Throwback Stories #4: The Fluffy Case Of CryptoKitties

Dominik Olech
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Blockchain technology is not only about cryptocurrencies – and more and more projects seem to confirm it. One of them is particularly fascinating.

The Internet loves cats — these small, fluffy animals conquer the world wide web as easily as they conquered our homes before the digital era. No wonder that blockchain eventually got taken over by them too. This Throwback Story has also fallen under their influence. After two episodes concerning not so bright parts of crypto history, this one will take you to the world of very first blockchain animals: CryptoKitties.

A pet in your pocket 

The idea behind it is actually quite simple, and it uses a well-known concept within the video game industry. A virtual pet is a genre made to allow the player to raise his own artificial companion. The roots of the idea date back to the 1990s when first such games appeared. 

But the real craze began with the release of Tamagochi. This handheld device designed specifically for a virtual pet of the same name became a worldwide trend. The game was so popular that some schools in the U.S. had banned bringing Tamagochi to their lessons.

Although its popularity decreased significantly in the new century, virtual pets are still a sizable part of the video game industry. The most important market for this genre remains Japan, the birthplace of Tamagochi, but other parts of the world still fall in love with digital animals from time to time. Let’s take, for example, a mobile game Pou, which was popular on smartphones a few years ago.


What stays behind the success of the virtual pets is its simplicity. It’s easy to get attached to the sympathetic little creature in our pocket and sacrifice a considerable part of our free time. In 2017, this idea came together with blockchain technology, when Axiom Zen studio released the first version of CryptoKitties. And this fusion worked surprisingly well.

The whole concept relies on Ethereum’s blockchain network, but it isn’t a cryptocurrency itself. The game allows players to raise title cats, which are basically a non-fungible tokens. For those who are unfamiliar with this concept, every token of such type is unique among the others. That differs them from classic cryptocurrency assets like Bitcoin, where every token is exactly the same. 

The same applies to our pupils in CryptoKitties. Every cat has a specific set of various attributes (called “cattributes” to be more precise), what makes them different from each other. Players can bread different kittens to acquire desirable look, and trade them with others. Moreover, some special cats are available from time to time through special activities. 

Who owns the Kitties?

Implementation of blockchain technology in CryptoKitties was interesting from the perspective of ownership of digital assets. If we create a character in any other online video game, we are not precisely the owner of such a virtual entity. Our hero from, for example, World of Warcraft is, after all, only a specific line of computer code. And the rights to this code posses only its developer (in this case, Blizzard Entertainment).

Yes, we are the owners of accounts created in such a game. But we don’t have the right to its content. The situation looks different in case of CryptoKitties. The game is set on the blockchain network, which provides a reliable guarantee of ownership. The only exception lies in the art of virtual cats – its developers have exclusive rights to this fancy and colorful art style. 

But every acquired in-game pet is yours. None of the developers has access to it – just like in the case of standard cryptocurrency. And even if CryptoKitties stop being supported at some point at a time, you will still have your unique cat on your wallet. 

Overfluff of the network

The story of virtual cats based on blockchain technology seems almost too “purrfect.” But CryptoKitties also met with some criticism. Those allegations mostly concerned the game’s influence over Ethereum blockchain. After its release, the network faced a significant increase in pending transactions. And since it happened at the end of 2017, the very hot moment in the industry, some people began to worry.

As Garrick Hileman from the University of Cambridge noticed back then, Crypto Kitties seemed a threat for those who relied on Ethereum because of more serious businesses. A person who invested significant money into this cryptocurrency had the right to be worried about the influence of the seemingly pointless game.

But on the other hand, according to the creators, CryptoKitties were a big step for the adoption of blockchain technology. For the first time, crypto didn’t resemble a bizarre business but was an actual way to have fun. And soon after, the rising popularity of blockchain pets showed that breeding those colorful virtual creatures may actually be very lucrative.

Furry gold, for everyone

How much exactly? As for now, the most expensive CryptoKittie called, Dragon was sold for 600 ETH, which equaled $170,000 at the time of sale. This is a quite impressive price for virtual cat – and it definitely might be counted as “serious business.” 

On March 20, 2018, CryptoKitties passed into its own company, Dapper Labs. The developers keep supporting their fluffy pupil, but they also work on some new projects. Among them, there is probably the first significant approach of blockchain technology to the popular genre of video games which battle royale is: The Cheeze Wizards

Recently, they also announced the Flow – a developer-oriented blockchain environment for games and apps. Dapper Labs has raised $11 million in funding for that project. Moreover, the Flow has the support of such big players like Warner Music and Ubisoft, which suggests a much bigger scale of the project than CryptoKitties. 

Nevertheless, I hope those fluffy cats will still do well. But it’s quite sure – according to Dapper Labs website, the overall number of born kitties reach the overwhelming number of 1,6 million. CryptoKitties turned out to be a good example of adopting blockchain elsewhere than cryptocurrency. Let’s hope the Flow will go even further.

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