An Interview with Jeffrey Zirlin of Axie Infinity on State of NFTs and Crypto-Gaming
This is an interview with Jeffrey Zirlin on the current state of Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs), crypto-gaming, and crypto-collectibles. Jeffrey aka Jihoz is an early CryptoKitties and crypto-gaming player. He’s currently part of the Axie Infinity team as their growth lead. As someone involved with multiple games/collectibles in the space as both a player and now working for a startup in the space, Jeffrey has some good insights to share, especially for those who may be new and are looking to understand the current NFT landscape on Ethereum.
You can read our interview with the Axie team in the past that is more specifically about Axie Infinity.
In the crypto gaming sphere so far, we see an interesting interplay between gamers that want active play and collectors that can be more passive. What’s your take on the right balance here?
Gaming ecosystems have had a mix of players and collectors for decades now. In my view, robust collectors markets emerge when you have the right mix of scarcity, utility, and aesthetics around your game assets. We’ve been quite focused on baking as much fun into Axies as possible(utility), while keeping the art quality high(aesthetics) and carefully managing the in-game economy of the universe(scarcity).
You’ve been a CryptoKitties player in the past and still own some valuable kitties. What do you think the CryptoKitties team has done right?
I think the CryptoKitties team did a good job with the artwork and having the inspiration/conviction to build a product around blockchain game assets without much of a previous demand signal for such a platform.
What are the driving factors for CryptoKitties in your view, and are they sustainable long-term?
I see CryptoKitties as a probability-driven artistic creation platform on the blockchain. Collectors drive the CryptoKitty market, just as collectors drive conventional art markets forward. The sustainability long term will depend on whether the game can continue to attract collectors with deep pockets– this most likely depends on how this whole experiment in decentralization and cryptocurrencies works out.
What types of games do you think would succeed in this space in the future and benefit the most from putting their in-game assets on the blockchain?
I believe games in the spirit of Neopets or Pokemon will do best at first. These games will focus on the art style, collectible game-assets, building a strong grass-roots community, and basic but addicting game-play. MMO’s, in my opinion need to scale quite massively in order to be fun, so I think the talent and funding needed to pull one off are still years away.
When building Axies, how important is it for your team to have third-party developers build tools and additional uses for Axies?
Right now we have some amazing third party developers building analytics tools for Axie and they’ve helped so much with lightening the load on the dev team to help us focus on core gameplay. Freak, Onedayplay, and Uselessz have built two great sites that I use on a daily basis.
In addition, we are starting to see mini-games pop up that are serving as interesting content marketing tools for our game. For example, https://flappy-axie.herokuapp.com/ has been a fun way for our community to stay immersed in the Axie universe while they wait for their battle cooldowns to refresh and introduce new players to our artwork since the game does not require an Axie to try out.
What are the most interesting trends in your opinion with respect to the collectability of these NFTs, as the space has evolved?
I think it’s amazing that sale prices in some of the popular games are starting to rival the prices we see in Mainstream games like Magic the Gathering. For example, an Axie recently sold for 50 ETH, over $10,000, so prices are well on their way to eclipsing what we’ve seen with collectors items like the Alpha Black lotus from Magic the Gathering.
What advice would you give someone looking to enter the crypto-collectible/crypto-gaming space today in terms of how best to spend their money?
I think players/collectors should focus on analyzing the quality of artwork, the “fun” that the platforms for the specific NFTs provide, and making sure you are investing in a project that has a strong grassroots community of evangelists, hobbyists, and content creators..
Are there other games or use cases of NFTs that interest you today besides Axie/CK?
I’m interested in seeing how Loom Netowork’s Zombie Battleground app does as that will be a major testing point for the space and also provide some clarity around regulation around apps involving NFTs.
We’re already seeing an explosion of new games modeled after CK/Axies, and some are already shutting down or not performing well in regards to player activity. What does it take to survive and succeed in the long term in the space?
I think most of the games that have tried to replicate our success have made half-hearted attempts and lack the development speed, art quality, and strong community we’ve been able to cultivate. There are no shortcuts to success in this space and I think now that some of the early games have proven there’s a market out there for these types of games, some less talented actors are trying to enter the space. The big game studios are still sleeping at the wheel, content with their current business models.
You were an early pioneer with CryptoKitties gameplay. What’s your quick pitch to a CK player to give Axie Infinity a spin?
Axies are the first fully animated NFT’s with an engaging, animated battle system on the Blockchain. Also it only costs .002 to breed your Axies, so your creative juices can flow freely! In addition, battles are completely free.
The joy of breeding that perfect battler for your team is something I believe has eclipsed the thrills I used to experience in the Kittie universe.