Axie Infinity rose to prominence as an NFT-enabled game that, at its peak, garnered millions of users, but in a mobile version released Wednesday, players don’t have to buy NFTs.
The mobile app, Axie Infinity: Origins, is a card-based game where players receive non-NFT starter characters instead of having to buy NFTs to play the original desktop version, according to Decrypt.
The need to own Axies, furry NFT creatures, to play the game gave rise to an in-game economy that for awhile attracted millions of players worldwide. Gamers from mostly developing countries like the Philippines rented NFTs from other players—who mostly lived in Western countries—to play and earn crypto, and the NFT owners were given a share of the spoils.
At the game’s peak, some players—depending on the country—could earn just as much, or more, as they would from working a minimum-wage job, Fortune previously reported.
But in the past year Axie Infinity‘s popularity has plummeted. As crypto prices have fallen, so too has the price of Axie‘s in-game cryptocurrency, Smooth Love Potion (SLP), which is down 99% from its May 2021 high.
The tumult has caused the company behind the Web3 game, Sky Mavis, to rethink its steps. After initially pivoting from a term it helped popularize, “play-to-earn,” in favor of the softer “play-and-earn,” the company’s cofounder, Aleksander Leonard Larsen, said at a conference in February that the company needed to double down.
“We need more tokens, we need more crazy stuff in terms of experiments,” Larsen said at the time.
The new mobile app is definitely an experiment in expanding its player base. It’s also a test case for Apple, which has not been receptive to NFTs in the past but recently approved the blockchain-based NFL game NFL Rivals from Mythical Games. Axie Infinity: Origins is rolling out in Latin America and Asia on Apple’s App Store.
Owners of NFT Axies can use theirs in the app, Larsen told Decrypt, because the game is built using Sky Mavis’ Ethereum-based Ronin sidechain.
Axie Infinity’s native cryptocurrency AXS jumped as much as 15% on the news Wednesday. It was up 6.5% to $7.23 as of Wednesday afternoon. The game’s in-game cryptocurrency, SLP, was also up, about 3%, according to CoinMarketCap.
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