Cats On The Blockchain

By Keina Chiu | We’re Not Kitten Around when we say you can now collect, breed, and trade cats via blockchain. Powered by the Ethereum network, CryptoKitties is the ultimate 3-in-1 combo of crypto, gaming, and art for anyone who’s looking to deploy blockchain technology for rearing and trading virtual cats.

In March, the Vancouver-based developer of the game, Axiom Zen, raised US$12 million in Series A funding from investors including Y Combinator expert Avichal Garg, and Venture Capitalist Andreesen Horowitz – one the early backers of Facebook, Twitter, and Airbnb.

Cats on CryptoKitties possess unique genetics, just like every other living and breathing cat. This makes cracking the genetic code one of the most intriguing features of the virtual pet game. After all, it’s a 256-bit genome, which equates to about 4 billion variations of extremely unique and purr-ty kitty genetics.

“Gamers see this as a challenge. They want to be able to breed a specific kitty with new ‘cattributes’, or be able to crack the codes to predict what the next kitty will be like,” says CryptoKitties Co-founder Benny Giang, who affectionately identifies himself as the company’s “Fortune Cat”.

The kitties also make for valuable digital assets that you can keep forever. Yes, you heard it. The kitties can live forever. Comparing the cats to paintings by Vincent Van Gogh and Pablo Picasso, Giang explains that the scarcity factor is what’s getting users hooked.

“If Pokemon or Blizzard go out of business, you lose everything. You don’t get to keep anything. And if you find an item on these games, it’s not really rare because they could just go into the server and generate another item. For CryptoKitties, we cannot do that. So that’s a very big difference,” Giang says.

He also sees CryptoKitties as the epitomic heirloom of the 21st Century.

“When you have family, and have kids and grandkids you could give them a nice pair of earrings, or you could give them a Metamask, the key to all these kitties that are worth just as much as a digital asset,” he explains.

With just 50,000 Gen 0 kitties, cryptocollectors speculate the long-term growth potential of each kitty’s value. So far, the most expensive cat having sold is one that was traded for 253.33 ETH (US$110,707.16) in December. Over the course of four months, said cat appreciated in value to US$299,444.07.

With a network of more than 250,000 collectors, CryptoKitties has made over 270,000 transactions, equivalent to more than US$19.35 million in sales. The global sensation constituted nearly a third of all Ether trading, and gridlocked the Ethereum network at one point.

The Vancouver-based developer of the game, Axiom Zen, is relying on brand partnerships to achieve global expansion. Last month, CryptoKitties debuted in China under the name of “迷恋猫” (Mi Lian Mao), which translate to “Cat Obsession”. The first two characters of the term “迷恋” is also a play on “密链”, meaning “blockchain”.

Despite their formidable track record, the launch hasn’t entirely been hiccup free due to cryptocurrency exchange bans in China.

“Regulatory issues are one of the reasons why we are partnering with local brands, it’s because they are the market experts,” Giang says about China’s crackdown on cryptos.

While only cats are available at the moment, Giang doesn’t rule out the possibility of introducing other animals to the game in future. “I don’t know if we are working on anything right now, but we are exploring horizontally and vertically what is possible within the space,” he says.

ABOUT Benny Giang 
Benny Giang is the Co-founder of CryptoKitties and a Product Manager at Axiom Zen. He has a background in psychology, user experience design, and product growth. Benny has worked on a wide range of startups from industrial Internet of Things, knowledge management platforms, and assisted AI for sales reps. He spent the early part of 2017 working on Toby, a Chrome extension that won awards from Product Hunt and the Chrome Web Store. It was also accepted into Y Combinator Startup School and was one of the top startups in the cohort. Benny has been fascinated by cryptocurrencies since early 2016 and was an early supporter of Ethereum. Currently, he is leading the charge in expanding the imagination of digital assets on the blockchain in Asia.


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