Experience is the best substitute. Even though an experience may be regrettable (e.g. getting your brother’s Runescape account suspended), it is not impossible to learn from it.
Robbie Ferguson was an avid gamer growing up. He accumulated thousands of hours playing his favourite games. He logged in to Runescape one fateful day and set off a series of events which would forever alter his views on digital ownership and the future of Web3 gaming.
“I logged in to my brother’s Runescape Account, which we shared, and went into wilderness where he lost all of his Red Dragon Armor. I felt so bad that I decided to buy gold from a gold mine to replace it. The account was closed the next day.
Ferguson, a software engineer who was introduced to Bitcoin in 2014, was influenced by the incident. With the introduction of Ethereum in 2015 and the potential for the ecosystem, his interest was rekindled.
Ferguson’s Runescape ban incident was the catalyst for his move to blockchain gaming development. He had been frustrated by the “arbitrary impunity”, in which gaming assets and economies were managed by mainstream companies.
Ferguson spoke to Cointelegraph at the Token2049 conference, Singapore, September 2022. He explained how his brother James, Alex Connolly, and he co-founded blockchain technology company Immutable in 2018. This was after they had failed to create a decentralized game.
Robbie Ferguson will be presenting at Token2049 Week’s Asia Blockchain Gaming Alliance summit in Singapore.
Their first attempt at Ethereum-powered games was Ether Bots. This taught them what should be on-chain and off-chain. It also laid the foundations for an infrastructure platform that would allow for the creation of Web3-based games as well as non-fungible token (NFT), functionality. Ferguson also wanted to disrupt the status quo in digital ownership of in-game assets.
“We started with games because they are the most exciting use cases for NFTs. It’s a scam that $110 billion is spent each year on digital property, which people don’t have any rights to.
The successful launch of the blockchain-powered play to-earn tactical game Gods Unchained was a result of lessons learned. Immutable is a platform that allows blockchain developers to create Web3 games with NFT integration.
The solution is in your grasp
Immutable is made up of two distinct but interconnected segments. ImmutableX refers to the company’s Ethereum layer-2 NFT-scaling platform. Immutable Studios, on the other hand, is the gaming development arm.
Ferguson believes that ImmutableX (the Ethereum-based layer-2 NFT platform) learned valuable lessons from Gods Unchained. This shaped the functionality of the infrastructure on which other blockchain games are being built.
“There are a lot of gaming platforms out there that don’t really understand the needs for games, both from a tech perspective and from an experience perspective.”
Gods Unchained was launched with 50 million NFTs. This led to a spike in prices due to the high gas fees in Ethereum. Ferguson explained that this highlighted the need to scale up and lower minting costs to make Web3 NFT-packed games viable for all companies.
This stuff must be free to create if it is going to scale. You can make a small-sized game that has 100 million players and have it trade once or twice a day. This will give you a cost base of many millions of dollars each week for the company.
ImmutableX aims to make everyday in-game items tradeable in low-cost countries. Ferguson used Gods Unchained again as an example. Trading cards were down only 10% from their peak because people trade cards to play the game and not because Ethereum costs $1,200 or $4,000, but trading cards are still very affordable.
Ferguson says that while high-value NFTs will always be part of an ingame marketplace, usability should drive the in-game economies. This raises the question of profitability, and also how Immutable can offer NFTs for free. It is highlighted on its website.
Immutable helps facilitate this by covering all costs of NFT minting with zero-knowledge rolls ups. Ferguson pointed out the caveat.
“We make it possible for anyone to create these assets free of charge via incredibly valuable economies. Instead, we can monetize them by taking small clips from every trade. This means that we have exactly the same incentive as users and games, which is to maximize volume.”
Giving back to Ethereum Network
Immutable’s efforts in solving the scaling issue of NFT minting to enable blockchain-based games are owed to Starkware, an Ethereum layer-2 platform that pioneered the zk-STARK proof tech.
Immutable can also claim to be carbon neutral with Ferguson claiming that he was able to create 600,000 NFTs from a single proof, which only takes up a fraction a block on the Ethereum network.
However, zk Rollups and Ethereum’s Merge have provided a platform that allows infrastructure providers such as Immutable to build for an ever-growing number of Web3-based gaming applications in the future.
“We are only a fraction of the transactions per second that NFTs will take.” When we think about transforming gaming with billions of gamers around the world, even trading a few assets per day will dramatically increase the demand for the stack.
Ferguson claims that Immutable was also involved in the development of batched minting (or deferred minting), two NFT scaling paradigms currently used by NFT marketplaces such as OpenSea and Nifty Gateway.
Many blockchain purists have questioned whether certain industries should use blockchain technology to improve their existing systems. Ferguson carefully considered the question and concluded that digital users should have ownership rights to any items or assets they obtain in any digital environment.
“The goal should be to create a better gaming experience that uses Web3, which in turn uses Web3, so people can have better experiences and digital property rights. This lie has been passed on to consumers over the past three decades: that intangible things should not be subject to your rights.
Ferguson believes the sector’s success is already being seen, with more than $9B in investments into Web3 gaming in the last 18 months. This is expected to lead to a shift in equity share:
“The social benefits of this technology are immense. Web3 is now able to empower people to monetize better by democratizing access economies. This includes people creating assets in-game, and anyone being able to create content for them.
Web3 might give users ownership, but that doesn’t mean mainstream AAA companies haven’t been keeping an eye on this growing sector. Ferguson stated that these companies will seek to be ahead of disruptive technology in the event that Web3 becomes a standard.
Meanwhile, Immutable continues to grow. Over 300 employees work for the Australian-based blockchain technology firm. It has raised more than $300 million from investors such as Coinbase, Tencent and Galaxy Digital.