Feb 142018

CryptoKitties Family Jewels Launch
CryptoKitties has officially launched the much awaited ‘Family Jewels’ feature in the popular CryptoKitties game that took the Ethereum world by storm late last year, even causing the entire Ethereum network to clog up. This introduction comes amidst a slowdown in the game, as fewer players remain after the initial hysteria. Prices for CryptoKitties, that have sold in excess of $100,000, slowed down for several months after the initial launch month. The launch of this new feature and a release in China during the Lunar New Year is expected to make the game more popular.

What are Family Jewels

The Family Jewels feature consists of two different attributes associated with the digital cats –

  • Mewtation Jewels
  • Cattribute Jewels

Mewtation Jewels

The Mewtation Jewels recognize the cats that were the first to show a mutation into a new trait, or the Gen-0 cats that first carried a basic trait. The Mewtation Jewels are further divided into 4 categories –

  • Diamond – the cat that shows the first ever mutation/basic trait. Only one diamond mewtation jewel per cattribute exists. It is the rarest of the Mewtation Jewels.
  • Gilded – the first 10 cats that show the mutation/basic trait.
  • Amethyst – the first 100 cats that show the mutation/basic trait.
  • Lapis – the first 500 cats that show the mutation/basic trait. This is the most common of the Mewtation Jewels in the game.

Mewtation Family Jewels

This is how the Mewtation Jewel looks like on the cat’s page:

Mewtations Tongue Family Jewels

The above refers to the first cat that showed the tongue mutation, which was cat 3020.

The Mewtation Jewels are going to be the rarest of the Family Jewels in the CryptoKitties game. For example, if you just consider the Diamond Jewels, there will only be as many of these as the total number of cattributes. Once all the cattributes have been found, the number of Diamond Jewels will forever remain fixed.

In terms of inflation characteristics, each time a new cattribute is discovered, there will be an inflation in the number of cats showing these Mewtation Jewels. However, the terminal inflation rate is 0, i.e. once all the cattributes have been discovered, and 500 cats have been bred with all possible mutations, no more cats with Mutation Jewels will ever be created. We haven’t reached that point of course, but we are expected to reach that point around the end of 2018 when all the Gen-0 cats would have been created.

This inflation characteristic is different for Mewtation Jewels than Cattribute Jewels, which we next discuss.

Cattribute Jewels

The Cattribute Jewels are derived from the original Mewtation Jewels as a heritage. What this means is that all the descendants of a cat with the Mewtation Jewel will have the same level of Family Jewels, assuming the cattribute is carried over to the descendants.

For example, here are some family jewels of a cat:

Cattribute Family Jewels

What the above means is that this cat is a descendant from a Gold Mewtation saycheese and a descendant from a Amethyst Mewtation googly.

When this cat breeds, if the resulting offspring has the saycheese cattribute, it too will have the Gold Cattribute Jewel. The same with other cattributes.

The inflation characteristics of Cattribute Jewels is such that the number of cats with these jewels will continue to rise without an upper bound, even after all the cattributes have been discovered and no more Gen-0 cats are being produced. This is because two cats with a Cattribute Jewel can continue to breed and produce an offspring with that cattribute, which would carry the family’s jewel.

Marketplace and Breeding

The cats with a Mewtation Jewel will become rarer over time as a percentage of total cats in the game. This adds to some other rare features in the game, like Gen-0 cats, Founder (Jaguar) Cats, and Exclusive Cats. Therefore, it is expected that over time, the relative value of Mewtation Jewel cats will increase, especially the ones with the Diamond Mewtation Jewel.

Cattribute Jewels are more common, but it is expected that cats with them will be more valuable than cats without them. Also, since the number of combinations of Cattribute Jewels is very large, breeders have a new target for their breeding in addition to hunting for fancy cats. For example, a cat with 8 Diamond Cattribute Jewels will be quite hard to breed and quite rare in the game.

An important aspect of the launch of Family Jewels is that compared to before, higher-gen cats will also be valuable. In the past, a lower-gen cat would completely dwarf a higher-gen cat with similar cattributes. Now, the older-gen cats can still breed and try to collect more Family Jewels in their offspring, thus keeping the game more interesting for the older-gen cat holders.

The breeding prices would also start to reflect these new Family Jewels. Cats with higher number and ‘quality’ of jewels will breed at a higher price, because if their offspring has the same cattributes, it becomes valuable too. Of course, this all depends on how much the players value Family Jewels compared to other features like Fancy Cats for example.

In any case, Family Jewels represents a step up in the CryptoKitties game, giving the players and breeders something more to play.

Axiom Zen, the creator of CryptoKitties, is well aware that it cannot rest on its laurels of being the first popular cryptocollectible and game on the Ethereum blockchain. Several competitors with more elaborate games from Etherbots to Aethia, are on its heels.

Feb 112018

Aethia Omega Egg
Aethia, a simulation world of Tamagotchi meets Pokemon on the Ethereum blockchain (called Ethergotchi) is launching its third egg type, called Omega Egg. An Ethergotchi gets hatched from an egg that would be ready to enter the World of Aethia. The Omega Egg has a random star alignment. Star alignment, somewhat similar to a star sign, affects the growth rate of base attributes. An Ethergotchi has 5 base attributes.

The Aethia game will have a total of 15 possible star alignments. Unlike the Alpha Egg, which has a unique Star Alignment, the Omega Egg will have a random star alignment.

To learn more about the Aethia game, read our in-depth coverage.

After the overwhelming success of CryptoKitties, there are several new projects looking to create a more immersive game with more complex features and role-playing. Although there is precedence in the gaming world around highly complex game worlds, they are fairly new on the blockchain. Aethia is one of those games, which is launching an alpha soon. The team has an elaborate design in place for the game world. Aethia is built using Ethereum blockchain.

The advantage of the blockchain is that players truly are in control of the game assets that they purchase, and not the game developer or publisher. This prevents the game developers from abusing their power of making changes against the community wishes. If they do, the players can fork into an alternative version while still retaining their in-game items they purchased.

The Omega Egg will be available for purchase on the Aethia website starting Feb 12, 2018, 12:00:00 UTC. The price for the Omega Egg will be 0.09 ETH. A free toy is included with the purchase. In-game items like toys are used in the Aethia world to improve the attributes of an Ethergotchi, and can be purchased from in-game stores with CHI. CHI is the native currency of the Aethia World, and will be given for free to Ethergotchi inside the game world per month, so the game is free for players to play.

The Omega Egg marks the third egg type that has been released by the Aethia team. The other two are a Referral Egg and an Alpha Egg. The Alpha Egg has been sold out, but players can still get a Referral Egg by inviting at least 3 of their friends to the game, who sign up. If you plan to join Aethia, you can use my referral link.

The Aethia team has big plans for the game, and its design provides for a flexible structure that enables easy expansion of many features. This should keep the fans hooked for longer periods of time.

Feb 082018

Dfinity 60M Venture Raise

Dfinity, one of the most interesting crypto projects in recent times, announced that it is raising money from Andreessen Horowitz (A16Z), the famed Silicon Valley venture capitalist and Polychain Capital, perhaps the best known crypto hedge fund in the market today. Dfinity has raised $61 million in this round. Previously, Dfinity had raised 3.9 Million CHF (Swiss Frank) in its seed round around a year ago from regular backers (i.e. non-venture backed).

Although Dfinity uses buzzwords like Cloud 3.0 in describing what it does, the project is one of the very few respected protocol-level projects in the crypto space at the moment, amidst the ICO hype. The project itself is quite ambitious and wants to rethink how applications run on the web. Dfinity is aiming to break the holy trinity of ‘safety, security, scalability – pick two’ by promising all three. The team has made significant progress on the project since the seed round almost a year ago.

Venture rounds are not usually looked upon favorably by the crypto community, since they feel it is against democratic access. Venture capitalists almost always get favorable terms compared to everyone else, which also doesn’t appear fair to the communities in general. However, in this case, both A16Z and Polychain Capital are well known in the crypto communities as being able to provide a lot of value beyond just money. The hope is that the Dfinity team can get a lot of value out of these partnerships.

Dfinity and Polychain Capital have already announced a partnership to manage a venture fund for projects that would end up using the Dfinity compute infrastructure for their projects.

Seed Round

Dfinity completed its seed round in February 2017 just prior to the whole ICO mania of 2017. It raised 3.9 million CHF in the seed round from regular project backers (not venture investors). The team announced that it had $40 million when it converted everything to fiat money. With the $61 million raised in its venture round, the company has a total funding of $100 million so far.

The main ICO was supposed to have a hard cap of 20 million CHF back in 2017. However, as the market conditions have changed, that would be significantly undervaluing the project, with the speculators capturing the difference. Instead, the company, which doesn’t have any immediate funding needs after this venture round, is reconsidering its ICO plans. However, Dfinity has promised that the seed investors will get 24.72% of the Dfinity network tokens that will be created in the genesis block. This will keep the seed investors from being diluted, since it is very likely they will raise significantly more than 20 million CHF.

Dfinity has announced a first round ‘presale’ with strict KYC/AML requirements, and has cast doubts on a broader ‘second round’ ICO. If it takes place, the team wants to run it through regulated exchanges.

About Dfinity

Dfinity pitches itself as a ‘blockchain computer’. It has many similarities with Ethereum, but its scope goes beyond what Ethereum does. Dfinity allows companies to run computing applications on a fully decentralized computing infrastructure without regards to using a lot of IT or datacenter staff to maintain those resources. It aims to make it extremely simple for developers to build and deploy complex applications.

Dec 102016

Olaf Hedge Fund A16z USV

‘Digital Asset’ trading is set to enter the mainstream financial industry with Polychain capital raising $10 million from venture capital firms Andreessen Horowitz and Union Square Ventures. The hedge fund, Polychain capital, is run by Olaf,the first Coinbase employee who quit earlier this year to start his own venture. The round is the first venture capital money raised for a company that actively trades digital currencies on behalf of clients. The hedge fund was created to trade not just Bitcoin but also other cryptocurrencies or ‘digital assets’ on various exchanges.

The investment round would be the first for some of the venture capitalists active in the space. Traditionally, the venture capital industry have focused on technology-based companies in this space that help expand the digital currency ecosystem. However, this investment round is different in that the hedge fund is purely a financial entity that takes money from investors to trade in the cryptocurrency markets.

Wall Street Calling

The move will ring some alarm bells on Wall Street with Silicon Valley encroaching its traditional turf. In addition, although several investment firms like Fortress and Global Advisors have gone on record disclosing Bitcoin investments, there hasn’t been any talk of firms involved in the broader cryptocurrency market, including altcoins.

It is also telling that Olaf was the first employee at Coinbase and perhaps shared some of the ethos of the founders, who have been vocal about ‘digital assets’ or ‘appcoins’ or more recently ‘protocol tokens’. However, it is important for large companies like Coinbase to tread carefully due to the many pitfalls and scams that litter the space. Missteps by large companies may not be looked upon kindly by the investors.

In addition, a lot of these tokens use the ICO model to raise money which has its own pitfalls and can resemble stocks in certain cases. That may not go down well with the SEC that regulates stock issuances very strictly. There are also questions around price fixing and influencing markets unethically that might be illegal under the SEC or CFTC rules, so firms need to be careful not to be caught up in the crosshairs.

Besides the regulatory aspects, however, there is ample opportunity for smaller firms to trade other people’s money, and will likely be good for the broader cryptocurrency ecosystem.

‘Altcoins’ Gain Respect

The idea of providing investment exposure to the broader cryptocurrency market, not just Bitcoin, is not new of course. The latest venture towards this goal is ICONOMI that plans to launch two funds on the Ethereum platform. However, teams like ICONOMI lack any financial knowledge around trading and index-construction and therefore very unlikely to see any serious investor uptake. With Polychain Capital, Olaf might be able to convince traditional investors to give cryptocurrency a try.

Dec 072016

Circle ends Bitcoin buy

In a major blow to the way Bitcoin enthusiasts can buy Bitcoin, Circle, one of the best funded venture capital firms in the space has decided to end the ability to purchase Bitcoin through its service. Instead, Circle is referring customers and potential customers to Coinbase, once considered its competitor. Thus, Coinbase has become the best Circle alternative for those in the United States and rest of the world as well. Circle, led by Jeremy Allaire, is instead ‘pivoting’ to a ‘blockchain’ without providing any details. However, by the looks of their new marketing, Circle wants to pivot into being a ‘social payments app’, akin to Venmo.

For the Bitcoins already held by Circle, the owners can move them into a wallet they control, or leave them on the Circle app. They can also convert the Bitcoin into USD at Circle’s market rate.

Circle is the latest startup in a series of high-profile and well funded startups that were born as Bitcoin companies but have since pivoted into other areas. Chain, another Silicon Valley startup had done the same, pivoting from a Bitcoin API provider to a private blockchain solutions provider. It is unclear if this is a push from the startup founders or from the venture capitalists that back them during the initial growth stages and push for exit paths either through acquisitions or through going public.

For its part, Circle has remained a controversial company in the Bitcoin space. It charged no fees to buy and sell Bitcoin on its platform, thus helping many who were new to the space get their first Bitcoins. It also made it very easy to buy Bitcoin on its platform. However, its founder has gone on record criticizing Bitcoin and saying that he doesn’t believe it will last for a decade.

Circle was thought to be in competition with its other Silicon Valley startup, Coinbase. With Circle shutting its doors to Bitcoin, Coinbase remains the simplest way to purchase Bitcoin, other than on exchanges. However, be aware that Coinbase now charges 1.5% fees to buy or sell Bitcoin through its platform.

The other alternative US based investors have is to buy Bitcoin through exchanges like Gemini, or even Coinbase’s own exchange called GDAX.

Photo Credit: h-e-a-p

Oct 032015

Pre-debate Showing

New York’s Bitcoin Center, which previously closed its location at 40 Broad Street just steps away from the now largely historic New York Stock Exchange building, has re-opened in the trendy SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan. The new location is at 25 Cleaveland Place, former restaurant and bar. The new location has a large outdoor space that would be hard to effectively utilize in the cold, however.

Run by the successful New York real estate investor Nick Spanos, the Bitcoin Center has held many trading and educational events in New York and also made its presence felt in several conferences in the city. The Bitcoin Center has contributed to the promotion of Bitcoin among New Yorkers, holding several educational and community events to promote Bitcoin and Bitcoin-related businesses in the city and inviting many startup founders, financial professionals and other experts to provide commentary on the Bitcoin and cryptocurrency space.  

The events organized by the Bitcoin Center in New York are completely free to the public. There are also regular in-person trading events that take place here, where people who are new to Bitcoin can get their first Bitcoins and also a quick lesson from the old-timers. The order books formed at these trading events are fairly accurate based on the market price of Bitcoin. In-person trading can also help with increased privacy, as Bitcoin trading gets centralized and monitored.

Jul 122015

Bitcoin Difficulty

Bitcoin difficulty has topped 50,000,000,000 for the first time ever, reaching an all time high of 51,076,366,303, as the price of Bitcoin continues to rise on the Eurozone crisis in Greece and the stock market crash in China. The Bitcoin network from a mining perspective has still remained quite healthy even during an extended price slump, as the technology improves and bigger players with lower operational costs with economies of scale have entered the mining market.

The recent increase in difficulty on July 11, 2015 comes after a slight decline in Bitcoin difficulty during the last update on June 28, 2015, when the network difficulty dropped by 0.58%. 2015 has seen many gyrations in the mining difficulty, with several drops and rises so far, but the overall difficulty still remains higher than what it was at the beginning of the year, with a Year-To-Date increase of 25.7%.

Bitcoin mining is at an interesting crossroads for the next few months, as miners will need to prepare for the next mining rewards halving event sometime next year. This will be a major event compared to the last time around when mining was still more of a hobbyist endeavor. Today, mining is being done by very well capitalized companies worth hundreds of millions of dollars. In fact, just last week, BitFury, a Bitcoin mining company, raised another $20 million.

The price of Bitcoin also affects Bitcoin mining and hashrate increases/decreases, since if the price of Bitcoin rises sharply compared to network difficulty, then older hardware can once again become profitable to operate, and miners will be quick to do so. This will cause the next difficulty to increase, continuing the cycle. However, hashrate adjustments occur only once ever 2016 blocks, so there is a lot of time for miners to bring their equipment online before they push the hashrate up.

Bitcoin’s price has been steadily rising over the last month over debt concerns in the Eurozone, especially with a potential ‘Grexit’ scenario in Greece, that could potentially cause bank-runs in rest of Europe if handled improperly by the European governments. In addition, China’s stock market has been rapidly falling in the last couple of weeks, prompting the government to take steps to try and bolster confidence in the market. Even the mainstream media has run several articles touting Bitcoin as a safe-haven asset during economically uncertain times.