CryptoKitties is a decentralized app built atop Ethereum. It’s brand new, but it’s already been taking the Ethereum ecosystem by storm, with millions of dollars’ worth of CryptoKitties trades occurring since the project launched.
What gives? Described as digitized avatars akin to virtual Beanie Babies or Pokemon cards, each CryptoKittie represents a different non-fungible ERC-721 token on the Ethereum blockchain.
These tokens are being transacted in droves and everyone’s wanting to know more.
How to Play
The game was seeded with 100 “Founder Kitties”. There’s also one new “Gen 0” cat released ever 15 minutes, which are listed for the average price of the last five sold, plus 50% – but the sale price declines over 24 hours until someone eventually buys it.
And anyone can sell their kittens via an auction, where they pick a starting price and an ending price and the price declines over time until someone buys it. So for example I could put a kitten up for sale for a one day auction for 1 ETH starting price and 0 ETH ending price, and if someone buys it 12 hours after the auctions starts they’d be paying me .5 ETH.
Kittens can also be created by breeding them, which the game calls Siring. You can put your own kitten up for sire for a specified amount of ether and someone can breed with it, and they get the offspring and you get the ether. Or, you can pay to breed your cat with someone else’s and you keep the offspring and they keep the ether.
It can take anywhere from an hour to a week in “cooldown time” to breed a new kitten. The shorter the time the better, since you can sell the offspring sooner and breed again. This means kittens with shorter cooldown time usually sell for more.
Each kitten has a 256-bit genome that holds the genetic sequence to all the different combinations kittens can have. These include things like background color, cooldown time, whiskers, beards, stripes and so on. Some of these genes can be recessive, meaning a kitten without stripes could still breed one with stripes.
It’s important to note that there’s no “rare scale” established by the game that assigns rarity values to these genetic sequences. That means the community is independently deciding what traits are rare by paying a premium for them. For example, kittens with a gold background have been selling more than kittens with other colors.
Users can only self-customize the name of their kitten, and often use this space to advertise rare attributes like color or generation.
Extension to play the game CryptoKitties in now available only on Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox browser.
Who’s Behind the Game?
Based out of both San Francisco and Vancouver, the “award-winning venture studio” Axiom Zen is the creator of CryptoKitties. The studio describes the game as follows:
“Collect and trade CryptoKitties in one of the world’s first blockchain games. Breed your rarest cats to create the purrfect furry friend. The future is meow!”
“CryptoKitties is a game centered around breedable, collectible, and oh-so-adorable creatures we call CryptoKitties! Each cat is one-of-a-kind and 100% owned by you; it cannot be replicated, taken away, or destroyed.”
So the novelty and fun of the project, then, is that users can collect, breed, and trade “pets” at will.
Why This Is Big For Ethereum
CryptoKitties are one of the first major expressions of the promising future Ethereum can bring to the world. On the surface, these “Kitties” might just seem like a digital Beanie Baby on the Ethereum blockchain. But these Kitties point toward what a tokenized future will look like.
That’s because the ERC-721 protocol that CryptoKitties are based on can be used to tokenize literally anything. For example, these CryptoKitties could just as easily signify:
- weapon skins in Call of Duty
- voting shares in an online community
- tokenized segments of land in the real world
- futures, bonds, or stocks
To this end, the possibilities are endless.
And it’s CryptoKitties, then, that’s hailing the tokenized world that’s to come. Because make no mistake: this is only the beginning. Ethereum and ether will continue to explode in popularity and value as people realize (through the popularization of apps like CryptoKitties) that anything and everything can and will be tokenized within a few years.
Right now there’s no way to see the actual genetic sequence for a kitten on CryptoKitties’ site, but since it’s all open-source code within an Ethereum contract it’s only a matter of time before someone figures out how to “read” your cat’s genetic sequence and make breeding recommendations based on it. There’s also some randomness built in, which keeps it fun by giving someone with a less rare kitten the chance to breed a rare one.
Each time a cat breeds the generation increases one. So the offspring of a Gen 0 kitten would be a Gen 1, and so on. Earlier generation kittens seem to be selling for more money, both for the intangible rareness factor and the tangible fact that earlier generation kittens usually have shorter cool down times.
Axiom makes money by keeping the ether collected from selling the initial 100 kitties, plus the newly generated kitties sold each 25 minutes. They also take a 3.75% fee of all auctions or siring transactions. If you sell a kitten by interacting directly with the smart contract (and not going through CryptoKitties’ website) you wouldn’t have to pay the 3.75% fee.
A casual endorsement from Vitalik Buterin earlier today probably hasn’t helped ease demand for the network’s newfound killer app.
Unlike some viral projects, the team behind CryptoKitties was set on building out this product regardless of this hype. Mack Flavelle, the project lead for the game explained to me that the team has at least a year’s worth of product improvements in the pipeline, the most immediate of which is improving the UI on the web platform.