YGG’s Sponsor-A-Scholar program allows organizations and individuals to help scale the positive impact of play-to-earn games, by contributing funds to cover the cost of the NFT assets needed to play.
The program began in May 2021, when the first-ever sponsor, Flying Falcon, provided funds to support 50 YGG scholars from the Philippines, Indonesia, Venezuela, and India so they could start playing and earning with the game Axie Infinity.
Since then, three additional cohorts have been sponsored. In July 2021, the Leaping Corgi scholarship was spearheaded by Atelier Ventures co-founder, Li Jin, sponsoring a total 87 scholars from Brazil, India, Peru, Philippines, and Venezuela, and in August 2021, cryptocurrency exchange FTX sponsored another 137 scholars in Brazil, India, Indonesia, Peru, Philippines, and Venezuela,
Over September to December 2021, YGG sent a survey to the Flying Falcon, Leaping Corgi, and FTX scholar cohorts to gauge their progress and measure the impact of the program on their daily lives. A total of 230 scholars from the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Brazil, Venezuela, and Peru answered the survey, and in January 2022, the YGG team also followed up individually with some of those respondents to conduct additional in-depth interviews to understand more about those scholars’ personal circumstances.
In January 2022, Coinbase became the latest benefactor to the YGG Sponsor-A-Scholar program. YGG will report on outcomes from the Coinbase cohort in a future report.
Play-to-earn games such as Axie Infinity have been seen to provide new income-earning opportunities for people all around the world, particularly in emerging markets where economies are still recovering from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the rising cost of the NFTs needed to play these games has made them cost-prohibitive for some players. Understandably, not all people are willing or able to invest in purchasing their own NFTs upfront, especially if they are unfamiliar with NFT games.
With the mission to onboard millions more to the Metaverse, YGG moved to make play-to-earn games more accessible with its scholarship model. With this model, YGG acquires the NFTs needed to play, then loans them to new players under a reward-sharing agreement. YGG scholarships have proven wildly popular, with scholarship demand far outpacing the supply and availability of the in-game assets.
Seeing the positive impact on scholars, in being able to start playing and earning without any upfront capital expenditure, some outside benefactors reached out to ask YGG how they could help. This is how the Sponsor-A-Scholar program came to pave the way for generous supporters to collaborate with YGG by providing the funds needed to produce more of these NFTs, and ultimately, to bridge the gap between new players and the life-changing opportunities presented by play-to-earn.
With this initiative, YGG prioritized providing scholarships in emerging economies where job opportunities are lacking and government relief has been limited. The majority of scholars are from the Philippines (63%), followed by Indonesia (11%) and India (11%). Most of the survey respondents were Filipino scholars who were predominantly male and around 18–24 years of age.
“With play-to-earn games such as Axie Infinity being easily accessible via smartphone, scholars have the flexibility to play the game whenever they have the time. Scholars don’t have to play the whole day, and it only takes a few hours of their day to earn this additional income,” said Kookoo, a YGG Scholarship Manager. According to the results of the survey, a scholar takes home an average of 2,919 SLP (the in-game reward token earned in the game Axie Infinity) per month.
In terms of income-earning capacity, almost half (46%) of scholars said that play-to-earn is a supplement to their usual income. Naushad, a scholar from India, works as a tailor and plays Axie Infinity during his breaks or when waiting for new customers. This kind of flexible work is difficult to find otherwise in his hometown.
Other scholars said they play the game part-time while they pursue their education, with 42% of respondents confirming that they are currently studying. Jhanery, a student from the Philippines, also plays the game to help pay for his needs. “I want to extend my deepest gratitude to my scholar sponsor Leaping Corgi, and scholarship manager Kookoo,” Jhanery said. “I cannot thank you enough for giving me this opportunity to join your scholarship program and helping me continue my studies.”
Out of 230 respondents, 75 scholars are parents with dependent children. Johana, a YGG scholar from Venezuela and a mother of two, said that her play-to-earn scholarship “improved my family’s living situation and we can now save up for the future.”
Overall, 48% of respondents said that they consider playing Axie Infinity their full-time job. Abim, a scholar from Indonesia, was forced to leave his factory job after his workplace and its employees experienced challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Today, playing Axie is his full-time job, and he says it allowed him to learn how to budget his finances and manage his time more effectively. He also gained exposure to investing in crypto and participating in more advanced activities like DeFi staking and trading.
This demonstrates how YGG is a pathway for onboarding mainstream audiences to Web3 via play-to-earn games, with a total 86% of survey respondents stating that playing blockchain games and earning rewards in the form of cryptocurrencies through the Sponsor-A-Scholar program was their first time using crypto.
“YGG has created a truly unique way for new audiences to get onboarded to crypto through gaming,” said a representative of the Bahamas-based crypto exchange and Sponsor-A-Scholar benefactor, FTX. “Seeing the growth of first-time crypto users and the program providing life-changing opportunities to people in need is something that aligns with our own goal of effective altruism.”
The survey results show that 56% of scholars use centralized cryptocurrency exchanges to convert SLP, the token earned from playing Axie Infinity, to fiat. A further 18% of scholars said that they prefer to participate in group withdrawals with other players. In the case of a group withdrawal, scholars pool their in-game crypto earnings and send the funds to a single person, who takes responsibility for exchanging their crypto to fiat, then the group distributes the proceeds among themselves. This option is often chosen by scholars who are still not confident about interacting with crypto off-ramps and who wish to save on the high transaction fees associated with exchanging small amounts of SLP.
Another interesting insight from respondents is that 14% sell their SLP to friends and family on a peer-to-peer basis, particularly where the SLP buyers are engaged with breeding Axies.
When asked how they spent their earnings, 23% of scholars said that buying food and groceries was their top priority. This is corroborated with a later question in the survey, where 21% of scholars said that they were now “able to provide the day-to-day necessities for me and my family.”
In the survey results shown above, medicine was the fourth most popular answer from scholars when asked about how they spent their earnings.
Maria, a Filipina scholar battling ovarian cancer was given an FTX scholarship in August 2021. From her earnings, she was able to buy medicines and pay hospital bills to sustain her treatment. With her scholarship overseen by YGG Scholarship Manager Shanks, the guild had also assisted in raising additional funds to pay for her surgery. Sadly, Maria passed away in 2021. Her YGG scholarship account was handed down to her nephew, so he could continue to play and earn for his family.
Several scholars have also started their own businesses because of their earnings from gaming. Airene, a scholar from the Philippines, used her scholarship earnings to explore the entrepreneurial route and started selling baby products online, representing a direct-selling company. Airene has since decided not to continue with the business, however, her story shows how some players have used the capital earned via their scholarship program to explore other opportunities that weren’t previously available to them.
Many scholars also said that they learned how to manage their finances and they changed their mindset about money. Luis, a 41-year-old scholar from Venezuela, was able to support his family and pay for medical expenses because of the scholarship. “The scholarship program taught me how to budget and only spend on what is necessary,” he said.
Tejal, a student and scholar from India, pays his school tuition fee from his Axie Infinity earnings. He also learned how to invest and engage in crypto activities like DeFi. Tejal’s Scholarship Manager at YGG, Vaas, said he feels proud to see his scholars using their additional earnings to experiment and explore opportunities offered by Web3, pointing out that investing in crypto and DeFi is a privilege that is otherwise out of reach for those people who are earning so little that they are barely able to put food on the table.
With the recent changes to Axie’s in-game tokenomics, managers are adapting to empower their scholars and helping them improve their gameplay. “We educate our scholars about the overall economy of the game,” said Shanks. “How we adapt to it is that we’re now more focused on building players’ battle skills so that they are more competitive in the Arena and also offer coaching sessions for scholars who need extra help in the game,” he added, noting that some scholars are also stepping up to help improve the performance of other, less experienced scholars.
YGG continues to onboard more players and involve more partners in the development of the play-to-earn and Web3 ecosystem. If you wish to be a Sponsor-A-Scholar partner, please reach us at [email protected]
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