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Web3 Games and Gas Fees: The Messy Problem That Needs Solving

Last Updated November 14, 2023 11:57 AM
Josh Adams
Last Updated November 14, 2023 11:57 AM
Key Takeaways
  • Blockchain-based gaming promises some real benefits for players.
  • However, gas or ‘transaction’ fees present an alien problem for most.
  • Builders must hide or abstract them or consumers will turn away.

Web3 gaming brings tremendous promise to player-owned economies, tokenized assets, and decentralized communities. Mass adoption, however, hinges on resolving one immense friction: gas fees

These per-transaction cryptographic tolls create constant headaches during gameplay, undermining the seamless experiences players expect. If left unaddressed, gas fees could bottleneck the wider embrace of web3 games.

What Are Gas Fees?

To understand the issue, we must first demystify what gas fees actually are. In networks like Ethereum, gas fees (or ‘transaction fees’) are payments made to compensate for the computing resources needed to process transactions and execute smart contracts

They are a commission of sorts to the validators that maintain the blockchain. Without gas fees, there would be no direct incentive for network participants to validate and secure the blockchain.

Gas fees threaten to hinder the progress of web3 gaming.
Ethereum gas fees over the previous 6 months. Source: ycharts.com

Yet for gamers unfamiliar with Web3, the concept of gas fees can be jarring. Traditional gaming doesn’t repeatedly charge players simply for basic actions like changing a character’s appearance or trading items with an in-game merchant.

By contrast, gas fees constantly tax users’ funds and attention. Not to mention the incredibly volatile nature of gas fees , which can change from moment to moment. The resulting friction eats away at the intuitive flow at the heart of engaging gameplay.

Worse still, gas mechanics require players to have sufficient cryptocurrency in the right wallet to cover expenses as they arise. For Ethereum-based games, that typically means stocking up on ETH specifically. Gamers must bridge, swap, and on-ramp assets just to access playable token balances. 

This contrasts completely from the set-it-and-forget-it ease players expect in other areas of gaming. Cryptocurrency can be complicated at the best of times. But putting it front-and-center, and interrupting the flow of gameplay, is a fundamental deficiency. Players and consumers literally won’t buy it.

Emerging Solutions For Web3 Gaming

Developers know this, they’re not stupid. Thankfully, solutions are emerging to hide gas friction from users. 

One approach relies on meta-transactions  generated by smart contracts. Here, a user’s signature triggers the contract to carry out actions on their behalf using its own funds. Players simply see a finished product, unaware of the behind-the-scenes activity.

Alternative solutions include optimistic rollups that offload transactions to side chains before periodically settling them on layer-one networks. Again, the goal is insulating end users from the complexity of gas. 

Smart contract wallets that automate much of the technical side will be useful, too. Much like the battle to make wallets more user-friendly, much of it will rely on a tug-of-war between user control and sovereignty, and ease-of-experience. In a gaming context, the latter will inevitably win out. While crypto purists might grumble, consumers certainly won’t. 

User Experience Is Non-Negotiable

Ultimately, delivering seamless and intuitive gameplay out of the box is non-negotiable. Gamers have come to expect minimal financial or technical burdens when enjoying their entertainment. Unless Web3 projects find ways to elegantly resolve gas fee headaches, their products won’t attract the mainstream audiences they desire.

Gamers shouldn’t need an endless tutorial to enjoy the benefits of decentralization. Fortunately, solutions exist to make gas fees disappear into the backend. Now projects must urgently implement them to unlock Web3 gaming’s true disruptive potential.

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