Virtual kittens take on the blockchain
On November 28, what may be the first mainstream application for the Ethereum blockchain was launched: Cryptokitties, a collection game of virtual kittens …
What looks like April 1 fake news is actually a much more serious project than the vast majority of ICOs.
Cryptokitties is a game developed by AxiomZen, an 80-person innovation company based in San Francisco and Vancouver. Cryptokitties takes up the fundamentals of collectible games such as Pokemon: the player becomes a breeder of virtual kittens of which he must buy the first specimens but which he can then breed between themselves or with those of other players. Where Cryptokitties innovates compared to classic “collectible” games, it is by making each kitten unique since it has its own genetic heritage (NB: some genes are even recessive). Kittens are bought in Ethers, (the 2nd cryptocurrency after bitcoin). The total number of kittens of the initial generation is pre-defined, and their creation will end in 1 year (more details on how the game works here).
The game is based on 5 smart contracts (that is to say computer code registered in the blockchain and whose execution is conditioned by events of the type “if … then …”) and a genetic algorithm.
AxiomZen is remunerated on the one hand on the purchase of the first generation kittens, but also on a commission paid during transactions, i.e. sales and reproduction.
Cryptokitties is an extremely interesting experience that provides an understanding of a number of complex concepts underlying blockchain:
- “digital scarcity”, ie digital scarcity since the number of first generation kittens is limited. It is this concept that the company says it wanted to explore in this project. This is also the concept that partially erroneously justifies the speculation surrounding bitcoin, whose total money supply is currently limited to 21 million, but this subject deserves a full post …
- “permanence” since the kittens will continue to exist even if the Axiom Zen company disappears. This property is at the heart of distributed systems since the objects are not stored on a server but on the computers of the mining community (of the Ethereum blockchain in the case of Cryptokitties). Cryptokitties thus differs fundamentally from MMOs such as World of Warcraft which depend on a company and servers to survive.
- finally, the concept of a unique virtual object since each kitten is created with its own genetic heritage, cannot be copied / cloned because of the blockchain. The probability of obtaining a second identical kitten by reproduction is extremely low. The kittens are therefore not a virtual currency but what AxionZen describes as “cryptocollectiblesAre closer to what, for example, works of art.
In one week, Cryptokitties has largely passed the experimental phase since the project already has several thousand players, and the total transactions amount to several million dollars. The most expensive kittens already cost over $ 100,000.
Cryptokitties has thus become the primary source of transactions on the Ethereum network, causing significant “registration” (mining) delays., to the point that the commission paid to minors had to be increased, and that a company has chosen to delay its ICO considering that the congestion on the network would not allow it to be carried out in good conditions.
This first mass-market distributed application – but which nevertheless only has a few thousand users – is an acute reminder of the need to implement scaling solutions for the Ethereum platform. (such as Proof of Stake).
Finally, it should be noted that other games had previously been launched on similar principles such as MoonRatRescue and Cryptopunks. But it may be there the main lesson from Cryptokitties: cats are definitely the stars of tech!
Virginie gretz began his career in Finance in New York and Brazil. She then worked for 8 years at Ubisoft, in mergers & acquisitions, business development and production, then 6 years at Google as head of Southern Europe partnerships. She then set up a start-up in the field of connected objects. She is now passionate about Blockchain technologies and co-founded Chainforge, a start-up support and advisory structure.