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This article was published on May 2, 2022

How the BAYC metaverse mint raised Ethereum gas fees to thousands of dollars

Buyers paid more than $100 million as fees in the first few hours of the mint

How the BAYC metaverse mint raised Ethereum gas fees to thousands of dollars

If you ever wanted to buy an NFT based on Ethereum, you would have to pay a transaction fee to register it on the blockchain. Last week, that fee skyrocketed to unprecedented levels.

So you might have had to pay thousands of dollars as fees to get an NFT that might be worth a few bucks. Strap in for another weird web3 story.

Yuga Labs, the creator of the infamous Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) NFTs, opened up its mint to its Otherside metaverse over the weekend.

With many anticipatory participants, the mint raked in more than $317 million for the company. It sold 55,000 NFTs at a flat price of 305 ApeCoins ($5,800 at the time of mint).

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The whole activity massively stressed the Ethereum blockchain that processed these transactions, and in turn drove up transaction costs for all projects on this blockchain. Some folks had to pay thousands of dollars for transactions valued at just a few dollars each.

This kicked off a heated debate about Ethereum’s scalability problems and Yuga Labs’ smart contract’s efficiency. That’s a good opportunity to better understand the concepts of ‘gas’ and ‘smart contracts,’ and what happened here.

How much Gas fee is too much?

Ethereum charges something called a gas fee for any activity that needs to be recorded on the blockchain. The ‘gas’ means energy required for miner to verify transactions on the blockchain.

The fee is dynamic, and changes based on the number of transactions taking place on the blockchain at that point of time.

You can pay more gas fees to give your transaction a priority to be processed. But you have to pay the minimum gas fee at that time, multiplied by the amount of gas used in a particular transaction as processing fees.

In order to claim Otherside NFTs, people started to outbid each other by willing to pay higher gas fees, which drove the network’s gas fees to nearly 8,000 gwei (a unit to measure gas on the Ethereum network).

At the time of writing, Etherscan data suggested that people have spent more than 64,700 ETH (more than $183 million) on transaction fees for Otherside NFTs alone.

This gas war between Otherside bidders also affected other transactions on the Ethereum network.

That’s bad for Otherside NFT buyers, as well as other users of the Ethereum blockchain.

The smart contract debated

After seeing astronomical gas prices, many people opined that Yuga Labs could’ve written a more efficient smart contract to save fees.

For the uninitiated, smart contractsare snippets of programs on blockchain that execute when terms of the agreement are specified in it are met. For example, in the analog world, a document between the buyer of a house and its seller counts as a contract. In the web3 world, that’s done by a piece of code.

However, Ethereum founder Vitalik Buterin said that even if Yuga Labs optimized the smart contracts, people would’ve paid higher prices to get NFTs.

Smol Farm Gazette, a publication run by LGBTQ+ women, argued that different strategies, like a Dutch auction for high-demand mints, could reduce the gas price impact. Too bad Yuga Labs announced last week that it won’t go for a Dutch-style auction for the Otherside mint.

Yuga Labs’ response

The $4 billion valued company acknowledged that the mint was disappointing for many people trying to join the community.

Yuga Labs added that it’ll refund gas fees for people whose transactions didn’t go through. However, because this mint drove up transaction fees for the whole Ethereum network, people who paid high gas fees for non-Otherside transactions have nowhere to go. And the company didn’t acknowledge that.

A BAYC co-founder said that this was a “sour moment” for the community.

What’s the solution?

Yuga Labs indirectly blamed Ethereum’s limitations and said ApeCoin,Yuga Labs’ own token, will need its own blockchain. But we have no idea when that will happen.

Lin Dai, CEO of NFT platform OneOf, criticized Yuga Labs and said it shouldn’t use decentralization as an excuse.

Polygon, which is a blockchain built on top of Ethereum, Tweeted about providing a solution to Yuga Labs to handle chaotic mints.

The company also mentioned that it might look to migrate ApeCoins to its own blockchain.

Given the firm’s hype in the Web3 world as the creator of the most iconic NFTs to date, its future mints would likely also gain a lot of attention.

Ethereum can process 15-45 transactions with its current infrastructure. It might become much faster when it moves to a proof-of-stake model, but it might take at least a few months.

Yuga Labs can wait for this event, and hope that future mints might be smoother. Or it can move to another blockchain and make sure that the process of claiming NFTs doesn’t leave a sour taste in people’s mouths.

While it’s almost guaranteed that Yuga Labs’ projects will attract a lot of money, the company needs to deal with scalability issues that could lead many people frustrated.

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