British esports team SMPR, owned by public parent company Semper Fortis Esports, have established a new division for play-to-earn cryptocurrency games.
The growth in popularity surrounding NFTs, or Non-Fungible Tokens, in 2021 has been unignorable. Sales of the technology, which is currently used primarily for digital art, reached $10.7b in the third quarter of 2021 alone.
The growth of crypto-based assets has been witnessed outside of art too, with play-to-earn games like Axie Infinity surging in popularity. SMPR, a UK-based esports team brand, are looking to capitalize on such growth with their new player signing.
Aleksei ‘Iner’ Bakumenko, traditionally a professional Hearthstone player, has been named as the first signing in the esports company’s new player-to-earn division. He’ll compete in both Axie Infinity, an NFT-based online game, as well as Blizzard’s digital collectible card game.
— Semper Fortis Esports (@SFesports_GG) October 18, 2021
Semper Fortis Esports are being careful around their foray into the world of play-to-earn, however, having only signed Iner on a three-month contract. There is an option to renew the agreement for an additional six months, however.
The “earn” aspect of Axie Infinity sees players secure tokens that can be traded on crypto exchange Binance. The playable in-game characters, known as axies, are digitized as NFTs and can be bought and sold.
Axie Infinity developers Sky Mavis raised $152m in investment in October 2021, valuing the company at almost $3b. They’re aiming to fuel further growth in the game with the funding.
As for Iner, his top placement in Hearthstone esports came in 2016 when he achieved a second-place finish in the Hearthstone Championship Tour’s European spring championship. In 2021 so far, he’s finished 157th, 35th, and 20th in the Orgrimmar, Dalaran, and Silvermoon stops of the Masters Tour, respectively.
“Our latest signing will pioneer our strategy to build out the SMPR play-to-earn division, opening doors for a new pool of players entering the esports space and diversifying the company’s revenue model,” said Semper Fortis Esports CEO, Kevin Soltani.