Since its 2015 debut, digital evangelists have preached how the ethereum network will be perfect for applications such as managing supply chains and securities sales. What it’s actually used for is buying kittens.
CryptoKitties, an online game that debuted on Nov. 28, is now the most popular smart contract — essentially, an application that runs itself — on ethereum, accounting for 11 percent of all transactions on the network, according to ETH Gas Station. That’s up from 4 percent on Dec. 2 for the network, which uses the distributed-ledger technology known as blockchain.
In the game, players buy cartoon kittens, and then breed them with other cats. More than 22,000 cats have been sold so far, for a total of $3 million, according to Crypto Kitty Sales. One of the cats went for $117,712, although average sales price hovers around $109, according to the sales tracker. Each cat has a unique identity that’s logged on the ethereum blockchain, which is a digital ledger of transactions.
CryptoKitties is one of the first blockbuster applications to emerge for ethereum. The blockchain is already used for transactions in currency called ether, the second largest after bitcoin. It’s also widely used for issuing tokens in so-called initial coin offerings, with which startups raise funds. The game is the first successful non-coin related application to emerge on the blockchain.
CryptoKitties’ success could be a sign that ethereum may thrive as a gaming platform. Indeed, many users of blockchains are the same kind of people who that already play PC and console video games. And it could take a bite out of the $108.9 billion global games market.
If the game’s popularity continues to skyrocket, it could also potentially slow down ethereum’s network and increase average transaction prices. Already, the number of pending transactions on the blockchain has risen many times over in the last several days. Since ethereum’s fee structure is affected by demand, costs could go up for everyone.