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Immutable — The Infrastructure of Web3 Gaming

September 20, 2023

In conclusion

Building games is hard. Like, really hard. On average, developing a AAA-quality game takes anywhere from 3 to 5 years. Moreover, the gaming industry is incredibly competitive. The hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue you see from games each year come from only a handful of them, which means that over 90% of games fail. 

With this as the backdrop, imagine asking game developers to create in the new Web3 environment. It's a whole new world for them, where they not only have to focus on building a great game but also need to figure out low-cost NFT issuance, wallet onboarding, in-game economy, token design, and more. 

While solutions to these challenges exist to some extent, it's impractical for studios to choose different providers for each aspect that makes their game blockchain-enabled. So, what's needed? I'd say a plug-and-play platform! The transition to Web3 will be much easier for game developers when they can simply pick up what they need, whether it's a marketplace or a game wallet, and seamlessly integrate it. 

Enter Immutable. 

This infrastructure platform offers end-to-end solutions for developers, helping them add an ownership layer and take their games to the masses. Immutable's all-in-one approach has contributed to the development of a massive gaming ecosystem, with over 200 funded, high-quality games. 

How have they achieved this? What sets Immutable apart from other gaming blockchains? And what are some interesting games to play on Immutable? In this guide, we will answer all these questions and more!

What is Immutable? 

Immutable is the ecosystem that simplifies the process of building Web3 games on Ethereum, allowing developers to focus on what truly matters: creating fun and compelling games. It achieves this by providing a tech stack consisting of two layers: rollup and platform. While the former serves as the foundational infrastructure of Immutable, the latter is more focused on equipping games with the right tools. 

The idea of creating a rollup-based Layer 2 solution stemmed from recognizing the limitations of existing Layer 1 blockchains like Ethereum. Scaling was incredibly challenging, and, more importantly, the development environment wasn't geared toward gaming. So Immutable built its layer 2 solution to solve everything Ethereum lacks, including scalability, smooth user journey, fast developer experience, and so on. 

Infrastructure alone isn't sufficient for Web3 games. It's equally crucial for developers to streamline the user experience for players. This involves optimizing the onboarding process, facilitating the buying and selling of assets on various marketplaces, and ensuring sufficient liquidity. This is where Immutable's platform layer comes into play. The platform layer offers developers a comprehensive suite of products that they can plug and play to significantly enhance player experiences. 

So, if a studio aims to venture into Web3, they can consider Immutable as their default platform to discover key infrastructure and tooling components for launching and distributing their games. Beyond technical assistance, Immutable provides a support system for games, including aspects such as token design, live community support, game economy, compliance, and more. 

Now, the big question arises: What benefits do these tech stacks unlock for games? What is the end result of utilizing these products and infrastructure? To answer these questions, we'll delve into how these products and infrastructure function. Let's get started!

Tech Powering Frictionless Gaming Experiences 

Immutable zkEVM

Immutable entered into one of the biggest partnerships with Polygon to build a new chain based on zkEVM technology. This chain is a part of their roll-up offering as they already have a base infrastructure solution in Immutable X, which was built in partnership with StarkWare. 

The difference between the new and old chain is EVM compatibility. Regular zk-rollups are not compatible with EVM. Immutable X is an application-specific rollup for games. However, it is a custom-built environment that makes it harder for third-party developers to integrate with other tools and platforms to tap into the network effects of Ethereum. 

With Immutable zkEVM, developers can build out of the box alongside other great games and platforms, establishing seamless interoperability. Developers also benefit from building at the intersection of two of the largest gaming ecosystems, giving access to more users and game partners. 

From a technical perspective, Immutable zkEVM will initially use Polygon Edge for zk proofs and eventually integrate Polygon Zero, a zkEVM Validity proof scheme. In terms of data availability, Immutable runs the chain as a Validium, a scaling solution based on validity proofs, so that transaction data is stored off-chain and verified on-chain in batches, helping improve throughput and reduce gas costs significantly. 

The Immutable zkEVM Testnet is live and developers can use all platform products. As we can see below, projects are rapidly signing up to build on Immutable zkEVM. 

Passport 

After the rollup layer, we have the platform layer featuring different gaming-centric products. Among them, Passport is one of the most important as it removes the onboarding friction and security risks for players. Previously, gamers needed multiple wallets to play different games and store their respective in-game assets. With Passport, they can access all the games on Immutable using a single wallet. 

Passport also enhances the user experience, resembling what gamers are used to in the Web2 world. This means no need to worry about seed phrases or constant wallet pop-ups while playing a game. Games that choose to integrate Passport can onboard their players in one click using their Google or similar social accounts. All of this while still providing the ability to self-custody assets. 

According to a recent Immutable blog, the team even did an experiment showing how conversion differs when using Passport and other traditional wallet solutions. With a sample size of 7,000 gamers split equally into two groups, Immutable found out that conversion of Passport flow is twice as effective vs traditional wallets. 

In addition to solving onboarding, Passport will also remove the friction of gas payments. Currently, you need to have the native token to pay for gas, like MATIC of Polygon blockchain. Passport will soon have a relayer functionality that will allow users to pay gas in other tokens as well. Games can integrate Passport through the Developer Hub where they can also manage other integrations. 

Orderbook & Marketplace Network 

Immutable has a global protocol-level Orderbook to solve liquidity fragmentation and price discovery in the NFT and gaming space. Liquidity is currently fragmented because each marketplace has its own orderbook and only users of that marketplace can fulfill the orders. This problem will only get worse as projects decide to build their own native marketplaces. 

In the context of gaming, it’s crucial to have enough liquidity to facilitate instant in-game purchases because it factors into the overall player experience and studio revenue. Also, the simplicity of buying and selling assets is key because you can’t expect someone who’s buying an NFT for the first time to know all the intricate details of different marketplaces. 

That’s why Immutable prefers a unified Orderbook to aggregate and distribute assets on the Immutable protocol across 20+ marketplaces. Games building on Immutable achieve optimal liquidity through their ability to list NFTs across all Immutable-powered marketplaces such as GameStop, Mintable, Kinguin, Gamestop, TokenTrove, Illuvium Market, etc.

Checkout

Checkout can make or break your game or marketplace. Imagine this: You have built a great game that compels players to make a purchase but they have to go through a dozen steps to add, swap, or bridge funds. Anything can go wrong at any step and the gamer can lose his or her funds. This is a big problem and won’t scale for the masses. 

So Immutable is taking a unified approach to make the purchasing process as simple as possible with all the necessary functions in one interface. Have a different currency? Swap it. Have the right currency but on a different chain? Bridge it. Don’t have enough funds? Don’t worry - Immutable will automatically create a route for a quick onramp, swap, or bridge. What’s more impressive here is Immutable will hold your order when you lack funds. 

This is huge for developers in two ways. Firstly, they can directly use Immutable’s pre-built Checkout components and save development time. Secondly, they can drive more revenue as conversions drastically improve. 

NFT Minting  

Scalable games need scalable NFT minting tools. Immutable makes it possible for games to mint millions of carbon-neutral NFTs at practically zero cost and latency. All of this is done without compromising on security as Immutable’s rollup layer inherits Ethereum security features. This not only helps games but also creates new distribution avenues for other use cases. 

The best part about this minting tool is that anyone can get started and mint their first NFT collection in around 15 minutes. Even if one wants to start trading NFTs, it is cost-efficient on Immutable because it offers gas-free transactions.

Another area creators and especially games benefit from is enforceable royalties. On Immutable, royalties are guaranteed on the protocol level and can’t be avoided to compete on fees. So the way it works is NFT creators can blacklist contracts avoiding royalties, meaning receiving and transferring NFTs through that contract won’t be possible.

Gaming SDKs

A software development kit, or SDK, is a set of tools that helps developers streamline their workflow and build better apps in less time. On Immutable, SDKs represent a set of access points that developers can leverage and seamlessly integrate pre-built features, functions, and other infrastructure components. These SDKs are available in different programming languages including Typescript, Golang, Swift, and more. 

Developers can launch their games within days using Immutable SDK because it provides a streamlined workflow that makes implementation simple. In addition, the SDKs are also reliable as the APIs so far maintained 99.9% uptime. 

Besides the incredible tooling and compatibility, the standout feature about Immutable SDKs is that they are Unity Verified Solution. This means games building on Unity platform (which is 50% of the industry) will have a native SDK that they can use to directly integrate with Immutable. These SDKs are available now and Immutable will also be releasing the same for the Unreal platform. 

With all these products and infrastructure layers, Immutable is able to attract top-tier gaming studios to develop new Web3 games. They are also making it seamless for existing games to transition to Web3. Don't believe us? See it for yourself below! 

With so many games building on Immutable using the above tech stacks, the value accrual for games, traders, and marketplaces happens in many ways. To understand that, let’s dive into what powers the entire Immutable ecosystem — IMX. 

IMX Tokenomics 

In such a vast ecosystem with different moving parts, it’s essential to align incentives properly and help in bootstrapping new applications. Immutable’s IMX token is precisely for that purpose. IMX is an ERC-20 multi-purpose token that incentivizes all pro-network activities like trading on marketplaces and liquidity provisioning. At the same time, it is used for governance and voting on proposals. 

For traders, IMX rewards are given out for trading select NFT collections on Immutable marketplaces. The way it works is you first earn points based on how much volume you drive for a collection. Then the points will be converted into IMX tokens. 

IMX rewards are also given out to stakers. After the 14-day staking period, 20% of protocol fees are converted to IMX and distributed to stakers according to the percentage of stake. Immutable calls this type of staking “aligned staking” as rewards are funded from protocol fees with the least IMX issuance possible. These IMX rewards come from the ecosystem development supply allocation which is 51.75% of the total supply. 

IMX is also used for providing grants as part of the $500 million fund that is established by Digital Worlds Foundation and Immutable. DWF is a separate non-profit entity that is responsible for issuing IMX tokens. 

In all, Immutable has designed its native token in a way that starts a flywheel effect among all the major contributors. As the incentives are aligned in the ecosystem, the success of games will lead to more attention capture, which helps onboard more games. And that will expand the utility of IMX in more games and marketplaces. This cycle will continue as the ecosystem becomes more and more sustainable. 

 Games to Watch Out for 

Illuvium 

Illuvium is an expansive game ecosystem featuring four different games: Arena, Overworld, Zero, and Beyond. These games are tied closely and give a glimpse of what interoperable gameplay could look like. 

In terms of gameplay, Illuvium is a game where players explore an open world, capture creatures called Illuvials, battle in the Arena for rewards, build an industrial complex in Illuvium Zero, and engage in PVP card battles in Beyond.

Gods Unchained 

Gods Unchained is another leading title in the Immutable ecosystem. As a free-to-play digital trading card game, Gods Unchained has amassed a large player base with steady activity on its marketplace. It is also live on Epic Games Store. 

The gameplay revolves around card battles where they choose a god, select a unique power, and build a deck of powerful cards. Players stand to earn resources and $GOD tokens as rewards for winning battles. 

Cross The Ages

Cross The Ages is a mobile-first collectable card game where players compete individually or in teams for valuable NFTs, exploring quests and uncovering hidden treasures. The game revolves around territory conquest in the Cross The Ages saga.

The battles in Cross The Ages are fast-paced with a time limit of 10 minutes and players must strategically build 30-card decks within specific power limits to achieve victory. You can start playing the game on your mobile and PC right now for free. 

WAGMI Games 

WAGMI Defense is a live-action sci-fi tower defence game. Players choose to play as humans or aliens and strategically defend their towers against invaders in 3-minute matches. To level up, players acquire resources and upgrade cards. 

With a focus on lore and storytelling, WAGMI Games aims to bridge the gap between traditional and casual gamers, while empowering players through digital asset ownership (NFTs) and the ability to trade and sell their assets.

The Bornless 

The Bornless is a free-to-play survival horror royal game from Cathedral Studios. The game is a fast-paced first-person shooter, similar to Hunt:Showdown and Dead by Daylight, set in a mysterious world where players fight off demons. 

The game is available on PC and even got listed on Epic Games and Steam platform. You can now play the beta version of the game as the team planned open access weekends every month. The complete launch of the game is expected in 2024. 

And the list goes on and on… 

Immutable has so many games in development and significant others are also building in private that in coming years we’ll have a game ecosystem with hundreds of games live. When that happens, the 1.7 million active gamers on Immutable right now may just be a drop in the bucket. If you want to explore more games on Immutable, check out their newsletter and you might find your favorite game.

Meet the Team 

Immutable was co-founded in 2018 by brothers James and Robbie Ferguson and Alex Connolly. All three of them are early adopters of crypto. 

Both brothers discovered Bitcoin in 2014 and Ethereum in 2015, making them explore all the possibilities of using blockchain technology. They initially built trading bots for a couple of years and then came across NFTs. 

That’s when they saw an opportunity to build games with NFTs. In 2017, they built a fully on-chain game called Etherbot and faced many technical challenges. This made them pivot to building an infrastructure platform to help develop great games. 

Alex also encountered the crypto space in early 2017. He stumbled on Ethereum when he was searching for technology to improve online voting for his university project. He soon realized how transformative this new technology can be, so he started working full-time in the Ethereum space. He was also friends with Robbie as both went to the same university and later joined Immutable as the third co-founder. 

Immutable so far raised $277 million at a $2.5 billion valuation from investors including Tencent, Alameda, Liberty Global, Temasek, Animoca Brands, ParaFi Capital, Arrington Capital.

Conclusion 

Seeing the bigger picture is paramount when it comes to Web3 gaming. We know there are billions of players out there. We know they spend ridiculous amounts of time and money on these games. And we also know they get nothing in return! 

So the value proposition of asset ownership and open economy in games is clear as day. What matters now is simplifying the entire user journey in a new environment like Web3 for players and developers. This is where Immutable shines. They are building everything a game needs to succeed in Web3, from scalable blockchains to passwordless wallets. 

With infrastructure game-ready, it’s only a matter of when these games go live and tap into audiences outside our Web3 bubble. And this is where your patience will probably get tested. As mentioned earlier, good games take time to build. So playing speculative games in the short-term may not be worthwhile. 

But keep your eyes peeled, it’s only a matter of time before Immutable becomes the baseplate that allows the young and budding Web3 gaming ecosystem to flourish. 

Important Links 

Immutable Newsletter - https://www.immutable.com/games/subscribe?utm_source=blocmates&utm_medium=content

Developer Sign up - https://hub.immutable.com/?utm_source=blocmates&utm_medium=content

Website - https://www.immutable.com/?utm_source=blocmates&utm_medium=content

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