$10M worth of virtual kittens are taking down blockchain network Ethereum

9 months ago

The Ethereum blockchain network recently experienced major slowdown in its transaction processing. The culprit behind these issues? Kittens.

CryptoKitties, a virtual kitten trading game that is based on Ethereum, has gone viral, and it’s causing some problems for Ethereum. In the game, players collect, breed, and trade using Ether, a digital currency used for payments on the Ethereum platform. Think Pokémon, but the cats aren’t fighting, and it costs real money to get ahold of the rare ones.

So many people have taken to the CryptoKitties games that Ethereum is slowing down in its processing of transactions. In a Medium post, CryptoKitties acknowledged the network slowdown, and the game creators announced that they were raising prices on the digital cat birthing process to stem the demand and fight the lag.

SEE: The executive’s guide to implementing blockchain technology

As noted in a Wall Street Journal report, this issue is raising questions over whether or not blockchain technology is ready for primetime use in the enterprise.

At a recent emerging technologies conference hosted by Forrester Research, Josh Deems, assistant vice president of State Street Corp.’s Emerging Technologies Center, spoke on the scalability issues that seem present in some blockchain platforms.

“CryptoKitties highlights a lot of the issues we’re running into with blockchain systems today,” Deems said at the conference. “The transaction speed of Ethereum can’t handle the amount of demand to trade digital Beanie Babies, so how are we going to manage it to trade … with some of the major financial players in the world?”

A lot of real money is being spent on the game. At the time of this writing, $10,406,384.60 has been spent in total, according to kittysales.co, which tracks sales on CryptoKitties. Multiple digital cats have also been sold for more than $100,000 a piece in individual transactions.

This isn’t the first time that virtual cat collecting has garnered headlines, though. Popular app Neko Atsume attracted fans around the world, even when it was only available in Japanese. Now it is available in English and, while free, offers in-game purchases for toys to attract more virtual cats.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. A game called CryptoKitties, which allows for the trading of virtual cats for cryptocurrency, has become so popular that it is slowing down the Ethereum blockchain network it is based on.
  2. The network slowdown has caused some experts to share concern over whether or not blockchain technologies are scalable enough to be used in real enterprise contexts.
  3. More than $10 million has been spent in the game, with some cats selling for more than $110,000 a piece.

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Image: iStockphoto/Blackzheep

Richard J. Daniels