Dubbed as “the world’s most successful blockchain game”, Axiom Zen launched CryptoKitties, a place where you can buy and love virtual cats – or sell them again. It reminded me a bit of Neopets from the early days of the Internet but it’s way different.
It’s no cryptocurrency, it’s different
As the name of the platform already suggests, it focuses on cryptocurrencies and in particular they allow “cat-trading” via ETH (Ether), whose blockchain is generated by the Ethereum platform. With a total of $60,726,676,129, Ethereum has currently the second biggest market capitalization among the 1,564 different cryptocurrencies that are currently listed on CoinMarketCap. It’s second only to Bitcoin with a market capitalization of $144,075,346,720.
You can trade your CryptoKitties with other users but on their website they clearly state, “While CryptoKitties isn’t a digital currency, it does offer the same security: each CryptoKitty is one-of-a-kind and 100% owned by you. It cannot be replicated, taken away, or destroyed.”
Interview with Bryce Bladon
We checked with the Axiom Zen team and fortunately Bryce Bladon, CryptoKitties co-founder and director of communications of Axiom Zen, had time to talk with us. Here is what we learned.
Christopher Isak: What’s the story of CryptoKitties? Who got the idea and how?
Bryce Bladon: Mack Flavelle championed the idea of putting cats on the blockchain and Dieter Shirley championed the technical innovation necessary. The team saw immense opportunity in creating a decidedly different blockchain product, one that was approachable to consumers, showcased blockchain’s potential outside of currency, featured a build-in-public community approach, a fun and accessible brand, and a sustainable business model instead of an ICO.
Axiom Zen has been experimenting with blockchain since 2014. As a leader in emerging technology, Axiom Zen wants to make blockchain technology approachable and available to the masses. In order to do this, people need to understand it. To get people to understand something complex, you need to speak to them in a way they understand. Cats are the universal language of the internet.
But why a game? Blockchain still had some kinks to figure out before any product is perfect and utility-driven products need to function perfectly for user buy-in, but games can balance imperfection with novelty. By building a game with emerging technology, players and developers alike gain a working fluency in the underlying technology – and developers can experiment and innovate in an environment that isn’t limited by practical necessity. Games deliver an experience and experiences inform how we see the world and what we believe in. CryptoKitties leveraged user excitement via accessible design, appealing aesthetics, and the correct balance of fun and utility. Making someone feel something – be it delight, excitement, or hope – is how you make them believe in something. We believe in blockchain’s potential, and we want others to as well.
CI: Do you think there are currently any similar solutions out there? How is CryptoKitties different from them?
BB: Before we launched, CryptoPunks was probably the most similar product out there. We looked at it and made some product decisions based on what we wanted to see within it—the breeding, genes, modular art, and brand as a whole are key differentiators. Though to be clear, we don’t see CryptoPunks as competition—they’re closer to an inspiration or colleague than anything else. That sense of community is something I really love about this space right now.
Within days of premiering our alpha at ETHWaterloo in 2017, we started to see a few similar projects. When we formally launched CryptoKitties, the number of copycats exploded—giants as big as Baidu and Xiaomi already have similar stuff out there, focusing on puppies and bunnies respectively.
I do wish some of our copycats would show new and interesting takes on the concept. There’s so much untapped innovation in blockchain right now and it seems like a complete waste. A big reason we were successful in the first place was because we tried a bunch of different things. Right now, a lot of people are chasing our tail and trying to launch a similar project with half the features and none of the polish. At the same time, we’re launching new features every few week. The CryptoKitties community alone has done more to innovate with our basic concept, with fans creating everything from tokenized accessories for the cats to gene calculators to “cat battling” prototypes. There’s so much potential to be unlocked with blockchain—people should look to contemporaries for inspiration, but not prescriptive instruction.
CI: What are the next steps on your agenda? Any plans for CryptoKitties or the company as a whole?
BB: We’re constantly improving the product with new cats, new features, and a variety of new ways for the community to use their CryptoKitties. We have some big updates to reveal in the coming months, and I want to underline that the CryptoKitties team will continue to make CryptoKitties the best possible product it can be. Nothing we have planned will ever change that.
But as for the company as a whole: we’re not done doing exciting, interesting, and new stuff with blockchain technology. The cats were just our first public step, and thought we’re not done strutting our stuff in regards to CryptoKitties, we’ll have some new moves to show off soon.
CI: Is there anything else that you’d like to share with us?
BB: We’re really excited to announce Momo Wang as our first Artist Series contributor. She’s going to be creating some Fancy Cats and an exclusive cat for auction soon. This will represent one of the first mainstream examples of digital art utilizing the blockchain to transfer ownership. There’s all the usual value a person may find in art – it’s cultural or societal relevance, it’s representative significance for a time or place or the simple personal connection someone may feel towards – are only enhanced by the transparent and immutable nature of the blockchain. Fractional ownership, provable authenticity, and monetization are all possibilities as well.
CI: We hope to see more from CryptoKitties soon in the future. Thanks so much for your time.
Axiom Zen is a venture studio and innovation powerhouse. In their portfolio you can find a great collection of solutions in various niches such as:
- ZenHub (GitHub project management)
- Toby (tabs and bookmark management browser extension)
- Timeline (news aggregator)
- Plume (WiFi extender tech)
- Hammer & Tusk (VR / AR)
- Routific (route optimization)
I’d like to close in the manner of CryptoKitties, by saying, “the future is meow”. Have fun collecting!
Photo credit: Axiom Zen
Source: CryptoKitties website / CoinMarketCap / Bryce Bladon (Axiom Zen)