Gaming giant Axie Infinity’s AXS token price has risen sharply despite the upcoming release of tokens worth millions of dollars.
In just the last 24 hours, the token has increased by almost 40%, reaching a four-month high of $13.83 before correcting slightly to a local price of $12.54 at the time of writing.
A surge of 156% in open contracts for AXS perpetual futures that are locked, bringing an estimated value of $104 million. This heightened level of open interest, alongside the price rally, signals more funds are being injected into the market from a bullish perspective.
If Tokens Are Being Unlocked, Shouldn’t It Be Bearish?
This market action might surprise some, as 4.8 million AXS tokens are about to be released today. This is roughly 1.8% of its total supply amounting to 270 million coins, and is usually a bearish move for the short-term price.
Tokens are locked up in order to avoid large holders – typically early investors and the project’s team members – from selling off all of their coins instantly, which could cause serious price drops.
Typically, unlocks are bearish as these token holders gain access to liquidity and the opportunity to secure their profits. So, this 40% rise is quite surprising to some.
However, the boost in price could be down to a possible announcement or two. This is something other projects have done, so the price doesn’t fall as expected on unlock days.
Last week, Layer 1 blockchain, Aptos (APT) also rallied about 40% in the run up to its unlock on 12 January. And has since doubled to a local price of $12.98.
Even Decentralized Exchange, dYdX token is up over 60% YTD, even though they have an unlock coming up on 2 February.
This market movement, which could be deemed as manipulation by the project devs, is unethical according to Felix Hartmann, the managing partner at crypto investment firm Hartmann Capital.
“I view this new trend as fairly unethical as you are creating a buzz to help your investors unload on retail who are unaware of things like unlocks,” Hartman told CoinDesk. “It’s happened so consistently that people now expect a bullish catalyst around unlocks.”
Gameplay is down 80%
According to data from the gaming statistics website ActivePlayer shows Axie had 432,001 live players count in the past 30 days, which is down over 80% since the all-time high in January 2022 which saw over 2.8 million live play counts.
While price isn’t always reflective of utility, an 80% drop in-game plays is quite concerning, especially when the price is rallying so hard. This compounds Hartman’s view that leaving big news to drive a bullish swing on the day of an unlock is unethical and manipulative.