CryptoKitties, the popular gaming and collectible app where players breed cats on the Ethereum blockchain has reached the one million cat milestone – less than a year after launch. The game became hugely popular in December 2017, coinciding with the peak of the crypto bubble. It has subsequently lost over 90% of the players active at the peak. However, a set of core players continue to breed and collect CryptoKitties.
On the back of its December success, the company behind CryptoKitties, Axiom Zen, raised a $12 million round led by the famed venture capital firms Andreessen Horowitz and Union Square Ventures. During the same time, the game’s popularity led to a significant increase in fees on Ethereum.
Beyond the Hype
Although interest in the game has waned since the peak, the game continues to attract new users. Just last week, collectors bid up the prices of #1 fancy cats in the game to as high as 30 ETH per cat. CryptoKitties was one of the first blockchain games to master the correct use for ERC721 non-fungible tokens. Since its launch, many copycats have launched without much success.
Axiom Zen encouraged players to breed more to reach the one million cat milestone. This was done via a giveaway of 20 exclusive cats. Exclusive cats have a custom artwork on the frontend instead of the appearance of the cat being determined by the genes. These are generally valued by collectors due to their rarity. ‘Kitten Mittens’, the most prolific breeder in the game, won the first exclusive during this giveaway.
Leading the Way
CryptoKitties continues to be one of the most popular applications built on Ethereum. The success of CryptoKitties has encouraged many other entrepreneurs to work on gaming products on the blockchain. The advantage of using the blockchain is that players are in control of their in-game assets. How much of a game changer this is for traditional online games remains to be seen. The trade-off is the cost. For example, in CryptoKitties, it takes 0.008 ETH to breed a single cat.
Other games are exploring ways to minimize the cost of gameplay by handling more of the interactions off-chain. Even though the ‘genetic’ data of the cats in CryptoKitties is stored on the blockchain, the actual image of the cat isn’t and the ‘owners’ don’t actually have the rights to that image.
Gaming vs. Collectables
CryptoKitties has tried to balance the collecting aspects with the gaming aspects from the beginning. Most of the high value transactions on CryptoKitties tend to be from collectors or speculators. Axiom Zen has introduced ‘fancies’ in the game as a way to encourage continued breeding. ‘Fancies’ are cats with a specific pre-determined trait combination, as determined by the company. This information is not decentralized or stored on the blockchain, however. These fancy cats have their special custom artwork.
These fancy cats also tend to be one of the most expensive set of cats to be traded. This is because of their special artwork and also because the number of fancies of each type are limited.
As CryptoKitties continues to gain traction, there are third-party applications being built on top that help players with the game or for the collecting aspect of it.
CryptoKitties, the popular game of breeding and collecting cats on the Ethereum blockchain, has seen a huge surge of sales over the last couple of days, driven by demand for its ‘fancies’. According to the community created website Kitty Explorer, over 693 fancy cats changed hands within the last week, with the maximum price of 20 ETH.
Fancy cats are special cats created in the CryptoKitties app that can be bred using a specific combination of genes until a limit is reached (limit can be time-based or total number of fancy cats based). Fancy cat recipes are created by Axiom Zen, the creator of CryptoKitties, and is not recorded on the blockchain per se. The actual ownership of the cats in CryptoKitties is recorded on the blockchain, and players use third-party extensions like Metamask to buy, sell, and breed the digital cats.
Over the last two days, even though the number of players measured by unique addresses hasn’t gone up much, the total sales volume has exploded. This has mostly been due to a few CryptoKitties players valuing specific ‘fancies’ – the ones that were the earliest created. Axiom Zen marks the fancies in the order in which they were bred. The first created fancies of each type are suddenly being valued at significant amounts.
Players have sold the #1 fancy cats for over 20 ETH over the last two days – over $5000 per cat. This may seem like a far cry from its heyday. However, many ordinary players have participated in these fancy sales over the last few days. At least when it comes to the fancy market, CryptoKitties may just be bucking the broader crypto bear market.
Value in the Eyes of the Beholder
CryptoKitties has several dimensions of rarity for the cats. Collectors value different things in the cats, from generation to genes. Fancy cats have a unique appearance on the CryptoKitties app and are therefore valued higher by collectors.
Up until now, most of the fancy cats were valued based on generation and condition. A lower generation was usually valued higher, and cats in mint condition, i.e. cats that hadn’t bred, were valued higher. Over the last few days, however, collectors began swooping up lower numbered fancies irrespective of their generation and condition. Part of the reason may be due to a leader-board created at cryptokitties.city website, managed by a community member.
Whether the trend can last remains to be seen. For one, new fancy cats are minted at the discretion of Axiom Zen, and therefore there is no limit per se to the number of #1 fancies. This is unlike the fancy cats themselves that have a limit. For example, the rarest fancy cat in the game is Schrodinger Cat – only 73 of those exist and can ever be created.
There may also be a rebalancing of value within the game. Factors like generation and condition may once again become more important in valuing fancy cats. At the end of the day, however, cats are as valuable as collectors and speculators are willing to pay for them. If collectors value specific attributes more than others, the market will follow. Right now, it seems like that is lower numbered fancies.
Aethia is a new game built using the Ethereum blockchain. On the surface, it seems like a Tamagotchi on the blockchain. The game ‘creatures’ are called Ethergotchis in the Aethia game. However, beyond this surface, Aethia brings with it a whole new game world, and can potentially be much more engrossing than a simple Tamagotchi.
Think of it as a mix of Pokemon, with its concept of creating new worlds, combined with Tamagotchi in that you’re responsible for the birth, growth, and development of your Ethergotchi. Each Ethergotchi is a product of its upbringing, and has several dimensions to its personality. All this makes Ethergotchi a much more exciting game with many varied possibilities.
Since the second and third order effects of such complex systems are hard to predict, we suggest not getting too bogged down by past references. We don’t know how such interesting game worlds can develop when you’re putting the in-game assets on the Ethereum blockchain, and the decentralization that comes with it. Think of it more as a simulation, fantasy, and role-playing game on the blockchain for now.
The CryptoKitties Comparison
Before we describe the Aethia game and world in more detail, we would like to discuss the similarities and dissimilarities between CryptoKitties and Aethia. Cryptokitties is probably the most successful game on Ethereum today. It introduced two main features lacking in other games –
Ownership of the in-game assets, i.e. Kitties. It is all recorded on the Ethereum blockchain. You truly are in possession of your CryptoKitties. Although its success is strongly tied, especially in the initial days, to the creators (Axiom Zen) they could go away tomorrow, and someone could create a similar version of the game. The point is, it is not the game creators who control the assets, it is you. They cannot, for example, destroy your in-game assets.
Creating new CryptoKitties through birthing/siring.
Element of predictability and chance, in the genetic code and breeding algorithm. It is a simple algorithm that has an element of chance built in, but also has a lot of predictability. This makes the game fun to figure out and breed, while retaining some excitement with the random elements.
Aethia has something similar. The game assets are again going to be recorded on the Ethereum blockchain, along with major actions run via smart contracts. However, the game developers have also suggested that the level of decentralization, especially at the beginning, is definitely something they don’t want to set in stone in order to ensure smooth user experience.
The specifics of birthing and siring will of course be different in Aethia, but the basic idea is still the same.
More than CryptoKitties though, the Ethergotchi in Aethia develop based on the decisions that the players make. This means conceptually it is quite different from a game like CryptoKitties, which is fairly determined (even if there is a random element to it). For example, your CryptoKitty has certain fixed characteristics throughout its life, whereas an Ethergotchi doesn’t. Its characteristics and thus its life is determined through interaction with the player and other Ethergotchi in the Aethia world. This makes the possibilities far more numerous and exciting.
More on the conceptual level, Aethia is more of a game world, and CryptoKitties are more of a collectible (the so-called CryptoCollectible niche). The game worlds can be far more complex and full of story lines. This means, our guess is it will attract a more hardcore gamer user base. Hopefully, it doesn’t become a turnoff for the more casual players. The key is to build a supportive community and a game that is fun to play for all player levels.
If you’ve played and enjoyed CryptoKitties or Ethermon, you should definitely check out Aethia and sign up for their alpha.
Details of the Aethia Game
Now let’s dive into the actual Aethia game itself.
The team describe it as “a petbreeding game where pets, the Ethergotchi, have an RPG and simulation game aspect as well.”
You start with an egg. If you sign up for Aethia, you can get a free egg until Feb 9. The egg hatches to become an Ethergotchi. The Ethergotchi grows (or if you mistreat it, even dies. Don’t do that!) according to how you treat and interact with it.
New eggs are laid when two Ethergotchi mate. This is how new Ethergotchi enter the Aethia world. See the section on mating below for more information about this.
Ethergotchi can perform a variety of tasks, such as teaching or architecture. There is no limit on this really. You can let your imagination run wild on what your Ethergotchi can do in the Aethia world. That’s where the whole game dynamics are built, and likely will keep expanding in the future.
An Ethergotchi has 3 phases –
An Egg phase
A Child phase
A Mature phase
Each of these phases is unique. Development in each phase and from one phase to another happens via interaction with your Ethergotchi.
There are also 5 ‘qualities’ or attributes for an Ethergotchi –
The attributes, along with their growth, determine the propensity of your Ethergotchi to do different tasks inside Aethia. It is also likely that an Ethergotchi’s value inside Aethia is determined, to a large extent, based off of these attributes.
Here’s where things get interesting. When a new egg is created, it has a specific star alignment. This is determined primarily by two factors –
The star alignment of the parents.
The time the Ethergotchi was conceived.
In the Aethia world, there are 15 possible star alignments. The game will release with 5 possible star alignments for the referral eggs, and 1 for the alpha egg. The rest will be discovered by the players through mating.
Star alignment affects the growth rate of base attributes of an Ethergotchi listed above. Therefore, depending on the star alignment, an Ethergotchi would be more inclined to follow a certain career path or play style compared to another.
The star alignment combined with the attributes above mean that there are a number of possibilities for an Ethergotchi right from the egg stage. Combined with its growth based on user interaction, there are practically unlimited ways in which your Ethergotchi can grow and contribute to the Aethia world.
Ethergotchi breed with each other in a somewhat similar manner to CryptoKitties. Ethergotchi are genderless. An Ethergotchi initiates a ‘mating dance’ via an ‘Ethergotchi Mating Potion’ item. If the partner accepts, the mating is performed. The originator gets to keep the egg. The partner who agrees to the mating would receive a payment in Ether. Once the egg comes into being, it can be hatched via regular game mechanics. The mating ritual takes several days to complete.
One thing to note though is that unlike Cryptokitties, the Ethergotchi can only mate once during their adulthood.
The reincarnation system is an interesting aspect of the Aethia world that keeps the game interesting even after an Ethergotchi has matured into the Adult/Mature phase. Ethergotchi can be reincarnated at the end of its adulthood. During this process, it retains some of its attributes and growth rates. This lets an Ethergotchi ‘experience a different life’ than the one it had in the past.
After reincarnation, the Ethergotchi can mate again, based on the conditions described above.
To end the section, here are some of the things that determine the value of an Ethergotchi.
CHI – In-Game Currency of Aethia
The Aethia world has its own in-game currency called CHI. It’s a standard ERC20 token with a fixed supply at issuance without any inflation. CHI is the default currency to use inside of Aethia for all purchases. There will be enough items to buy for your Ethergotchi, so the role of CHI is fairly important.
It should be mentioned that the game is free to play. The way this works is akin to a Universal Basic Income although with some differences. There is an Aethia Central Bank (ACB) that disburses a small amount of monthly CHI to all the players to look after their Ethergotchi. The implementation and economics get a little tricky with a lot of Ethergotchi (since CHI is limited but the number of Ethergotchi are not, and CHI has several uses and can easily end up outside ACB), but should be good for millions of players.
The Ethergotchi can also earn CHI, akin to how people work at jobs to earn money. However, this reduces their satisfaction and happiness parameters, and they cannot interact during the time they are working. Basically, it is a tradeoff that players will have to work with inside the game.
By creating CHI, the team can fund itself and also create an entire economic system inside the Aethia game. There are multiple possible economic interactions, which makes the game more exciting. Players can use CHI for different purposes for their Ethergotchi, which would likely determine its value in the marketplace. The dynamics would be interesting to watch and keep the players on their toes.
This is something we ask of every project, especially the ones with their own tokens/ICO. Luckily, there isn’t any ICO with Aethia (similar to CryptoKitties – if your game is successful, you don’t need an ICO, you can make money by selling game assets).
In the case of Aethia and many other new and emerging games, we can safely say that the use of a blockchain indeed provides benefits not possible outside of it.
The biggest advantage is that users can gain control over their in-game assets and not dependent on a specific development studio or game publisher.
In addition, the blockchain provides auditability, i.e. the players will have a much higher level of confidence that the game is fair to all players and follows the stated rules, since everyone is calling the same smart contracts under the hood. As an added bonus, anyone can audit these smart contracts.
We should also point out that a game like Aethia benefits from being built on Ethereum due to some of the other projects being built. Players should most closely watch blockchain scalability. There are lots of new ideas from proof of stake to Plasma on Ethereum to help with scalability. There is also good infrastructure around decentralized exchanges (0x, Airswap) and payment channels (Raiden). The infrastructure could support broader ideas like autonomous corporations in the future.
Who knows, in the future we might be borrowing against our Ethergotchi as well! Here’s to the Gen-Z retirement plan.
Aethia Team and Developers
The one great thing about the Aethia team is that they are really active and engaging with the community and fans. Even though they just announced the project less than a week ago, they have been answering a lot of questions and developing the product. They also did a pretty comprehensive Reddit AMA on their subreddit that you should check out if the game piques your interest.
The team members are as follows –
Ayuni – product manager, ex-developer, game freak, Pokémon lover. Responsible for the overall game.
Matias – developer, responsible for all game interaction
Fionn – marketing
Estelle – designer, head of the art department
Joseph – cryptocurrency expert, insights into blockchain games