Crypto Game Axie’s AXS Token Gets Unlocked, Just as Short Squeeze Drives Up Price

Axie Infinity, the play-to-earn crypto game that rose to sudden popularity last year, started releasing previously restricted AXS tokens to early investors and insiders as part of a massive $200 million unlocking event.

The unlock came with an unexpected bit of drama: a swift rally in crypto markets that wiped out some traders who had been betting that dumping by long-time holders might result in a price decline.

Traders were following the timing of the token vesting period, partly because of the possibility that some investors might choose to dump their holdings, which could theoretically drive down the price. Vesting refers to the period of time when certain investors and insiders cannot claim and sell their assets; the point is to ensure they are invested for the long-term and prevent immediate sales.

Blockchain data shows that a wallet tagged as “Axie Infinity: Token Vesting” transferred some 785,334 AXS tokens ($6.6 million worth) to six recipients. The recipients were listed as Axie’s advisors and early investors in a private sale round in mid-2020, according to the site TokenUnlock.

Some 21.5 million AXS (worth $200 million) are about to be released in the upcoming days. About 10 million tokens unlocking are for early investors, advisors and the developer team, potentially creating selling pressure for the coin.

One of the early investors claimed $1.7 million in AXS (187,500 tokens), and soon moved the tokens to crypto exchange Binance, according to Etherscan blockchain data. This move may indicate intention to sell.

Arca, one of the crypto investment firms that purchased AXS during the private sale, received $4 million in AXS (437,500 tokens) to a wallet linked to the company. The firm hasn’t moved the tokens yet.

Crypto investment firms DeFiance Capital and Delphi Digital can claim $1.5 million (160,000 tokens) and $6.8 million (750,000 tokens), respectively, according to TokenUnlock. Blockchain data indicates that they are yet to obtain their share of tokens.

Owners of the wallet addresses have been identified by blockchain intelligence platform Nansen.

Axie Infinity’s vesting wallet started to release tokens Tuesday to insiders and early investors. (Nansen)

Those investors who participated in the private sale bought AXS at 8 cents. Given that the crypto currently trades at around $9, they may pocket a 11,150% profit on their initial stake.

Short squeeze

Crypto traders anticipated that AXS’s price would drop after the unlocking, similar to previous events.

Prior to the unlock, AXS was one of the worst-performing crypto assets by dropping 24% in a week, according to Messari. Traders positioned themselves for dropping further, building up shorts – bets designed toprofit from an asset’s price fall – and funding rates tilted overwhelmingly negative on most exchanges, according to data by Coinglass.

AXS, however, surged 7% in the last 24 hours amid a recent market-wide rebound, catching shorts by off-guard.

The whiplash liquidated $1.6 million short positions, the most in at least three months.

At press time, AXS is changing hands at $8.99, more than 90% down from its previous all-time high last year.

$1.6 million shorts were liquidated in the last 24 hours, the highest number since summer. (Coinglass)