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Virtual kittens craze congests cryptocurrency transactions

Image credit: CryptoKitties

The sky-rocketing popularity of the game ‘CryptoKitties’, involving the trading and breeding of virtual cats, has congested trade in Ether, one of the world’s largest cryptocurrencies.

Ethereum is an open-source platform intended to allow apps to run without the risk of fraud, censorship or any other interference. Ethereum is fuelled by its associated cryptocurrency, Ether (often referred to as Ethereum), which has become one of the world’s most popular cryptocurrencies.

Axiom Zen’s ‘CryptoKitties, a new game hosted on Ethereum, has rapidly become Ethereum’s most popular app. It is among the first games in the world to be built on blockchain technology.

The game is intended to make cryptocurrencies and their associated technologies more engaging and accessible.

CryptoKitties website screenshot

CryptoKitties

Image credit: CryptoKitties

“We believe that blockchain is the future, but blockchain is about as approachable as a bunch of ones and zeroes. We want a future for everyone, not one exclusive to Bitcoin miners, VCs, ICOs, and other equally fun acronyms,” the ‘CryptoKitties website explains.

“We’re not trying to build the future, we’re trying to have fun with it.”

Since ‘CryptoKitties was released on 28 November, $6.6m (£4.9m) has been spent on the virtual cats. The average cat costs approximately $130 (£100), and four new cats are released every hour. Many of the cats resemble ordinary house cats, but others have rare traits, and these can be sold for a greater sum – one cat was recently sold for more than $100,000 (£75,000).

In order to prevent runaway inflation, creation of new cats will stop by November 2018.

The “breedable, collective, and oh-so-adorable creatures” are unique, and cannot be destroyed. Any two of the cats can breed to hatch a unique new cat.

According to the ‘CryptoKitties website, they can be purchased, sold or traded using Ethereum’s blockchain network, much like traditional collectibles. A user must purchase some of the digital currency before they are able to begin playing the game. Its popularity has grown to the extent that transactions associated with the game have disrupted Ether transactions. According to Etherscan, since the game was launched the number of pending Ether transactions has increased sixfold.

The fraction of total Ethereum transactions associated with ‘CryptoKitties is rapidly increasing, having surpassed 10 per cent.

‘CryptoKitties has become so popular that it’s taking up a significant amount of available space for transactions on the Ethereum platform,” Dr Garrick Hileman, of the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, told BBC News.

“Some people are concerned that a frivolous game is now going to be crowding out more serious, significant-seeming business uses.”

According to CoinDesk, at least one start-up has delayed its scheduled initial coin offering (ICO) by two days due to the disruption caused by ‘CryptoKitties.

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