Return of Ronin 🔥 – by William M. Peaster


Metaversal is a Bankless newsletter for weekly level-ups on NFTs and the onchain frontier

Dear Bankless Nation,

Back again with my first full post of 2024! 

Today, I’m diving back in with a refresh on Ronin, a chain dominating crypto gaming right now.

Let’s unpack the pulse of Ronin and talk about why it’s thriving, plus note some things to look out for going forward! 

-WMP

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Ronin is a Layer 1 (L1) blockchain compatible with the Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) that the Sky Mavis team launched in 2021 as an onchain hub for their growing suite of Axie Infinity games.

Fast forward to today, and currently Ronin is by far the most-teeming gaming chain in the cryptoeconomy, boasting hundreds of thousands of daily active users (MAUs) and extensive trading volume levels.

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After Lazarus Group exploited the Ronin Bridge in March 2022, some people wrote off Ronin as done for. However, Ronin has mounted an impressive comeback since then, driven largely by advances around the Axie Infinity gameplay experience and by the chain increasingly becoming a destination for non-Axie games. 

In April 2022, Sky Mavis released Axie Infinity: Origins, a significant makeover of the main Axie title that unveiled new mechanics like free starter Axies, equipable charms, and beyond. 

Since then, Sky Mavis has released a new vision of the foundational Axie experience (Axie Core), an Axie progression system (AXP), and an Axie parts upgrading mechanic (Parts Evolution), among many other smaller updates.

New alternative Axie titles have also recently entered the ecosystem, including Defenders of Lunacian Land, Homeland, Project T, and Raylights.

Altogether, these various strides have deepened and widened the possibilities around Axie gameplay, offering more compelling experiences to the ecosystem’s players than ever before. 

Another major factor in Ronin’s resurgence is how the chain is becoming a go-to destination for non-Axie games. 

This embracing dynamic has proven to be a mutualistic flywheel: these non-Axie games benefit from Ronin’s infra and large, highly active playerbase (a.k.a. “the Ronin Effect”), while Ronin gains more activity and users and becomes an even more attractive hub for crypto games. 

The biggest example here to date, of course, has been Pixels. Pixels is a social farming sim that migrated from Polygon to Ronin in October 2023 and has since seen its daily active users (DAU) boom to +100,000 players at times as excitement has grown around its planned $PIXEL airdrop

Yet other titles have also made strides in leaping to Ronin, including more recent newcomers like Apeiron and Zoids Wild Arena. As this stable of non-Axie titles has grown, the larger variety of gameplay possibilities has made Ronin more appealing to a wider set of gamers. 

The expansions mentioned above helped foster Ronin’s comeback in 2023, such that now the chain currently boasts more daily active users than the popular L2s Arbitrum, Optimism, and Base combined. Over the last year, Ronin notably saw:

  • 🔼 A +262% rise in TVL ($40M to $145M)

  • 🔼 A +469% rise in $RON ($0.32 to $1.82)

  • A +1,370% rise in daily transactions (68k to 1M)

  • A +1,450% rise in monthly active users (145k to 2.25M)

The continued evolution of the Axie Infinity ecosystem and the attraction of non-Axie titles makes Ronin well-poised to thrive for the foreseeable future on the gaming side of things.  

The main outstanding question for the chain now, then, is how it will evolve on the infra side of things to scale up for future demand. 

Toward this end, Ronin research director Phuc Thai recently noted in a blog post, “Solving the Blockchain Trilemma on Ronin,” that the chain’s engineers are currently exploring both monolithic and modular scaling techniques, namely parallelized transactions and zk-rollups of the zkEVM variety. 

That said, nothing is officially decided here yet, but the Sky Mavis team has scaling in mind, and they’re already taking steps to actualize the Ronin of tomorrow. Keep an eye on these developing plans accordingly. 

If you’re curious about diving deeper into the contemporary Ronin ecosystem, the following resources can help you get started:

Additionally, DeFiLlama and Token Terminal offer helpful dashboards that you can use to track current and historical activity metrics around Ronin. 

Ronin’s got a growing stable of games and, in my opinion, an S-tier title in Axie Infinity: Origins. It’s got the users, it’s got the stats. It’s doubled down on decentralization and security, having brought in more validators upon its shift to Delegated Proof of Stake (DPoS) last year. And it’s got a promising pathway ahead as evidenced by Sky Mavis’s current scaling research. 

As such, Ronin’s resurgent success is not just a tale of resilience, but also a precedent for the potential of L1s and L2s to specialize and dominate in niche markets, e.g. crypto gaming. 

However, it’s also worth noting here that Ronin seems poised to evolve over time into a more holistic ecosystem where more than just gaming is booming. Indeed, we’ve seen hints in this direction with the recent CyberKongz Genkai mint (PFPs), the launch of the Ronin Name Service (decentralized ID), and the arrival of Impossible Finance (GameFi). 

All in all, then? Keep your eyes peeled on Ronin this year. The chain’s riding big tailwinds and has significant momentum right now. It’s one to watch in 2024!

William M. Peaster is the creator of Metaversal — a Bankless newsletter focused on the emergence of NFTs in the cryptoeconomy. He also serves as a senior writer for the main Bankless newsletter.

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Not financial or tax advice. This newsletter is strictly educational and is not investment advice or a solicitation to buy or sell any assets or to make any financial decisions. This newsletter is not tax advice. Talk to your accountant. Do your own research.

Disclosure. From time-to-time I may add links in this newsletter to products I use. I may receive commission if you make a purchase through one of these links. Additionally, the Bankless writers hold crypto assets. See our investment disclosures here.



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