by R.A. Rowell
The developers at Immutable have watched their trading card game Gods Unchained explode in popularity. Certainly the PR gained from supporting Hearthstone players vocal about the Hong Kong protests was a major boost. But, the game has blown up mostly on its own merits. The Hearthstone like card game is fairly easy for TCG experts to learn and offers a relatively easy learning curve for newcomers.
The real draw beyond its free to play options - which big name online TCGs like Magic the Gathering Arena and Hearthstone already have - is the chance to earn actual assets on the blockchain. Gods Unchained promised an in-game marketplace, which has since launched, where players have true ownership of their cards and can trade them freely. MTG Arena and Hearthstone don't do that.
Yes, Magic the Gathering Online has long allowed you to freely trade assets within its platform. There are then workarounds to turn those assets - through the use of cleverly programmed chatbots - that allow you to turn them into PayPal cash. But those assets only exist on MTGO. Gods Unchained cards are true ERC-721 non-fungible token assets that exist on the Ethereum Blockchain - true crypto collectibles. These non-fungible tokens can be bought and sold separate of Gods Unchained on non fungible token marketplaces like OpenSea.
To say the Gods Unchained Marketplace has succeeded is an understatement. The marketplace generated over 500 ETH in transactions in its first few hours. Now, Gods Unchained has greatly surpassed former ETH transaction leader MyCryptoHeroes on OpenSea. Of course, seeing this sort of activity from a GAME with literally millions of assets being deployed and so much Ethereum and so many tokens changing hands, you wonder how sustainable it will be.
Unfortunately, sustainability may have nothing to do with the game itself, but the very blockchain it has committed to.
Is the success of Gods Unchained sustainable on the Ethereum Blockchain?
Unfortunately, the success of the in-game marketplace may be tempered by a larger problem with the Ethereum network. The problem emerges from high congestion days on the network which lead to high transaction fees, known as "gas" fees which have spiked as high as $30 per transaction. For their part, the Gods Unchained team does its best to lump transactions into as few actual Ethereum transactions, as possible. But it should be noted that many of the congestion issues come from other ERC-721 NFT transactions and DeFi (Decentralized Finance) movements. In particular, a recent drop in the price of ETH triggered many automatic liquidation requests.
Of course, you can't have a trading card game like Gods Unchained (or any popular Decentralized App, really) with the threat of such outrageous transaction costs. It will be interesting to see how the network evolves to counteract these congestion times. Gods Unchained itself may not be the reason, but if Immutable has to eat fees like that to operate, there's going to be problems.
Trading card games on other blockchain networks such as Steem and TRON haven't experienced these issues. Of course, those games haven't reached the popularity of Gods Unchained, but those networks are known for their superior scalability. It makes you wonder how sustainable massively popular games can be on Ethereum, which has been a worry for quite sometime. It's certainly now becoming a legitimate concern.
Do you think Gods Unchained will inevitably succeed on Ethereum? The game has already committed to the network. But will it eventually outgrow Ethereum and have to migrate elsewhere? Time will tell. But, for now, Gods Unchained is succeeding in what it was meant to do - become a massively popular trading card game. Let's hope the evolution of the Ethereum network can catch up.
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R.A. Rowell is a collectibles enthusiast who comes from a long history of collecting trading cards in both sports and in Trading Card Games. He is passionate about educating the world about the future promise and benefits of digital collectibles, both on the blockchain and off.