Crypto's killer app is...kittens?
Wondering why EtherDelta or the Ethereum network is slow? Is it all the drugs, prostitutes and hitmen being consumed in this feral lawless wasteland? No. It's because people are buying, selling and trading kittens on the blockchain. Yes, kittens.
CryptoKitties is a game operating on the Ethereum network that has been produced by Axiom Zen. It allows people to trade 'CryptoKitties' which the company call cryptocollectibles. The kittens are breedable and each one is unique - it can't be replicated. As usual, some of the sums involved are mind boggling. The Genesis kitten sold for Ξ246, or c. $120k.
If it sounds bizarre, that's because it is. However, the seemingly innocuous game is important for two reasons.
Firstly, it is a good and easy to understand example of the benefits of blockchain. Tamagotchi, the various Pokémon games, Beanie Babies - people love collectables. There is a reason Pokémon catchphrase was Gotta Catch Em All. Simple projects like CryptoKitties have the potential to introduce people to blockchain and how it works. It is a very simple use case that essentially uses the core blockchain operations - making transactions through sending/receiving on the network.
Secondly, it highlights the abilities of ERC-721 tokens. ERC-721 tokens are non-fungible. This means that each token is different, uniquely identifiable, and equipped with different values and attributes. In the case of CryptoKitties, each cat is 'born' with a different appearance. You can also breed different types of cats together, and the different 'genes' of each cat means you will always end up with a unique kitten at the end of the process.
CryptoKitties will probably fade into obscurity in the coming months (although that's probably what people said about Pokémon when that was first released too), but it demonstrates the ability to programme scarcity onto the blockchain, which can be directly applied to multiple real world use cases. I do not fall into the camp of "we should tokenise everything because we can!" but it is a clear use case for unique and rare collectibles. Digital baseball cards could be tied to a blockchain ID. Rare computer game items or skins. Stocks and shares. Maybe EA should tie loot boxes to blockchain and salvage its reputation amongst the online community.
As usual whenever something popular hits, the Ethereum network began to creak under the pressure. I am not unduly concerned about the impact of ICO's or CryptoKitties in slowing down or clogging the network. The more network speed is an issue with cases like this, the more resources and money will be devoted to solving it. Ethereum and blockchain more widely remains in its infancy - just like the internet struggled to cope with constant increasing demand but managed to resolve the issue, so too will blockchain developers.