Blockchain

A CryptoKitties founding employee on why she thinks the concept will ultimately land on its feet

Quick Take

  • What happened to CryptoKitties? One of its veteran employees shares why the quirk could be a model for the future
  • They say the craze for feline cryptocollectables has paved the way for the next generation of memorabilia
  • Blockchain-verifiable ownership is underpinning an emerging industry of digital souvenirs; from the NBA to celebrities

It’s the game that cemented crypto’s place in the public domain.

But since hitting headlines in 2017, the CryptoKitties obsession has waned, a victim of the same cycle as many other digital “have-beens”.

The obvious question is what happened to the phenomena of digital cats; allegedly sold for the equivalent of up to $100,000. And what’s next?

“We don’t think the hype has fizzled. We have a very engaged user base,” says Caty Tedman, one of CryptoKitties OGs. She adds, “Offchain activity [like tending to kitties] is significantly higher than the transaction data,” which has dwindled according to the public blockchain ledger.  

“We’ve seen user growth, collectors, breeders etc…especially the younger demographic.”

For those unfamiliar with how CryptoKitties works, users can purchase – and breed – uniquely coded digital cats using ether. Users spent the equivalent of $23 million buying rare cats in its first few months, all derived from a finite supply of 50,000 generation 0 felines.

In short, instead of a token, it issued unique looking cats.

But even if CryptoKitties no longer evokes the same public hype it once did, its developers – Dapper Labs – say the nascent world of blockchain-based collectables is just getting started. And it goes far beyond cats; sports, entertainment, and TV could be next.

“Cryptokitties was the sandbox, the test,” says Tedman. “This exchange of value that’s happening – that’s really interesting.”

The idea here is that sports teams, games, or shows with a cult-like following will have digital memorabilia rather than physical items. And in the same way physical collectables hold innate value over time given their limited supply, so will the digital ones – with a blockchain ledger helping to validate their authenticity and ownership.

“It’s things like a digital sports shirt that you can showcase online [including Tinder!]…Or proving a CryptoKitty was owned by a major NBA player. I’d be stoked about that.”

The ledger means that the transfer of ownership is indisputable, and also means that even if the front-end server dies, the individual still owns the code.

Dapper Labs is now working to convince organisations with large, engaged fan bases they can build the necessary technology and provide them with a new revenue stream.

But…is there really an audience for such quirks? Absolutely, says Tedman, pointing to the fact gamers pay real assets to trade digital cats. Fair enough.

“Blockchain does a bunch of wonderful things for fans. It allows them to engage, and showcase self-expression; you can make it yours,” she says. “It mirrors physical memorabilia.”

And it’s a huge practical use case for ether – for now – although Tedman hints that enterprises are keen “to abstract away from crypto.”

“Right now, Ethereum is best suited for what we want to do, and for crypto collectables in general. But we’re constantly talking to new technology providers to work out if it makes sense to stay with Ethereum for stability and scalability.”

She notes the public blockchain was almost ground to a halt with the level of demand CryptoKitties generated in its first days.

Dapper Labs also hopes to put game tickets on a blockchain, allowing people to store big match ticket stubs safely, as well as making second-hand ticket resales more transparent to better know an audience. 

And while it may not be for everyone, not least a 64-year-old stadium-goer, there’s apparently no shortage of tech-savvy fans to appeal to. The space has come a long way already too, Tedman says, with the “crazy hoops” early users had to go through now smoothed out. 

“As it gets easier to get into, and fees get lower, I think we’ll see adoption accelerate much more quickly.”

The team clearly believes in the concept, so for meow, we’ll have to wait and see if  CryptoKitties will land on its feet or be consigned to the litter box of crypto history.