The basic premise of CryptoKitties is simple. Essentially, it’s a blockchain-based game that involves the purchase, collection, breeding and selling of various types of unique virtual cats.
The game’s underlying mechanics, however, are surprisingly complex. Dedicated fans of the game have compiled detailed spreadsheets and powerful tools to predict CryptoKitties traits. These traits (called “cattributes”) determine the rarity– and thus the potential value– of each cat. Over $25 million worth of CryptoKitties have been exchanged so far, and extremely rare cats sell for $100,000 or more.
As the demand for rare CryptoKitties has gone up, some early adopters have gotten rich in the process. Last year, The Verge interviewed a software designer from Austin who made over $40,000 worth of ether through the game.
Though the skyrocketing prices has generated buzz around CryptoKitties, the steep learning curve involved in figuring out how to play it has been an ongoing challenge for the game’s developers. CryptoKitties’ makers have admitted that they “haven’t yet solved the underlying problem” of helping CryptoKitties players learn how to play and keep up with the game’s ever-changing world. This Reddit comment sums up one of the game’s most common criticisms:
“Cryptokitties is so complicated. I just want to dress my kitty up in clothes, not this breeding mayhem.”
If you can relate to that, keep reading. This easy to read guide explains everything you need to know about CryptoKitties, from buying your first cat to estimating your chances of breeding a Fancy Cat.
Buying Your First CryptoCat
In order to play CryptoKitties, you have to do three things: install a free cryptocurrency wallet called MetaMask, transfer ether into it, and buy your first kitty. Here’s a quick walkthrough that explains the entire process from start to finish.
CryptoKitties relies on MetaMask for payment processing. But MetaMask is more than just a standard crypto wallet. It allows you to run CryptoKitties and other Ethereum-powered dApps right in your browser.
There’s a link to the MetaMask plugin on the CryptoKitties website. Just click the link, then follow the instructions to install MetaMask. During the setup process, the installer will give you a set of seed words. The seed words provide the only way to recover your MetaMask account if you forget your password– so be sure to copy them down and save them somewhere safe.
Once you’ve installed MetaMask, you should see this graphic when you click the Start Meow button on the CryptoKitties website.
Once you’ve logged in, you should see the Adopt Your First Kitty! page. However, you won’t be able to buy any cats until you buy some ether. Ether is currently the only currency that cryptokitties accepts.
The easiest option for buying ether is CoinBase. Just open MetaMask and click the Deposit button, then choose Continue to CoinBase.
CoinBase provides two different ways to buy ether through MetaMask: Credit/Debit card or Bank Account. You’ll pay less in transfer fees if you choose the bank account option, but you’ll also have to wait longer for the ether you bought to show up in your account.
Along with CoinBase, MetaMask integrates with a different type of cryptocurrency exchange called ShapeShift. ShapeShift allows you to quickly convert bitcoin and other cryptocoins into ether. However, it does not support any type of government-issued fiat currency.
Buying your first CryptoKitty
The Adopt Your First Kitty! page displays three different types of CryptoKitties: Great Value kitties, New Arrivals and Fancy Cats.
- Great Value kitties currently sell for around 0.005 ether (approximately $1.50 USD).
- New Arrivals section promotes rare gen 0 kitties, which cost more. You can get a gen 0 cat for 0.2 ether (approximately $50 USD).
- Fancy Cats have custom artwork, which makes them more valuable. They don’t cost quite as much as Gen 0 kitties, but they are still rather pricey. Fancy Cats cost anywhere from 0.05 ether (approximately $14 USD) to 0.1 ether (approximately $27).
What you buy here depends on how you intend to play the game.
One strategy is to buy cheap kitties and use them to breed valuable ones. Many run-of-the-mill kitties have valuable traits lying dormant inside their genetic code. These have the potential to produce valuable offspring.
Another strategy is to go for an expensive cat and try to flip it. However, this strategy typically only works when the CryptoKitties market is hot. When the price of bitcoin spiked in 2017, CryptoKitties attracted a surge of new users. The price of the most expensive cats skyrocketed, and many early CryptoKitties adopters became wealthy in the process.
Advice from CryptoKitties Speculators
Before you start playing CryptoKitties, you should know that the opportunity to make large profits on the platform may have already passed. Early CryptoKitties adopters snapped up extremely rare CryptoKitties before their prices reached unbelievable heights. Senior Mashable editor Stan Schroder has gone as far as to say that CryptoKitties “resembles a bit of a pyramid structure.”
With that being said, it may still be possible to make money on the site. Here are some tips from a few successful CryptoKitties speculators.
The priciest cats have the most profit potential
Last year, The Verge interviewed a software designer named Todd who made over $40,000 worth of ether by trading CryptoKitties. The 30-year-old entrepreneur said that it’s hard to earn a profit in the game unless you go for the pricier cats.
“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. It’s really hard to get going unless you acquire one of the more valuable cats.”
A CryptoKitties user who goes by the alias Dapper Kitty also made substantial profits by buying and then flipping expensive cats. In an interview with The Token Daily, he revealed that his first big windfall in the game came when he bought a rare Founder Cat for 10 ether and resold it for 50. There are only 100 Founder Cats in the entire game– that’s the main reason why they are so pricey.
Use new features to your advantage
After CryptoKitties introduced like button functionality, Robert Durst of Hacker Noon used the new feature to his advantage. According to Durst, he came up with the idea to use the new feature to his advantage when he was trying to think of creative ways to help his father get out of a bad situation.
Durst’s dad had started playing CryptoKitties after Durst told him about how he had earned over $1000 in profits on the platform. His father decided to buy a bunch of kitties and hold onto them in the hopes that their prices would go up. They didn’t. A short while later, the crypto market took a nosedive.
To help his dad get his money back, Durst wrote a script that automatically generated hundreds of thousands of likes for each of his father’s cats. This strategy helped them get featured on the site, which in turn drove up their value.
“Since I was the only one programmatically liking cats, I was easily able to dominate the marketplace. My strategy? 1. Like a cat until it is the most liked cat on the market. 2. Sell. 3. Repeat.”
CryptoKitties’ developers were eventually able to make Durst’s strategy obsolete, but not before he had exploited it for profit.
Do your homework before you buy
Durst’s story demonstrates that not every cat that’s promoted on the CryptoKitties platform is as valuable as it appears to be. Be sure to research a cat’s cattributes before you buy to make sure that they’re worth what you’re paying for them. Rare cattributes are valuable, but common cattributes are not.
During his interview with The Verge, Todd– the software designer who made tens of thousands of dollars by playing CryptoKitties– admitted that he made some early mistakes in the game that ended up costing him a great deal of money. On his first day on the site, he paid 0.7 ether for a cat that was actually worth just 0.03 ether.
A blogger that goes by the alias Peanut described a similar experience:
“Obviously, I had no idea what I was doing. I later found out that this cat isn’t even “rare.” How dare this seller lie to a n00b! And I don’t even know if a virgin cat (cats with no children) should be more expensive either.”
Pay attention to the cryptocurrency marketplace
Even though CryptoKitties seems like a game, in reality it’s just another ERC-721 token on the Ethereum network. If something ever happens to the cryptocurrency market– like a high profile hack or scam, for instance– the value of the CryptoKitties collectibles will likely plummet.
Todd revealed to The Verge that he was actually trying to get rid of his CryptoKitties at the time of the interview.
“A kitty is just another form of a token, like holding another altcoin. I just don’t want to have this much money on CryptoKitties.”
In his interview with The Token Daily, Dapper Kitty revealed that he only traded CryptoKitties for three days. That short span of trading netted him $210,000 worth of ether in profits.
Use third party tools and resources
Another way to obtain valuable CryptoKitties is by breeding them yourself. Breeding is a research intensive process, but new third party tools have made it easier to predict the results of a CryptoKitties mating session.
Redditor RytechApps claims to have used a tool called CryptoKittiesDex to develop a profitable Fancy Cat breeding method. The method has allegedly netted a 540% return on the initial investment so far.
Designing Your CryptoKitties Game Plan
Think you have what it takes to become a CryptoKitties high roller? If the answer was yes, here are some things that you should consider before you go all in.
How to estimate your Ethereum transaction fees
Before you develop your CryptoKitties game plan, you should calculate how much your strategy will cost you in Ethereum gas.
Ethereum– like almost all cryptocurrency networks– depends on miners. Miners process transactions for the network and make sure that they are valid. In exchange for dedicating their hardware to the network, miners get paid in the form of mining rewards.
Every CryptoKitties transaction is processed by the Ethereum network. This means that each time you buy or sell a CryptoCat, you have to pay a processing fee for mining services.
You can adjust the amount you’ll pay in mining fees when you buy CryptoKitties by customizing MetaMask’s gas settings.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the Ethereum gas related terms you’ll run into when customizing MetaMask.
GWEI is a unit of measurement that’s commonly used for describing the price of Ethereum gas. 1 Ether is equal to 1,000,000,000 Gwei.
This is what you offer to pay the miners for processing your transaction. The more you pay, the faster your CryptoKitties transaction will get processed.
The gas limit is the maximum amount of gas that you are willing to spend on a transaction. The limit prevents you from the risk of accidentally spending too much during times of high network activity.
Adjusting your gas settings
Fast transactions can give you an advantage if you intend to become a CryptoKitties flipper. If you pay more in gas, you can snatch up a valuable CryptoCat before someone else gets it. But if you’re just breeding your cats, transaction time isn’t very important. Therefore, you may want to set the Gas Price lower when you breed to save money.
Visit ethgasstation.info first to find out what the effects of your changes will be.
As mentioned above, adjusting your MetaMask Gas Price setting can be advantageous in some situations. However, CryptoKitties advises their users against changing MetaMask’s default Gas Limit.
“Don’t change the gas limit. The limit is generated by MetaMask. Lowering the gas limit means you don’t give the Ethereum miners enough computational power to process your transaction, which causes your transaction to “run out of gas” and fail. Sometimes MetaMask suggests a really high gas limit, usually coupled with a warning that says “Gas limit set dangerously high. Approving this transaction is likely to fail.” If you see that message, something is wrong! The safest option is to reject the transaction and try again.”
Researching a potential flip
Many of the successful speculators who managed to earn a profit from flipping CryptoKitties seem to have identified an opportunity, took a chance, and then cashed out in a short period of time.
The optimal time to try flipping any type of asset is during periods when the market is hot. One way to get a sense of what’s going on in the CryptoKitties marketplace is to check the Kitty Sales website.
By default, the site displays the most expensive CryptoKitties collectibles. As you can see, none of the top 25 CryptoKitties have changed owners since December of 2017. Another fact: they’ve all dropped in value. This indicates that the market for CryptoKitties is currently bearish. It’s probably not a very good time to try flipping an expensive CryptoKitty.
Hold or sell?
The fact that CyptoKitties prices can change dramatically over short periods of time makes flipping an expensive CryptoKitty a risky strategy. But holding onto an expensive CryptoKitty for a long period of time is probably an even more dangerous game.
The priciest cat that’s for sale on the CryptoKitties site– Founder Cat #18— currently has a 300 ether buy now price. At today’s exchange rate, that translates to approximately $85,500 USD. But the price of the same cat at the time of its sale was over $110,700. That’s quite a significant drop off in value.
Right now it’s difficult to tell what the CryptoKitties market will do going forward. But one thing is for sure: CryptoKitties is no longer a one-of-a-kind game. As CoinDesk recently pointed out, new collection-oriented games are giving CryptoKitties some serious competition.
CryptoKitties popularity seems to be on the decline. According to data from dAppRadar, only roughly 300 people buy or sell CryptoKitties every day. At the height of its popularity, the CryptoKitties site attracted over 10,000 daily visitors.
However, if CryptoKitties do remain popular, the price of expensive cats may continue to skyrocket. The CryptoKitties KittyVerse could help the platform remain in the spotlight by providing multiple ways to use CryptoKitties tokens. Still, there’s no guarantee that CryptoKitties won’t turn out to be just a passing fad.
An introduction to breeding
Breeding gives CryptoKitties players a way to generate new kitties anytime– and by extension, earn a potential profit– even when not much is going on in the market.
The CryptoKitties Wiki contains a concise summary of how breeding works:
“The main gameplay of CryptoKitties, beside collecting, is breeding. Breeding is influenced by both primary and hidden genes. Primary genes can be both active and inactive in appearance. Active primary genes are cattributes. The first player to crack this genomic code was kaigani who shared his results with the community. To aid in the complexity involved with all these genes and breeding, a number of tools are available.”
If you want to earn a profit when you breed, you have to be able to sell your cats for more than it costs you to create them.
The current breeding fee is currently set at 0.008 ether, or approximately $2.30 USD at today’s prices. You’ll also have to pay for the cost of mining each time you breed. Depending on how you configure your MetaMask gas settings, that fee can amount to anywhere from 0.0001 to 0.01 ether (roughly $0.30 to $3.00 USD).
All this means that if you don’t want to lose money, you have to find ways to breed cats that sell for over 0.018 ether or better. One way to do this is by attempting to breed cats that have a high chance of producing a Fancy.
This CryptoKitties blog post gives a high level view of how Fancy Cats differ from other types of rare cats.
“Each Fancy has a cap, which means only a certain number of each kind of Fancy will be produced. For example, the SantaClaws Fancy has reached its limit, so if you want that type of cat, your only option is to buy one. You can no longer breed a new SantaClaws. If more people join the game and want to start collecting fancies, the demand will grow without an increase in supply, making the value of those Fancies increase.”
The key feature of Fancy Cats is that they can be bred. Other types of extremely rare cats– like Founder Cats and Exclusive Cats, for example– cannot be bred and can only be bought and sold.
How to breed a Fancy Cat
CryptoKittyDex is one of the best tools for predicting how two CryptoKitties will breed. The site’s database contains detailed information about every single CryptoKitty every created. By searching the database, you can find out any kitty’s ID, matron, sire, owner, generation, birthdate as well as the most important bit of information: a 12 block, 4×5-bit description of each cat’s genes.
Each 4×5-bit code in a cat’s DNA strand represents a different cattribute. These cattributes determine the cat’s body shape, eye color, mouth and so on. Each of the 12 blocks contains 1 dominant trait and 3 recessive traits. These traits can be passed along from parent to child.
As mentioned above, Redditor RytechApps has developed a system for breeding various Fancy Cats using data gathered from CryptoKittyDex. You can read about that system here, then use the CryptoKittyDex website to try to work out your own valuable Fancy Cat recipes. A CSV file of the entire CryptoKittyDex database is available here.
What’s Next for CryptoKitties?
In June of 2018, the CryptoKitties developers decided to let 3rd party developers use CryptoKitties tokens and artwork in their apps and games. At the same time, they launched an open-sourced development platform dubbed The KittyVerse. Here’s a quick look at some of the major KittyVerse projects.
If you put Facebook, Twitter and CryptoKitties in a blender, the end result would probably look something like CryptoPurr– a CryptoKitties-based social media platform. This blog post sheds light on its developers’ ambitions:
“What if the owner of the crypto-cat could make it perform other actions such as posting or sharing information and reacting to other crypto-characters? Imagine that the digital cat could tell jokes, break the news, engage with other cats or promote products and services. Imagine it could act as a uniquely identifiable channel for distribution of information.”
Kitty Hats are CryptoKitties-compatible tokens that stack on top of your CryptoKitties. Once you add a Kitty Hat to one of your CryptoKitties, it becomes visible on the CryptoKitties official website and other KittyVerse sites that support Kitty Hats. Available items include top hats, monocles, sneakers and more. This blog post from the CryptoKitties team provides a behind-the-scenes look at how the hats are created:
“The process behind the creation of each unique KittyHats token is pretty cool. Designs are submitted by the community, and then moderators and other community members provide feedback and help iterate until it’s just right. Once that’s done, the designs are formally submitted, and the KittyHats team chooses which ones will be added to the update.”
Kitty Battles is a fighting game that lets you bludgeon other CryptoKitties with water balloons, pillows and other deadly items. The CryptoKitties blog recently published background information about how the game was developed.
“One really unique feature of KittyBattles is that it takes place completely off-chain. Obviously they’re using blockchain assets (our Kitties), so they require a MetaMask login to confirm that players own tokens. But after that, there’s no interaction with any cryptocurrency or blockchain. They are (we believe) the first off-chain game to employ this model.”
One of the first KittyVerse projects was a Kentucky Derby style racing game with gambling features called Kitty Race. At the beginning of the game, all the players put in 0.005 ether. A blog post from Cryptokitties explains how the winner is determined.
“A cat’s hustle is determined by three digital dice rolls. The first is a provably-fair random roll. The next two are affected by specific Cattributes and the order in which you joined the race (the first and second cats to join get a slight advantage here), respectively.”
Kotowars lets you use your CryptoKitties as digital playing cards. Each cat is given a defense score, an attack score and an element. You need to have at least 32 CryptoKitties to play, but if you don’t have enough you can use computer-generated cards instead. What’s more, Kotowars ties into KittyHats– so any custom hats that you bought for your cats will appear in the game.
Useful CryptoKitties Resources
Here are some resources that will help you make the most of your CryptoKitties experience.
- The Official CryptoKitties FAQs. These FAQs do a pretty good job of answering common newbie questions.
- CryptoKitties White Paper. The CryptoKitties white paper focuses on how and why the founders decided to create the CryptoKitties platform.
- Help & Support FAQ: If you encounter any problems while playing CryptoKitties, this is the place to begin your search for a solution.
- CryptoKitties Blog. The official CryptoKitties blog is the most authoritative source of information about the platform.
- The CryptoKitties Wiki. The CryptoKitties wiki is “more than just an FAQ; it’s living, breathing documentation about the rich world that surrounds CryptoKitties.” Background information about the wiki is available on this CryptoKitties blog post.
- CryptoKitties Update Log. The official CryptoKitties Update Log gets updated twice every week and is the best place to go for CryptoKitties news and information about the latest changes.
- CryptoKittyDex. This is the go-to research site for CryptoKitties breeders. It gives you the ability to analyze CryptoKitty DNA and devise strategies for breeding valuable cats.
- Trait Charts: This slick-looking tool helps you visualize how traits combine to create mewtations and cattributes.
- KittyCalc. Just enter a dame, enter a sire and click the big green button to analyze your chances of breeding a valuable cat.
- Kitty Sales. This tool shows you the state of the CryptoKitty market. If you’re thinking of flipping an expensive CryptoKitty, use this site first to see where CryptoKitty prices are headed.
- LocalKitty. LocalKitty is very similar to CryptoKittyDex, only it has more filters and retrieves pricing information. It doesn’t display CryptoKitty DNA, though.
- CryptoKitty Data. CryptoKitty Data looks through your CryptoKitties wallet, identifies all your cats’ genes and populates all that information into a downloadable spreadsheet.
- Kitty Family. Kitty Family is a tool that enables breeders to see a Kitty’s entire family tree. It generates any cat’s entire ancestry, complete with images and cattributes.
- Kitty Explorer. Kitty Explorer displays everything you could want to know about each and every CryptoKitty.
Chrome browser extensions
- CKBox. CKBox automatically displays information when you visit the CryptoKitties site, and pulls up even more data when you click the icon.
- CryptoKitties Ultimate. CryptoKitties Ultimate pulls up cattributes, converts prices to USD and more. It’s a paid extension, but can be used for 5 minutes free of charge.
- CryptoKitties KittyExplorer.com Extension. This free plugin allows you to see the true value of CryptoKitties by analyzing a variety of different factors.
- CryptoKitties Tracker. This extension adds a number of useful filters to the CryptoKitties site. If you ever wanted to quickly pull up a list of cats with low cooldown rates, you may want to give CryptoKitties Tracker a spin.
- OpenSea. OpenSea is one of the biggest digital collectible marketplaces out there right now, and an entire section of the site is devoted to CryptoKitties.
- Rare Bits. CryptoKitties can also be bought on Rare Bits, an auction site for various types of collectibles.