The story of the CryptoKitties, the NFTs that wrote blockchain history

Elisa Campaci

7 min

CryptoKitties: guide and history of NFTs on Flow blockchain

What are CryptoKitties? Who created them? Why did this collection mark the evolution of the blockchain? This and juch more in the NFT guide and history on Flow!

CryptoKitties are a game on blockchain based on the breeding and care of digital kittens in the form of NFTs. In addition to being one of the very first non-strictly financial applications of blockchain, CryptoKitties wrote blockchain history as pioneers of NFTs and gaming on Ethereum. Their success has helped advance the blockchain ecosystem in terms of technology and adoption. But how does the CryptoKitties game work? Who created it? And, how has it influenced the crypto world?

What are CryptoKitties? How can you play with digital kittens?

“Cats are impossible to understand. They are ambassadors of pharaohs, memes and your mother’s Facebook page. They don’t discriminate, they despise everyone equally.” To date, CryptoKitties’ NFT kittens have more than 130,000 wallets involved, 2 million NFTs and a trading volume 70,000 ETH. CryptoKitties are a collection of NFTs depicting cats with different characteristics that need to be bred and fed in order to give birth to kittens. Playing with CryptoKitties means first and foremost collecting, but also becoming expert breeders and scholars of feline genetics, as well as traders doing business by buying and selling the rarest specimens. In addition to this, thanks to the Kitty Verse platform, one can participate in experiences and play games with the CryptoKitties, e.g. by solving riddles and puzzles to unlock new attributes and gadgets, or make the kittens fight each other like in KotoWars. CryptoKitties are now compatible with other digital worlds such as the Decentraland metaverse.

To playCryptoKitties from your desktop, the project team recommends using Chrome or Firefox as a browser for better performance. In the meantime, a mobile app is being developed to keep the NFT Kittties with you at all times! To play, you also need a digital wallet and ETH, the Ethereum crypto that serves to cover the costs of feeding and raising the kittens. Where can you buy CryptoKitties NFTs? They are available on the project’s marketplace (accessible from the website) in the form of direct sales or offers, or in the most widely used NFT marketplaces such as OpenSea. The price of CryptoKitties starts from 0.003 ETH, up to thousands of dollars.

From Ethereum to Flow, the blockchain for NFTs

It can be said that they have come a long way since their launch in 2017, but CryptoKitties have been a success right from the start. The project was launched in 2017 by Axiom Zen, a company dedicated to promoting projects on new technologies such as blockchain. The Axiom Zen team, of which Layne Lafrance was also a member, presented the NFTs at the ETH Waterloo Ethereum hackathon, i.e. an event for programmers gathered to develop new projects or obtain funding. The first NFTs of the CryptoKitties with the Gen0 collection of 50,000 NFTs were soon released on Ethereum. The public reaction was immediately positive, so much so that transactions to buy and play with the kittens increased so much that they congested the Ethereum network, driving gas fees through the roof.

At its peak in 2017, CryptoKitties attracted more than 14,000 active users per day and popularised Ethereum’s technology worldwide. In other words, CryptoKitties helped make Ethereum the benchmark for digital collections and gaming. However, the collection also highlighted some of Ethereum’s weaknesses, and consequently the need for a highly scalable blockchain suitable for hosting games and entertainment. From Axiom’s team in 2018, Dapper Labs ‘The NFT Company’ was founded to build Flow, a blockchain with these characteristics. Starting in 2021, CryptoKitties began a gradual transition from Ethereum to Flow. This change, linked to the reasons for expanding the collection and the game, was designed to improve the project from an aesthetic and technical point of view (by implementing animations, for example) and to make the experience easier for users, even those less used to dealing with blockchain tools. Flow is mainly used in the field of games and social networks, and in general for all those experiences that involve many users simultaneously on the blockchain. Flow intends to manage communities that grow as fast as the Web3 and make blockchain usable for people, and “not just for industry experts and early adopters”. Other popular NFT projects are built on Flow, including NBA Top Shot.

The story of CryptoKitties is the story of the evolution of blockchain

In short, CryptoKitties opened up a need for blockchain scalability, which the industry has now been working on continuously for years. The CryptoKitties crash that sent Ethereum into a tailspin brought a number of innovative solutions to overcome Ethereum’s scalability challenges, as well as Layer 2s that are now essential pillars for network usability. Furthermore, the fact that Dapper Labs created one of the first games on blockchain brought countless new users to the technology, demonstrating the full potential of blockchain in the fields of digital art and gaming. Simply put, CryptoKitties is a pioneer of NFT games and its success pushed the blockchain ecosystem forward in terms of both technology and adoption.

The technology behind CryptoKitties

Each CryptoKitties is an ERC-721 token, the standard for non-fungible tokens. Each CryptoKitties is unique and indivisible and its ownership is tracked thanks to smart contracts. The Core CryptoKitties smart contract tracks all transfers of NFTs and all new ones created through breeding, as well as the attributes and genes that make NFTs different from each other. All actions in the game such as breeding, feeding, selling are transactions performed by smart contracts on the blockchain and therefore require a commission. Since they are NFTs, even if one day Dapper Labs goes bankrupt or the CryptoKitties’ platform gets eliminated, the digital kittens will continue to exist thanks to the blockchain, and so will their value.

Attributes and genetics of CryptoKitties

If there are over 2 million NFTs of CryptoKitties, how do you determine the rarest? By what is their value determined? CryptoKitties, unlike CryptoPunks, for example, are not a limited collection. There is a complex system of attributes, called ‘Cattributes’, and genetic combinations that also inspired the constitution of the little monsters in Axie Infinity, the DeFi video game. To begin with, CryptoKitties are divided into four types: Normal, Fancy, Special Editions and Exclusive. Already, these indicate an increasing scale of rarity because they are available in different quantities.

Each CryptoKitties in turn has a name and 12 attributes such as eye shape and colour, fur type, mouth type, all of which reflect its genetic code. Each attribute consists of a block of 4 genes, a primary one that is the one that manifests itself in the kitten and 3 latent ones. For example, if the fur colour has emerald green as primary gene (P), as hidden genes it can have salmon pink (H1), an orange soda colour (H2) and again orange soda as the third hidden gene (H3). While the primary gene is visible in the NFT, the secondary genes are transmitted to the offspring of CryptoKitties according to different percentages, e.g. the primary genes of the father cat are transmitted in 37.5% of the cases, H1 in 9.4%, H2 in 2.3% and H3 in 0.8%. All kittens can play the role of both father and mother – very modern from CryptoKitties! There is a tool that shows hypothetical kittens and their rarity based on the pairing of the parents. However, CryptoKitties are not always born based on percentages, it can happen that genes mutate creating truly unique and unexpected kittens! Since 2018, Mewtation Gems and Family Jewels, badges to trace and certify the lineage and pedigree of NFTs, have been included.

What is the rarest NFT of CryptoKitties?

A first way of assessing the rarity of CryptoKitties is therefore the type and its genetics; indeed, cattributes have varying degrees of rarity. However, there are other characteristics that do not depend on these aspects, but equally affect the value of NFTs:

  1. Gen0 of CryptoKitties: the first NFTs in 50,000 copies are the rarest and most valuable ever. At the moment, they are not all in circulation, about 12,000 are still owned by the team waiting to be released on special occasions;
  2. “Cooldown” or the resting time between one puppy and another. Each Kitties has a cooldown that depends on its generation, e.g. those from Gen0 have to wait 1 minute to make a new puppy, those from Gen26 onwards, over 1 week;
  3. ID number: NFT cats are numbered according to birth order, so the lower numbers are the oldest CryptoKitties that are sold at higher prices by collectors;
  4. Errors: sometimes newborn CryptoKitties have graphic errors, since mutations are difficult to create they are rarer and particularly hard to find;
  5. Pure-bred kittens: very few specimens have the same gene repeated 4 times in the attribute block.

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