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Immutable X has launched today as a platform for games with nonfungible tokens (NFTs). That means that those games will have uniquely identifiable digital items that players can earn or buy or sell, allowing the players to own the items permanently. And Immutable X has created a marketplace for players in games such as Gods Unchained to buy and sell the items they have collected.

Immutable X, still in its alpha stage, can be a blueprint for other blockchain games, creator marketplaces, traders, and digital economies. The platform’s mainnet will be open to Gods Unchained players, so they can use a marketplace for buying and selling.

Immutable X is the brainchild of Immutable, an Australian game team that runs the NFT trading card game Gods Unchained. Gods Unchained is an important NFT game, as it is built by a 40-person development team headed by Chris Clay, the former director of Magic the Gathering: Arena. Gods Unchained is a “play to earn” game, where players can earn collectibles over time, said Immutable founder Robbie Ferguson in a recent interview with GamesBeat. And they can make money by trading those collectibles, including the unique NFTs which can be proven by the blockchain, the secure digital ledger technology, to not be copies.

Ferguson said that the move will help accelerate the mass adoption of NFTs in games. In the past few months, NFTs have exploded in other applications such as art, sports collectibles, and music. NBA Top Shot (a digital take on collectible basketball cards) is one example. Published by Animoca Brands and built by Dapper Labs, NBA Top Shot has surpassed $100 million in sales, five months after going public to a worldwide audience. And an NFT digital collage by the artist Beeple sold at Christie’s for $69.3 million. Investors are pouring money into NFTs, and some of those investors are game fans.

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“With today’s Immutable X Alpha release, we’ve made this vision reality. Any NFT can now be traded, earned, shared, gamed, and collected completely gas-free (gas fees are associated with creating the NFT) on Ethereum,” said Ferguson.

Above: Immutable X’s roadmap

Image Credit: Immutable X

In 2020, Immutable found the solution on the crypto frontier with StarkWare, which tapped the benefit of using the Ethereum cryptocurrency and its security without incurring huge fees. Immutable X is built on top of Starkware’s “Layer 2 scaling” technology. The bottom line is that users don’t have to trust in Immutable lasting permanently in order to keep owning their NFTs. They can just trust in Ethereum. Immutable X’s mainnet is now available as the first Layer 2 solution for NFTs on Ethereum, the company said.

“At the end of the day, this security is the whole point,” Ferguson said. “Otherwise, you might as well just make a new centralized database.

“What our company has become focused on is to scale these games and these applications in a way that is best for users, and ultimately, still decentralized, while still being super easy for mainstream applications to use. That’s why we decided to build Immutable X. We spent a very long time searching for a scaling solution. We’ve got to make the proposition of NFT ownership available to everyone.”

Other solutions to Ethereum are creating alternative, faster cryptocurrencies with different methods of reaching a consensus. But these alternatives aren’t as popular as Ethereum. Another solution is to create a side chain, with a different kind of processing for transactions. But Ferguson said those solutions can fail because their security isn’t still as strong as Ethereum’s. If the security fails, then so does the authenticity of the NFT, and that would be disastrous, Ferguson said.

“Ethereum is the leading public blockchain in terms of network effects,” Ferguson said. “We decided to go with a true Layer 2 solution. We use Ethereum for everything we do. We’re just compressing the data on it by zero-knowledge proofs [a verification technique], which allows us to reach really high levels of scale.”

Last week, Immutable added some Japanese blockchain games to help build momentum for Immutable X, Ferguson said. Gumi, the publisher of Brave Frontier, invested in Double Jump.Tokyo, and MCH spun out of Double Jump.Tokyo. Gumi is the largest shareholder of Double Jump.Tokyo. MCH+ is the name of the partnership between Double Jump.Tokyo and MCH.

Together, Double Jump.Tokyo and MCH+ are taking four games to Immutable X: My Crypto Heroes, My Crypto Saga, Crypto Spells, and Brave Frontier Heroes. The transition will be live as Immutable X comes online soon, and once it is done, gamers will be able to truly own the one-of-a-kind items that they buy in games. My Crypto Heroes has lifetime sales of 26,000 Ethereum, or $41 million.

Tradeoffs

Gods Unchained pays to play.

Above: Gods Unchained pays to play.

Image Credit: Immutable

NFTs use blockchain technology, the secure and transparent digital ledger behind cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum, to uniquely identify digital objects. Blockchain can verify the authenticity of something by spreading the verification out among a bunch of computers, a validation process known as reaching consensus, so that you can verify the authenticity and rarity of a particular NFT.

But in the past, developers and creators creating NFT games faced a lot of friction to unlock the network effects of a scaled marketplace and economic potential of secondary NFT markets. Those parties faced high “gas fees” per mint or trade.

Ferguson said the integration will allow Immutable X users to save on gas fees (the fees for doing transactions on the blockchain) and enjoy more attractive game mechanics.

Under the partnership, Immutable will be powering the minting and trading of all games under Double Jump.Tokyo and MCH+ through its scaling protocol for NFTs on Ethereum, Immutable X. Ethereum itself enables NFTs, but it is slow because it handles only about 15 transactions per second and the transaction fees (known as gas fees) can be enormous compared to the price of the digital item.

To deal with those problems, Immutable created Immutable X, a Layer 2 scaling solution that sits on top of Ethereum but can handle 9,000 transactions per second and zero gas fees. It also has instant trade confirmation and is designed to make the world of NFTs less opaque, Ferguson said.

Ferguson said Immutable X is secure as a scaling solution because it relies on the Ethereum security system itself to guarantee transactions. That’s important because someone could attack the consensus system of a blockchain to try to wrest control of an item. Attacking Ethereum is a lot harder than attacking other solutions such as side chains, Ferguson said. Ethereum has the strongest community around self-custody and decentralization.

Gods Unchained will adopt the 0x protocol to sell in-game items on the blockchain.

Above: Gods Unchained

Image Credit: Immutable

But it does have its downsides. Ethereum transactions use a lot of energy for verification, and people have pointed out that could prove costly for the environment over time. Ferguson acknowledged that is a drawback, but he also said Ethereum and Bitcoin have a lot of mainstream support and are the strongest available cryptocurrencies. They could thus draw a mass market. Over time, Ferguson believes Immutable X will have a solution for energy usage. Immutable X is ensuring any NFT activity on the protocol will be completely carbon neutral by purchasing carbon credits to offset gas consumed on Ethereum.

Ferguson said other projects on Immutable X include Double Jump.Tokyo Inc / MCH+ (My Crypto Heroes, Crypto Saga, Crypto Spells, Brave Frontier Heroes, Chojo), Mintable (NFT marketplace), SuperfarmDAO (decentralized finance NFT farm), Epics GG (collectibles), Illuvium (auto battler role-playing game), Guild of Guardians (mobile RPG), and Crypto Assault (strategy MMO). Rivals include Enjin and Dapper Labs’ Flow.

Immutable was started three years ago as Fuel Games, and it saw success with its second game, Gods Unchained, which is a kind of digital Hearthstone. The company now has 90 employees, and it raised $15 million about 18 months ago.

Gods Unchained has tens of thousands of players playing every week — with more than 2.5 million matches played — and it has grown tenfold over the past quarter, Ferguson said. That has been enough to make Immutable profitable.

But Gods Unchained hasn’t been able to scale up so far, and that’s why Immutable built Immutable X, Ferguson said. As to how Immutable can get millions of players, Ferguson said that the Japanese games have large numbers of players — as many as a million — by comparison. That’s why their move onto Immutable X is so important.

“The games are going to get there,” Ferguson said. “The fact that the revenues are here means that this is the correct value proposition for game developers. With the NFT craze with art, that is going to be tremendously good.”

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