If you’re tired of trading tokens and mining for digital currency, CryptoKitties is a new “game” on the Ethereum blockchain that lets you purchase and collect virtual cats, and then breed them with each other to try to create valuable new creatures with rare attributes, or “catributes,” in the game’s parlance.
Blockchain systems are based around tokens, or virtual properties that are individually owned and not controlled by a central proprietor. The most well-known blockchain is Bitcoin currency, but the same market-driven principles can be applied to almost anything. Animated cats, for example.
CryptoKitties is developed by Axiom Zen, and it seems it’s taking a humorous approach while still hoping to make blockchain transactions and technology accessible to more casual users. “Our approach to brand and marketing is, in part, a tongue-in-cheek critique of the ICO market today,” marketing director Elsa Wilk said in a press release.
It’s proven to be very popular, as the game just launched a few days ago and has already zoomed to the top of all the transactions on the Ethereum network according to the tracking site ETH Gas Station, with more than 10 percent of all trading activity as of this writing.
How does it work? Each virtual cat is a unique object or “token” on the Ethereum blockchain, and it’s as real as a unit of Ether (ETH, or the unit of currency used on the trading platform). Each one is coded with a 256-bit genome, which includes a set of phenotypes (visible features) and genotypes (genetic features). When two of your little critters breed, their new kitty’s appearance, biography, and traits are the resulting combination of each parent’s attributes, resulting in four billion possible variations.
According to the official site, Generation Zero cats are created by the developers themselves and let loose on the network every fifteen minutes. The gen-zero cats will not be available any more after the end of the year, meaning they will become more valuable.
The market for CryptoKitties is already thriving according to the tracking site Crypto Kitty Sales, with almost ten thousand virtual cats changing hands and a top price of nearly 12 thousand dollars.
If you’re worried about any behind-the-scenes funny business, the developers claim that it’s not possible. “The CryptoKitties economy is entirely decentralized and impossible for the development team to manipulate,” technical architect Dieter Shirley said. “Anyone on the team with knowledge of the breeding algorithm is prohibited from playing.”
How do you get started? You’ll need a computer with a Chrome browser, some Ethereum to buy your first cats, and the MetaMask wallet app.
Who knows, you could even end up with a rare and valuable Fancy Cat such as Chairman Meow, Feline Musk, or Kitty Perry. As it says on the website, “The future is meow.”