Crypto Kitties: Digital Pets on the Blockchain
Have you ever heard of Tamagotchis? A Tamagotchi is a handheld digital pet released by Bandai on November 23, 1996 in Japan and May 1997 for the rest of the world, quickly conquering the toyworld of the 1990s and early 2000s. As of 2017, over 82 million units have been sold.
Now imagine a blockchain based virtual game that allows players to purchase, collect, breed and sell various types of virtual cats.
Crypto Kitties made this a reality. The game developed in 2017 was an instant success story. Its entire context is simply the buying and breeding of digital pets that have unique genes and ‘Cattributes’. This simple yet genius idea brought huge attention right after its initial release. By December 2017, there were kitties that had been sold for over $100,000.
Impressed yet? The same month this game hit the Ethereum mainnet, the transactions created by the game were so numerous that they overloaded the Ethereum Network. It seems the simple idea of breeding digital pets was wildly popular, let’s examine it more thoroughly.
The initial appearance of the Crypto Kitties game was at ETH Waterloo, the world’s biggest Ethereum Hackathon. The team of four people came to the hackathon motivated, even wearing rainbow T-shirts with the ‘Crypto Kitties’ name on them. The alpha launch of the game had a lot of challenges regarding the breeding of the digital kitties but the winners were rewarded with ether. The team gave major importance to the marketing part of their innovative product. They gifted a lot of Crypto Kitties to the hackathon members, therefore, more people could start buying pets and expanding their game. The team also gave out many stickers and cards along with their website info. By the end of the ETH Waterloo Hackathon the success of the creative team was evident, as more than a thousand Crypto Kitties already existed together with the interest of investors.
The Crypto Kitties team made it easy for blockchain newcomers and curious people to join the game. As it is built on the Ethereum Network, users need a digital wallet in order to own and keep their kitties. One good option is MetaMask (careful with its 3D fox logo, it follows you everywhere), especially for all the blockchain starters. It connects your browser (Chrome, Firefox) and the distributed web, enabling you to execute Ethereum Dapps without running a full Ethereum node. After installing the extension on your Chrome browser you can instantly start buying and selling your Kitties using Ether. Since the game is built on blockchain technology the transactions are secure, however, there is a little nuance to this. The Crypto Kitties team has no control over the digital pets (collectibles) that you own in your wallet.
Why? Because it simply has no access to it. The transactions are processed such that no one can manipulate them, which also makes it so that users are unable to recover their wallets after losing the private keys. Being extremely careful with the wallet information is the right way to go for the users of this famous game.
So what exactly are these digital kitties and why do people trade them? Each kitty is completely unique, meaning one of its kind, just like in real life. Each one has Cattributes (attributes), Bio and Mewtations (mutations). These traits are formed by the so-called genes of the Crypto Kitties. The ‘Gene’ plays the role of DNA for the digital creatures, which also defines the uniqueness and the possible DNA combinations of its offspring. Some gene combinations can unlock new mutations, thus giving the newborn Crypto Kitty a completely new trait shown in it’s artwork. Crypto Kitties also belong to a certain generation (first gen, second gen, etc.). For instance, breeding gen 4 and gen 7 Kitties together will result with a gen 8 Kitty, i.e. one gen more than the highest gen parent. The game automatically generates a zero gen Kitty every 15 minutes until November of 2018. The money that comes from selling the newly generated Crypto Kitties is the income for the team, together with 3.75% of every transaction in their marketplace. It is also worth noting that there is no gender in the game. The fee paid for breeding is used to add a new block onto the blockchain for the new Kitty. If a user wants to sell their Kitty, they put it up for auction, which also requires transaction fees as the process has to deal with the blockchain. There is a starting price in the auction that decreases with time, and after a certain period the decreased price gets fixed. Afterwards the Kitty is either sold or the owner cancels the process of selling.
Crypto Kitties can be expensive depending on their attributes and generation. There is a website ‘Crypto Kitties Sales’ that tracks the highest sold Kitties, which has reached up to $110,000. How awesome is that?! The average price of a Kitty is $62.17, and the median price is $12.71. Would you buy yourself a digital Kitty with the price of $12?
In general, this blockchain built game is a living motivation for us to be flexible with our imagination and daring with our innovations.