Blockchain games part 6: technical hurdles
Blockchain gaming, while promising, is not without its technical challenges. These challenges range from transaction speeds to scalability. Addressing them is crucial for the industry’s growth and mainstream adoption.
- Transaction Delays and Network Latency: One of the primary concerns in blockchain gaming is the delay in transaction confirmations, especially during periods of high network activity. For games that demand real-time experiences, these delays can disrupt gameplay, leading to lag and other inconsistencies. The time taken for a blockchain to resolve transactions is critical. Ideally, a gaming blockchain should resolve transactions in less than 10ms to maintain the integrity of high-performance 3D games. If it fails to do so, discrepancies between the asset register and the gameplay can arise, leading to potential cheating and exploitation of in-game economies. Moreover, the latency introduced by distributed ledger technology can impact the responsiveness of real-time multiplayer games.
- Scalability Concerns: Scalability is a significant challenge for many blockchain networks, including popular ones like Ethereum. Major game publishers, aiming for vast player bases, require platforms that can handle millions of simultaneous players with minimal latency. During peak periods, networks like Ethereum have faced congestion, resulting in increased transaction times and high gas fees. These scalability issues can lead to poor user experiences and hinder the growth of blockchain gaming.
- Cost Implications: Engaging in blockchain gaming often comes with associated costs. Players might face high transaction fees, especially during network congestion. For developers, the infrastructure costs, including deploying nodes, auditing smart contracts and ongoing maintenance, can be substantial.
- Environmental Concerns: The energy consumption of some blockchain networks, particularly those using Proof of Work (PoW) consensus mechanisms, has raised eyebrows. The environmental impact of these networks can deter both developers and players, potentially clashing with the sustainability objectives of major game publishers.
- Interoperability: Achieving seamless interoperability between different blockchains and gaming ecosystems remains a technical challenge. For the industry to truly flourish, games across platforms must be able to transfer assets without friction. There are two types of interoperability: The first being “weak interoperability” which in essence is the interoperability of assets across different chains. This remains a largely unsolved problem and currently handled by token bridges with comprehensive solutions such as LayerZero addressing these needs. On the other side, there’s what we call “strong interoperability” which refers to the interoperability of a given item across different games. Today, this can only be achieved in a limited format with games implementing versions of the same item. This however, is unscalable in the long-term as it ultimately renders the problem intractable. The correct solution lies in designing a system where objects are fully-realised and self-contained, where they can be moved into different game worlds and be interacted with in an agnostic way. This requires further R&D to solve, but until we have that we will lack true interoperability for blockchain games and the metaverse.
- Security: Additionally, the security of smart contracts, which form the backbone of blockchain games, is paramount. Any vulnerability or bug can lead to asset loss, which severely undermines player trust.
Addressing these technical barriers is at the forefront of the blockchain gaming industry’s agenda. Innovations like Layer 2 scaling solutions, cross-chain interoperability projects and energy-efficient consensus mechanisms are in the works. That being said, the hard problem of interoperability requires work on the game engine and compute infrastructure in order to be solved – which is what companies (such as MetaGravity) are currently working on.
On top of this, the development of user-friendly wallets and interfaces aims to make blockchain gaming more accessible. As these challenges are systematically tackled, the industry is poised to become more appealing to both developers and players, paving the way for broader adoption. It’s clear that to make blockchain games more accessible is to eliminate the need to know anything about blockchains, wallets and tokens in order to participate.
That’s how we will get the first billion players into blockchain games.