The blockchain-based game that caused the Ethereum network to grind to halt in December last year could be about to draw in a lot more users. This is because CryptoKitties is getting launched as a Chinese-language iOS application. The mobile edition is expected to be available on February 16 in Greater China and Singapore. The game’s production studio, Axiom Zen, are unsure how successful the new version will be, more so because they were in no way expecting the game to reach the popularity it did the first time around. Benny Giang, the game’s co-founder, spoke to Fortune about his project’s viral success last year:
“We did some models and we some made spreadsheets and had everyone take a guess at how many users we’d see. We ended up hitting every one of those numbers within the first three days.”
Since the game was so successful, the influx of transactions on the Ethereum blockchain actually clogged the network. At the height of CryptoKitty mania, digital felines accounted for close to 30% of all transactions on Ethereum. This caused delays and many transactions to remain unprocessed. This culminated in a backlog of around 30,000 pending transactions.
This time around, the damage to the Ethereum network could be even more severe. In China, mobile gaming is big business. It’s not uncommon for top mobile games to receive millions of players every day. Giang admits that Ethereum probably isn’t ready to handle that. Based on last December’s evidence, he’s almost certainly correct. Other factors that point to a further Ethereum meltdown are the estimated number of mobile gamers in China – 520 million – and the fact that the mobile version will be optimised for Chinese gamers to “pick up and play”. Previously, users would have to play in English and were required to use a VPN to get around China’s “Great Firewall”. The new iOS game will get around this by using a built-in extension.
Despite Giang being sceptical about the game’s potential to grind Ethereum to a halt in the coming weeks, the studio has taken some precautions. For one, they have decided to launch on Apple products only for now. Android devices are much more popular in the region targeted for the first mobile version of CryptoKitties so the decision was made to limit the potential market in this way.
As well as targeting new players, there has been an effort made to excite the estimated 250,000 existing players of the game. The new version, being launched at Chinese New Year, will feature a new cast of New Year-themed cats. In addition, every new feline has been given a Chinese-back story and three incredibly rare, holiday-themed “Fancy Cats” will also be included.
One of the game’s co-founders, Mack Flavelle, spoke to Fortune of the decision to launch the new mobile game in the Far East:
“We’re targeting China, Singapore and other Asian countries because to be honest, we think they’ll love the kitties. The area has a sophisticated and passionate crypto community … plus a long time appreciation for cute things.”
It’s unclear for now whether CryptoKitties will garner the same appeal the second time around and once again force the Ethereum blockchain to grind to a halt, overwhelmed by unique digital cats, or if the game will be a complete flop. Judging by the irrationality of the cryptocurrency market, we’re guessing it’ll be the former. Flavelle summed up the situation for CryptoKitties and cryptocurrency itself (albeit inadvertently):
“The future is deeply exciting and completely impossible to predict.”