It has been an incredible year for cryptocurrencies, with sky-rocketing prices and a huge level of debate over what the future holds for them. Yet, perhaps the most intriguing and unexpected twist has just arrived, as the breeding of digital cats had exploded in popularity on the ethereum platform.
Indeed, it has been reported that 11% of the traffic on the blockchain is now being used by people buying, selling and breeding cute little kitties. It all hinges on a game called CryptoKitties, which has been compared to Pokemon or Beanie Babies but that has some unique, digital features.
The game was only recently officially released but it has already become an internet sensation. The idea behind it was to gently introduce newcomers to ethereum to the way that smart contracts work on the blockchain.
Bizarrely, it has now become so wildly popular that it has become a multi-million dollar industry. It is now the most popular smart contract on the platform.
Over the last weekend of kitty-breeding action some 6,200 ether was moved around on this smart contract. This equates to over $2.5 million or £1.86 million. The most expensive kitten to be sold to date is called Genesis and was apparently sold on Saturday for close to $118,000 (almost £88,000).
At the other end of the CryptoKitties scale, the cheapest digital cat will cost you $30 (£22) and the average price paid is $110 (£82). The way that some users are raking in hundreds of dollars in profit has seen the craze compared to the Beanie Baby sensation that swept the world in the 90s.
Ethereum has been around since 2015 and the people behind it have long claimed that it is going to be useful for far more than just the ether currency. It has been talked about being a modern way to handle supply chains and securities sales using applications, meaning that the appearance of a kitten game as its main application has come as something of a surprise.
The Moggies Are Slowing Down the System
In fact, the massive popularity of CryptoKitties has been blamed for a slow-down in the ethereum network. Transactions are now taking longer to put through and there has been a significant increase in the number of pending transactions waiting to go through.
To date, over 22,000 cats have been sold, with the total selling price reaching around $3 million (£2.23 million). Each cat is uniquely identified with a 256 bit genome and all of the details are logged on the blockchain.
The game was created by Axiom Zen, which is based in San Francisco and Vancouver. Bryce Bladon is the company’s communications manager and he said that they “wanted to explore blockchain applications outside of ICOs and cryptocurrencies” while also leveraging the “power of fun and games”.
This is the first successful application on ethereum that isn’t related to the ether virtual currency. Some analysts suggest that the huge popularity of CryptoKitties could be a sign that the blockchain might have a powerful future as a gaming platform as well as for virtual currency trading.