built its (sic) online infrastructure and created the world’s fastest internet. Online cafes started to pop up, and the cafes needed games.

“It’s a question of which came first – the chicken or the StarCraft – but the game just kept popping up in more and more web cafes. The game’s release also coincided with the founding of South Korea’s first pro-gaming league in 1998. A few years after the game’s launch, pro gamers started organizing into teams, and big sponsors like Samsung moved in.

“However, StarCraft’s success in South Korea wasn’t just good timing. Blizzard was lucky, but luckily for Korean gamers, the studio offered a compelling title. StarCraft is (and is) fun. A series of events may have set the stage for the game, but the compelling experience the game offers is why generation after generation of Korean gamers continue to enjoy the title. At this point, StarCraft has become something of the Monopoly or chess of online gaming. It’s a classic title that keeps attracting new players.”

Axie Infinity and the Philippines

Meanwhile, Axie Infinity, a Pokémon-like NFT game that allows players to collect, raise, and battle fantasy creatures, has transformed the Philippines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Simply put, when players win battles in Axie Infinity, they are rewarded with Smooth Love Potion (SLP) tokens, the in-game currency. You can then use these tokens to breed the digital pets known as Axies to win more battles and earn more SLP. By using a cryptocurrency wallet, players can accumulate SLP and convert their digital wealth into real money.

The story of Axie Infinity is also connected to the Decentralized Autonomous Organization (DAO) Yield Guild Games, one of the organizers of the Philippine Web3 Festival. It was Axie Infinity that inspired YGG co-founder Gabby Dizon to launch the DAO in 2020 alongside Beryl Li and another persona named “Owl of Moistness” who is represented by a plush toy owl.

In August 2021, YGG raised $4.6 million in a funding round led by venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz (a16z), the first time a16z has invested in a Filipino startup.

Filipinos and Play-to-Earn Revolution

The meteoric rise of Axie Infinity in the Philippines drew global attention to play-to-earn, the term coined for blockchain games that allowed users to own the game characters as NFTs and earn by playing. Axie Infinity even gave birth to the blockchain gaming platform startup, which I work for.

“The interesting thing about play-to-earn is that through play, which billions of people around the world can do, you can actually enable financial inclusion by having NFTs that generate returns. What excites me the most as a gamer is that there are so many ways to express yourself by playing these different games. There are just so many games to look forward to and so many creative ways to make an income,” Dizon told this writer in an interview last year after her funding round.

The birthplace of play-to-earn in the Philippines is Cabanatuan, Nueva Ecija, a province in the Central Luzon region, according to a YouTube documentary YGG commissioned Emfarsis to produce.

Among the Axie Infinity players interviewed for the documentary were an elderly couple who are sari-sari (small convenience store) owners, Lolo Silverio, 75, and Lola Vergie, 65. For them, it was play-to-earn not a buzzword, but a godsend that allowed them to continue earning an income despite the difficulties of COVID-19.

Also Read: Play-to-Earn: Understanding Axie Infinity’s Popularity

In the documentary, Lolo Silverio said that playing Axie Infinity is his only form of entertainment and shared that he can sometimes finish 100 games a day.

“Sana huwag mawala yung Axie (We hope Axie doesn’t go away),” he said.

E-Sports and Grassroots Transformation

The growth of Axie Infinity and Play-to-Earn has faced challenges this year due to the influx of players, which impacted the game economy and sent SLP’s price plummeting. It also took a big hit because of the exploit on Axie Infinity’s Ronin network, which resulted in a loss of over $625 million in USDC and ETH. This was followed by the current bear market in cryptocurrencies and NFTs, the so-called Crypto Winter.

However, Axie Infinity has evolved, and Sky Mavis announced new features and products during its first-ever AxieCon conference.

At the Philippine Web3 Festival, Zirlin gave attendees a preview of new Axies and other improvements to the game.

Sky Mavis is also doubling down on turning Axie Infinity into an esports, just as what was then known as pro-gaming helped StarCraft transform South Korea.

“We need to democratize esports,” Zirlin said, emphasizing the importance of supporting grassroots esports tournaments.

Judging by the reception Zirlin got at the Philippine Web3 Festival and wherever he went, the love affair between the Filipinos and Axie Infinity is far from over.

Just ask the couple who posed with Zirlin with their baby named Ronin.

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