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Growing a Web3 Game with Axie Infinity
Growth Hacking in Web3 - The Axie Playbook by Quinn Campbell, VP of Growth at Sky Mavis: Best of AMA
Axie Infinity’s growth has been the gold standard for Web3 games across the globes.
With a peak daily active user count of 2.9 Million, the Web3 game has tinkered with and solved countless growth, marketing, and operational challenges.
As such, the playbook that the key growth person at Axie has crafted offers a motherlode of insights and ideas for Web3 games & projects to learn from.
In an AMA with Quinn Campbell, VP of Growth at SkyMavis, we delved into the experiments, ideas, and the growth cycle of the Biggest Blockchain Game Ever - creating an effective growth playbook straight from the growth prodigy’s experiences.
Table of Contents:
Web3 Gaming + Community
Focusing on Measurable Growth
Creator Program debacle & learnings
Compliance battles for Web3 games
Growth Hacks that have yielded surprising results
Replicating growth playbooks
User Acquisition Solutions for Web3
Web3 Gaming + Community
Gamers are going to game irrespective of the market sentiments.
And while marketers & founders are trying to figure our onboarding existing web3 users - the sheer numbers & scale of web2 players dwarves web3 native users.
Axie Infinity, with its growth marketing measures focused on going after all sorts of players. This meant making onboarding easier, focusing on the gameplay, and building an entire tech stack to target and onboard gamers.
The value generation over the course of engagement is inevitable, since the gameplay is going to get sticky users who then can behave like web3 natives and be monetized accordingly.
Case in Point: At 2.9 Million Daily Active Axie Users, 65% users never had a wallet before.
Community-driven Growth Strategy
For web3 games looking to grow, there has to be certain amount of focus that goes into building a community, since “it is a product in and of itself”.
When starting out it does well to focus on fostering a community. The community in itself powers traction, promotes adoption, and keeps the engagement running for a game.
And the perspective is not even just anecdotal.
Axie Infinity started building its community the game was still in its soft launch. The data around game retention was absent, and there were several members who did not even touch the game. Still, plenty of users dabbled with the concept of the game by being active in the community - ‘spending a ton of time interacting and engaging with the community’.
Whether NFT Collectors or lurkers, these community members were just as important as a diehard gamer since these community members would be the beacons of the game as you scale.
They can be extension of your brand (or a co-owner) either as Token Holders, Game advocates, or Future Whales.
Focusing on Measurable Growth - Web3 Growth Analytics
A nice thing about the bear market is shakeout of grinders & hustlers.
For gaming projects, that means P2E gamers have fallen off the grid and the hype-based onboarding is over. In these markets, it is easier to foster a community of engaged real gamers, and a strong community.
The shift, although healthy, is not a passive run.
On-chain Games looking to grow must look forward to create a Community AHA! moment. One that lets you understand the sort of activities you want your user to complete in a give timeframe, for them to be a sticky and engaged community member in the community product.
This measure lets you ascertain the community activity and measuring investment on community activation.
This can be implemented with growth tools, community analytics platforms, or community engagement tools (growth tooling) - which in turn will allow you to use data to create measurable, RoI driven campaigns that can be optimized with iterations and learnings.
Measurable communities + Growth Analytics, LFG! 🚀🚀🚀
Creator program debacle & learnings
One of the major distribution methodologies that a game can potentially leverage is a creator program - one where a legion of content creators or organic players play your game and create content around it.
Axie had a similar take on it.
A major brand & game awareness avenue that they could leverage and expand on as and when needed. On that note, Axie created a Creator Launchpad, one where creators could build content, get paid, and scale their program.
However, without collaborative effort, the Axie creator program turned out to be a complete debacle, with creators dissing Axie for creating a Creator program without their opinions or needs.
How could a Creator program be created without any collaboration with the creators?
The predicament was solved post HOURS of discussion and understanding the requirements of the creators - which interestingly was staked on Access to Content and Recognition.
Much less convoluted than a payment program or better remuneration.
This creator program led Axie to assert their approach to view community as a product - and further powered the success of their creator program!
Build with your Community. They’re motivated by collaboration & not just money! 💰
Solving Compliance issues - Learnings
A common challenge to solve for web3 games looking to publish on a platform, is solving game publishing on Playstore & Apple App store. This was a predicament, and still is for countless games.
Google disallowed NFT and blockchain games.
To that note, it took Axie’s team - specifically Jiho and Quinn - several trips to Singapore to meet with the Google Playstore team to discuss obstacles and build credence for the game.
The idea was to convince Google by presenting legitimate reasons for Axie’s existence.
The compliance issues that Google presented were -
Earning mechanics in the game that reflected in real-world earnings
Classic troublemaker, since this gets Google in trouble with Taxation authorities across the world.
To tackle this, the focus was on removing earning mechanics from the gameplay - assuring a no cash for cash policy in-game.
Impact of NFT value through in game activities are not supposed to change
Crafting mechanics had to be removed.
For the parallel iOS ecosystem, the challenges were overcome by ensuring any minting, selling or transferring of NFT to happen within the app store ecosystem as In App Purchases (IAP). Axie is in fact building their own marketplace within the iOS game client thereby enabling users to:
Purchase the NFT directly as IAPs
Without the need to create a new wallet explicitly or connect one (wallet creation happening at the backend)
This is a massive unlock for the industry as it smoothens the transition from web2 to web3, making game adoption more fluid (similar to the Reddit story)
Astonishing Growth hacks that worked -
Ad creative paradigm shift 🤯
Performance marketing on TikTok is something that most Web3 gaming brands look to leverage to expand their brand awareness and user outreach.
And in a keen predicament, Axie found, through experience & research that the worse production value of the Ad, the better it seemed to perform. Glossy and high products ads & creatives were performing substantially bad on TikTok.
The hypothesis that Axie reflected on was - Regular content works, bringing the much valued authenticity to the your average target gamer’s feed.
Also, when people see an ad, they just seem to tune out and scroll by - thus rendering the performance marketing initiative moot and worthless.
Axie tested this hypothesis out. They created a deep-fried ad with Axie sisters - low quality, high-authenticity which turned out to be one of their Top 3 performing ads of all time.
Apparently, the worse the production quality, the better the ad fares. 😏
So the next time you are looking to run an ad, lean towards authenticity rather than conventional production house outputs.
Authenticity for the win! 🎉🎉
Project playbook that Quinn & Co try to replicate
Internally, the Axie team respects the early hustle of Uber - growth hacking their way to millions of users in their early days and the utilization of data.
Something that Quinn and his team picked up from Uber was the the nimble structure of growth teams - which they’ve actually started to implement as well.
The Axie CRO squad - works on solving for converting web2 to web3 users. This in turn takes care of the monetization front of things, since once onboarded, the Web2 users will become game natives.
The nimble team includes 1 Growth manager, 1 data analyst, 1 growth engineer, and a Product support.
User Acquisition solutions for Web3 projects
Pick and Tinker with existing User Acquisition strategies in Web2. Do not try to reinvent the wheel where there is no need. Replicate UA successes from Web2 and dabble in iterations.
Play around with the landing pages -
Web3 projects usually run ads on an install page. Axie experimented with creating marketing specific landing pages - very simple, 1 CTA, minimal information and a large download button.
This singular shift resulted in a 135% increase in conversion rates vs standard download pages.
Key pick: Iterate on growth strategies with small experiments, and make sure to utilize growth analytics to study their impact.
Advise for new learners -
Spend time learning growth marketing and growth hacking in web2. Get the mental model in place while forcing yourself to be data driven and data optimized.