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What Are ERC-1155 Tokens?

As the Bitcoin and crypto space continues to develop, we have seen countless innovations and improvements bolster the argument for blockchain technology. The ERC-1155 token standard is one of those innovations that could help take blockchain gaming to the next level.

What Is an ERC-1155 token?

ERC-1155 tokens are native to the Ethereum blockchain and can exist in the form of fungible, non-fungible and semi-fungible tokens. Despite its many use cases, the ERC-1155 token standard is best known and used for managing multiple token types under the same single smart contract.

Why Were They Created?

To understand why the ERC-1155 token standard came into existence, it’s first important to know what it was building off and the problems it aimed to solve.

A team that included Enjin CTO Witek Radomski first brought forth the Ethereum Improvement Proposal (EIP) for 1155 in June 2018. Enjin specializes in in-game tokens and has demonstrated brilliantly how powerful ERC-1155 tokens can be, which we will look at in more detail below.

The previous Ethereum token standards on which ERC-1155 was based are those of the ERC-20 and ERC-721. These tokens were, and still are, a predominant part of the Ethereum ecosystem. 

Blockchain explorer Etherscan gives you an insight into just how many of these types of tokens are still being traded daily. Despite their popularity, they still have some limitations, so let’s take a look.

ERC-20 Token Standard Limitations

Many top-tier cryptocurrencies exist in the form of ERC-20 tokens. While these tokens can be used for swaps or as an exchange or store of value, they’re still limited to their originally intended purpose.

The standard is used for implementing fungible digital assets that are often viewed as utility tokens. They cannot be used as unique one-time collectables (NFTs). ERC-1155 negates this issue by being compliant with both fungible and non-fungible assets.

Another flaw of ERC-20 is the permanent loss of tokens when sent to the wrong address. To correct this, ERC-1155 introduced a ‘safe transfer’ function which allows tokens to be reclaimed if sent incorrectly.

ERC-721 Token Standard Limitations

On the contrary, the 721 standard is limited because it can only create digital assets that are totally unique and non-fungible. As NFTs started picking up steam, the popularity of ERC-721 tokens was highlighted by platforms such as Opensea, which continues to facilitate a mammoth volume of trading.

Despite being designed specifically for NFTs, they still have their drawbacks. If you had a set of five NFTs that you wanted to transfer to a friend, they would have to be separated and sent in five single transactions.

This inefficient use of block space heavily increases the time and gas fees involved in the process. This aspect, in turn, has knock-on effects on the Ethereum blockchain, in severe instances making the network unusable for traders.

Can ERC-20 and ERC-721 be used together?

Many Dapps and decentralized platforms use both types of tokens, so a simple solution would be to use both in tandem, surely?

Unfortunately, this is not possible. ERC-20 and ERC-721 tokens are incompatible with each other. This incompatibility has made the logistics for Dapps to operate even more complex and has significantly reduced their scalability. The contracts differ so heavily that creating a function that links the two would seriously affect the network when used at scale.

Therefore, proposing a new standard was the most logical fix, a multi-token standard that optimized compatibility and scalability.

What Are ERC-1155 Tokens Used For?

While the 1155 token standard holds the same use cases as previous ERC standards, it also opens the door to multiple possibilities. All of the functionalities of its predecessors can be implemented under a single contract. This means creating various new tokens can be done under the same roof.

As mentioned above, this is also the case regarding token transfers. Using ERC-1155 to bundle transactions together drastically reduces transaction costs. These are called batch transfers and can be used to send multiple tokens to multiple addresses using a single smart contract.

Gaming

Everything within a game can essentially be tokenized. However, different gaming items have different use cases. A game could include money, gold, or any other form of currency that is interchangeable (fungible), as well as in-game items that represent things such as a costume, pet or any other entity.

ERC-1155 tokens lend themselves exceptionally well to multi-token economics and are heavily favored by game developers. Enjin, as mentioned previously, is firmly situated in the Defi and blockchain gaming fields.

The company has created many games powered by their own token, ENJ (an ERC-20). The token subsequently links to a series of smart contracts that create new fungible and non-fungible tokens, which they also sell on their NFT marketplace.

A situation where ERC-1155 would be utilized is the rollout of these NFTs. If a game developer wanted to issue 100 or even 1,000 of a specific NFT, it would be possible to do so under one contract instead of using multiple like they previously would have.

To add to this, each of these NFTs can be used to represent an asset across the entirety of the Enjin ecosystem. Meaning each of them has the potential to be used in multiple games.

Conclusion

The optimizations of ERC-1155 have proved to be an essential stepping stone toward making blockchain gaming more efficient, compatible and scalable. 

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