Custodial or Non-Custodial Wallets in Gaming?

Joan Alavedra
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The terms self-custody, custodial, non-custodial, and others alike are casually thrown around in the industry by different products and protocols, leading to misunderstandings and a subsequent erosion of trust. It's high time we address and rectify this issue.

Although terminology aids in streamlining discussions, it can also pave the way for potential abuses, especially if the definitions are not watertight.

The security and autonomy provided by different custody solutions are often contingent on the role of the 'signer'. A signer is an entity or mechanism authorized to approve transactions, which can vary from automated smart contracts to end-users themselves.

Role of a Signer

Within your gaming application, the signer holds a key position as the gatekeeper of a player's smart account. Its duties encompass:

  • Safeguarding the private key, which is the vault to a player's digital assets.
  • Verifying player identity to ensure legitimacy of actions.
  • Shielding the account from unauthorized access and phishing attempts.
  • Executing in-game transactions and operations, contingent on player authentication.
  • Providing optional account recovery solutions to maintain accessibility even in contingencies.

Signers and Accounts

  • Custodial Accounts In this model, the organization becomes the signer with full authority to manage and execute transactions, which may simplify the process for users at the potential cost of centralization.

  • Non-Custodial Accounts Here, users appoint an external service to store their private keys but retain their role as the signer, maintaining control over transaction authorization.

  • Self-Custodial Accounts Users are the sole signers, holding complete authority and responsibility for their assets, without any intermediary.

KMS HostedServer Storage or KMSClient Storage, 3rd-party KMS or MPCClient Storage
Private Key VisibilityEncryptedEncrypted or ShardedOnly owner
Private Key ControlCon execute anytimeCan't execute without ownerNA (Session keys)
Private Key RecoveryKMSKMS or MPCSocial recovery (Guardians)

Security Implications

The Importance of a Robust Security Model

When integrating wallets into Web3 games, the chosen security model can have far-reaching implications for both players and developers. It's essential to consider where and how private keys are stored. For instance, are they on a user's device, secured in the cloud, or with a third-party provider? The encryption of private keys is another critical factor, with questions about the type of encryption algorithm used and who holds the decryption keys being paramount. These considerations are not just technicalities—they are the bedrock of trust in the gaming ecosystem.

Key Exportability and Recovery Options

The ability for players to export and recover their keys is another cornerstone of wallet security in gaming. Gamers need assurance that they can export their private keys, ensuring control over their assets regardless of the game's status or service provider's health. Moreover, should a player forget their credentials or lose access to their device, the recovery processes provided by the wallet can mean the difference between a temporary setback and a permanent loss. Game developers must prioritize these features to support their players’ asset security.

Service Provider Continuity

The reliability of a signer service provider is critical. If the provider faces downtime, what happens to the players? Can they still sign transactions and access their in-game assets? In a dynamic gaming world, interruption in these services can break the immersion and potentially disrupt the game's economy. Therefore, outlining contingencies for such events is essential for maintaining a seamless gaming experience and sustaining player engagement.

Criteria Selection in Gaming


When selecting the right custody solution for a Web3 gaming platform, it is essential to weigh various factors that affect both the player experience and the game's integrity. These criteria should not be chosen lightly, as they determine how players interact with the game's economy, the security of their assets, and the overall trust in the gaming environment.

Custody Model Choice and Player Autonomy

The choice between self-custodial, non-custodial, and custodial models has a direct impact on the level of control and autonomy players have over their in-game assets. Game developers should consider the target audience's technical proficiency and desire for control when choosing a model. Self-custodial options may appeal to players who value sovereignty over their assets, while custodial solutions could be more user-friendly for those less familiar with blockchain technology.

Security Model Specifics

The specifics of the security model adopted by the wallet provider are crucial. Developers must consider where the private keys are stored and the encryption standards employed. The choice of security model should reflect the game's need for robust protection against unauthorized access while balancing the need for a seamless user experience.

Authentication Methods and Accessibility

Authentication methods determine the ease with which players can access their wallets and, by extension, participate in the game. A balance must be struck between secure authentication and a frictionless user experience. Whether through traditional email and password combinations, social logins, or more advanced biometrics, the chosen method should facilitate secure and convenient access to the game.

Key Export and Recovery Mechanisms

A well-thought-out approach to key export and recovery is fundamental. Players should be able to back up and recover their private keys with ease, ensuring they do not lose access to their in-game assets. This is especially relevant in gaming, where the loss of a key could equate to the loss of valuable and perhaps irreplaceable in-game items.

Evaluating Provider Reliability and Continuity

The reliability of the wallet service provider is a non-negotiable aspect of the selection criteria. The ability of players to sign transactions and access their assets during downtimes is essential to maintain uninterrupted gameplay. Developers must ensure that the wallet solution they choose is backed by a provider with a strong track record of uptime and responsive customer support.

By meticulously evaluating these criteria, game developers can select a wallet integration strategy that aligns with their game’s design philosophy, ensures player retention, and fosters a secure and engaging gaming ecosystem.

More importantly, we enable you to offer consistent player experiences across all types of custodianship.

We believe the best approach is having a flexible ownership model that offers a standardized player experience across the different types of ownership models. That’s why regardless whether you decide to use MPC, host a KMS, or onboard users with social recovery accounts, we'll offer your players an outstanding experience across the board with the best security and cast guarantees in the market.

If you have more questions/ideas/queries, join our Developer Discord and let us know there. Furthermore, you can follow us on Twitter for our updates as we keep shipping.

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