People may be flabbergasted by the idea of an illustration of a cat selling for more than $114,000, but CryptoKitties is more than that, according to its founders.
It's a lesson in both blockchain and genetics wrapped up in a digital game.
"There's no central organization that owns these things," said CryptoKitties co-founder Mack Flavelle. "These cats do a great job of explaining blockchain to people. There's a democratization of how to use blockchain."
Flavelle is a product lead at Axiom Zen, which owns CryptoKitties.
The first thing to understand about CryptoKitties: It isn't a cryptocurrency, it's a cryptocollectable, Flavelle insists. The game involves collecting unique illustrated cats with specific digital genes, which breed and produce more cats after a certain period of time. You can keep, sell or trade your cat. That's it – well, and the game is built on blockchain technology, specifically ethereum.
Because of demand — more than 6 percent of the etherium platform is currently being used for the game — and the volatile pricing of etherium currency ether, one uncommon kitten sold for as much as $114,481, according to third-party research from developer Niel de la Rouviere.
"Some of those extraordinary amounts, I don't really know why," CryptoKitties co-founder Benny Giang admits. "It's really early."
People like Daniel, who asked his last name be withheld for privacy reasons, say they like the game because it teaches them about blockchain technology and its applications in the real world. Daniel has been playing for a little less than a week, and spent 0.05 ether. He now has 20 kittens. Daniel said also loves how a kitten's DNA produces different kinds of cats, similar to how it works in the real world.
"Ether is rising, but all you need for a decent start is two kitties really," he said via a Reddit message. "From there, you can breed them and sell and sire them to cover all your running costs and even make some profit that you then can cash out or hold."