Today, we’re going to change things up.
We’ve already filled you in on the state of casino gambling during the current Philippines COVID lockdown, and we’ve already discussed Pac-Man’s past and future betting odds both inside the ring and out.
However, there’s a new kind of “gambling” hitting the islands, and it’s one that ties directly into the cryptocurrency market.
The gambling in question (whether you actually consider it “gambling” by definition is another matter) is a game called Axie Infinity.
While the product has been out since 2018, it’s only lately been picking up steam in the Philippines.
Made by Vietnamese video game designer Sky Mavis and available on Windows, Mac, iOS/iPadOS, and Android devices, the title is perhaps the most well-known property in the burgeoning NFT gaming space.
NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are digital assets that can be bought or sold on compatible blockchain platforms.
The idea, in the most general terms, is to give digital art and other digital constructs real-world monetary value.
The most common such NFT platform is Ethereum, and countless tokens utilize the Ethereum blockchain to facilitate the ongoing NTF boom.
(Cardano ADA – with its September 12 launch of smart contract support – should also become a major player in the space within the next several months.)
In the Philippines, particularly during the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, Axie Infinity has been the pastime of choice for countless residents to generate income during quarantine.
While we suggest that online casino gambling and legal Philippines sports betting is a much better way to earn “passive” income from home (especially if you use crypto to deposit and withdraw, thus taking advantage of market gains as crypto values go up), games like Axie Infinity are a different concept entirely.
These kinds of titles are targeted at different sorts of players – players who don’t consider online gambling to be a viable pastime for their own lifestyles.
In short, Axie Infinity works this way:
Players collect and breed creatures called “axies” (think Pokemon). These creatures can battle one another, and they can also be traded.
Now, that’s all standard video game fare. The genre is tried and true and is over 30 years old.
However, the difference here is that these creatures are tokenized as NFTs.
They carry monetary value on the ETH blockchain, which can then be cashed out for real fiat currency.
According to many observers and crypto analysts, Axie Infinity is the largest current NFT marketplace.
The number of active players on the platform is not disclosed, but the game hosts the world’s most expensive NFT collection, yielding a $42 million (PHP 2.083 billion) valuation just for those assets sold or traded in June alone.
Over the last 30 days, Axie Infinity has earned $305 million (PHP 15.128 billion) for its players and its platform.
That’s a lot of money.
And, if reports are to be believed, there are already dozens – if not hundreds – of Filipino gamers that have become millionaires just from playing the game.
For many, in a time where work has been largely suspended and lockdowns roll unpredictably through the nation, earning income at home while playing a fun video game – whether or not millionaire status is a reasonable goal – has proved far more stable and profitable than traditional employment opportunities.
Now, to be clear, not every player will realize incredible gains.
Some players may not make any money at all (depending on the crypto markets and the crypto coins to which they transfer their Axie Infinity tokens).
But as with any other game, the more you play and grind – the more time you invest and tactics you develop – the better your haul will be.
You can even buy virtual land in Axie Infinity, claiming a little slice of the game’s universe as yours and yours alone (until you sell it).
But thanks to the NFT model, all this isn’t just good for bragging rights. It’s good for cold, hard cash, too.
And that, in itself, is not an alien concept in the Philippines.
The country is very enthusiastic about the eSports market, where professional gamers earn life-changing sums and bettors can capitalize on those players’ performances.
The difference, of course, is that Axie Infinity (and similar products) are far more accessible.
You don’t have to be a pro. You just play.
And you can earn as much as your time and skill allows.
During the lockdowns, of course, people have plenty of time to do just that.
Naturally, the increased attention given to Axie Infinity by Philippines gamers has also brought increased scrutiny to the game by Philippines regulators.
The Philippine Department of Finance – along with the nation’s Securities and Exchange Commission and the Philippines central bank – is currently debating whether or not earnings derived from Axie Infinity NFT trades and sales are taxable income.
The biggest unanswered question – and the one which will determine how the government proceeds with regulation – is whether or not the game’s in-game cryptocurrencies – Axie Infinity Shards (AXS) and Smooth Love Potion (SLP) – fall under currency or security classifications.
Of course, all that will get sorted out in due time, and the Philippines government isn’t likely to tax players so harshly that it renders the pastime financially obsolete.
As with President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent statement about the state needing both in-person and online gambling to flourish in order to help build its coffers, so too will be the approach with Axie Infinity and countless other blockchain-based games and so-called metaverse properties.
Until then, of course, just keep track of your trades in case the government comes calling.
Whether you gamble online at traditional Internet casinos or sportsbooks – or whether you get on the NFT gaming bandwagon – you should always keep tabs of your take and pay all necessary taxes.