Polygon and Immutable, both heavyweights in the Ethereum scaling space, are teaming up to create a new network designed specifically for Web3 gaming powered by Polygon’s anticipated zkEVM technology.
Today, Polygon Labs and Immutable announced a “strategic alliance” to collaborate on the creation of Immutable zkEVM, a new Ethereum scaling network that will pair the soon-to-launch Polygon zkEVM tech with the Immutable platform designed for blockchain-based games. The news was revealed amid the start of the annual Game Developers Conference (GDC).
To be clear, Polygon and Immutable aren’t merging, and they’ll continue their respective projects and initiatives. Polygon’s own zkEVM mainnet network is set to launch in beta on March 27, while the existing Immutable X scaling network—based on the StarkEx zk-Rollup tech—will also continue on alongside the new Immutable zkEVM network.
Immutable co-founder and President Robbie Ferguson told Decrypt that the partnership was an “obvious move” that lets the core builders behind both existing networks combine their efforts in the service of Web3 video game adoption.
“For us, this is the endgame,” Ferguson said. “This is how the next billion users will be onboarded into Web3.”
Both are Ethereum scaling networks: Polygon’s current primary network is a sidechain, while Immutable X is a layer-2 network. Although the approaches are different, both ultimately make Ethereum more useful for things like video games, large-scale NFT projects, and other decentralized apps (dapps) by enabling faster, cheaper transactions than Ethereum’s mainnet.
A zkEVM solution like Polygon’s and others is expected to take Ethereum scaling to the next level, pairing transaction rollups based on zero-knowledge proof cryptography with full Ethereum Virtual Machine (EVM) support. In other words, it’s billed as a fast and secure solution that is natively compatible with Ethereum’s own smart contract capabilities.
Immutable X and Polygon are competing scaling networks, however, and have previously competed to lure in developers, brands, and users alike.
Polygon Labs President Ryan Wyatt admitted to Decrypt that it was a bit awkward at first to discuss a unified path forward when the two sides began chatting about nine months ago.
“When we first came together—yeah, it was certainly hard to wrap our heads around it,” Wyatt said. “It took time for both sides to figure out: OK, how does this actually make sense for all of us? The more that we talked and the more time that we spent together, it’s actually very naturally aligned.”
Ferguson said that despite their history as competitors, both Polygon and Immutable X sought to scale Ethereum rather than try to compete against it as a layer-1 rival. That shared belief in expanding the capabilities of Ethereum, rather than try to beat it with a new, bespoke network, also gave them a shared foundation to work from.
“[That] made it a very easy philosophical alignment,” Ferguson added, “once we looked past the intense competition we’d had on the gaming front over the past couple of years.”
Immutable zkEVM is slated to start rolling out towards the end of Q2 2023, Ferguson said, which is when Immutable is “aiming for usable things to go live,” but developers can start building on software development kits (SDKs) today to explore the tech.
The network will use Immutable’s IMX token for gas fees and transaction sequencing. The current Immutable X network will continue operating, and Ferguson said his team’s goal is to develop cross-rollup liquidity between the networks.
He also expects there to be bridges built to help move assets between Immutable zkEVM and Polygon’s own zkEVM network, for example.
Ultimately, the pair said they see Immutable zkEVM as the best of both worlds—a network that will utilize Polygon’s next-generation scaling tech while tapping into the gaming infrastructure that Immutable has built, providing a potentially appealing place for developers to take root as the Web3 gaming market expands.
Wyatt believes that Web3 gaming is inching closer to a point of mainstream adoption, despite previous pushback from many traditional video game fans. He pointed to this weekend’s live event for the Polygon-powered shooter Deadrop—from a studio founded by Twitch personality Guy “Dr. Disrespect” Beahm—as an example of Web3 games that can appeal broadly.
As he also recently discussed on Decrypt’s gm podcast, Wyatt reiterated what he sees as an increasing push to “abstract away a lot of the crypto and tech jargon” around Web3 games, and just focus on “really fun games where I own assets that I pay for, I can trade them easily, and I can have this really seamless experience.”
“That’s ultimately what the combination of the partnership does,” he said.
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