Blockchain technology, which was introduced to the world through the development and emergence of Bitcoin, is capable of providing many solutions to many industries including finance, supply chains, creative commerce, governance, and digital identity. Despite this breadth of possibilities, the public perception of the technology is either largely nonexistent or focused on Bitcoin with its varied presence in the media. There are some unique properties of blockchain systems including the capability of issuing scarce digital assets and “tokenized” property. While this feature can be applied to a currency in the case of Bitcoin, it can also be applied to well…virtual cats.
CryptoKitties is the first game built utilizing the Ethereum blockchain, in which people can collect, breed, and trade digitally unique virtual cats. The developers appear to have fun with the marketing and cuteness and absurdity of the project, but it is a valid showcase of the technology’s use case of provably rare assets tradable on an open market. Cats have near omnipresence on the Internet anyway, so having them invade one of the largest public blockchains seems to be nature taking its course.
Using Ether (ETH), the currency required to initiate transactions and execute smart contracts on the Ethereum blockchain, people can purchase and trade CryptoKitties. Each kitty is unique and actually has a set of phenotypes (visible features) and genotypes (genetic features) encoded to the token. As the kitties are bred, the phenotypes and genotypes change, which can produce rarer features, making a particular kitty more valuable on the market. One has already been sold at $4500 worth of ETH at the time of writing.
Generation Zero cats are those which are created by the developers themselves and introduced to the network every fifteen minutes. No gen-zero cats will be created after the end of the year, at which point these cats will become more valuable and the breeding process will begin to slow commensurately.
Although CryptoKitties only just launched on November 30th, the app has seen some impressive usage stats:
– 120 ETH has been processed in the marketplace within 1 week
– 3.5% of ALL Ethereum transactions + 2nd contract on the blockchain
– 873 users with an average of 15 kitties each
– $4,700 USD kitty sold on day of launch
– 19,264 CryptoKitties released or bred 🐈
— CryptoKitties (@CryptoKitties) November 30, 2017
Other projects in the blockchain space are exploring the use of provably rare assets in games, such as the digital trading card game Spells of Genesis. Another is the RarePepe meme market, in which people can create and trade unique cards based on the Pepe the Frog meme.
While CryptoKitties may not be attempting to redefine our financial systems or global supply chains, the underlying concepts in effect could fundamentally change digital commerce by replacing abundance via streaming and file-sharing with rarity and scarcity. It does this while providing a fun experience that puts the technology in the hands of a wide-reaching user base. Or at least people who want to build their portfolio of virtual felines.
As written on their website: “The future is meow.”
CryptoKitties image via Twitter