What do you get when you mash up international favorite Pokemon Go with Neko Atsume, the app that invites you to collect and care for digital cats, with… cryptocurrency?
I have to admit we Penny Hoarders were skeptical when we heard of it. We’re still wrapping our heads around the basics of blockchain and cryptocurrency. Now you’re trying to tell me that people are spending huge wads of digital money on digital cats?
But yes, CryptoKitties are real. They’re exactly what they sound like. And they’re a big (financial) deal.
The makers of CryptoKitties found a way to gamify the buying and selling of cryptocurrency Ether by making collectible cat avatars.
“CryptoKitties is one of the world’s first games to be built on blockchain technology — the same breakthrough that makes things like Bitcoin and Ethereum possible,” the company website explains. “Bitcoin and Ether are cryptocurrencies, but CryptoKitties are cryptocollectibles.”
Two CryptoKitties can breed to create a new avatar, which, depending on its genetic attributes, can have a high Ether value. The cats put a furry face on the value of Ether, which otherwise has few outlets for conventional purchasing power.
As CryptoKitties co-founder Mack Flavelle told The New York Times: “There’s nothing to do with it, so hey, for a couple bucks now you can get a cat. Nobody’s even pretending it’s going to be a transactional currency anymore. It’s a stored value.”
At least Flavelle isn’t trying to pull our tails.
OK, We Get It; Cryptocurrency Is So Hot Right Now
First it was the tech wonks who got in on cryptocurrency. Then it was the people cashing in their retirement accounts or taking out lines of credit to invest. And now it’s a game?
I was happy enough playing the best penny slot machine ever, Kitty Glitter. But apparently, I am not ambitious enough.
The Verge spoke to one 30-year-old who said he’s made more money investing in bitcoin and Ether than by putting money into his IRA. His lucky CryptoKitty cost 12 Ether, but the value rose to about 30 Ether — in today’s conversion (which fluctuates pretty much constantly), that’s about a $15,500 return.
But this isn’t some game that’s easy to dip into and dabble. While some CryptoKitties are available for rock-bottom rates — this dopey-looking guy is selling for about $18, for example — you need the cryptocurrency know-how and capital to get started and play smart. “There is kind of a barrier to entry, unless you have like 5 Ether to get started with, it’s pretty hard to break in,” the anonymous owner of CryptoKitten (our term, because it’s cute) told The Verge. You can’t earn unless you already have money to spend. Or if you were a super-early adopter.
This one is my favorite because it looks mostly like a cat, if you forget that its feet, ears and tail are all green. At the time of this writing, you can buy it for 85.7 Ether, which is about $83,000.
A small drop in the cryptocurrency bucket.
Lisa Rowan is a senior writer and producer at Codetic who has thrown away many, many pennies playing Kitty Glitter.