What Are CryptoKitties? Latest Craze Involves Virtual Cats Selling For $100,000 on Ethereum Blockchain

bitcoin
A visual representation of the digital cryptocurrency, bitcoin on October 24, 2017 in London, England. Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

As if 2017 hasn't been weird enough, now we have CryptoKitties. It's a game that involves digital kitties, cryptocurrency and millions of dollars. It's built off the Ethereum blockchain platform, and it's a craze sweeping the internet.

The virtual cats are cute, sure, but—somehow—can also prove incredibly valuable (at least for now). CNBC, citing research from developer Niel de la Rouviere, reported this week that folks have spent the equivalent of $6.7 million on the digital cats, with one particular kitty auctioning for a preposterous $114,481.59. 

The virtual cats are breedable and carry a distinct genome. Each one has a unique DNA and comes with different attributes, which means there are some 4 billion possible cats that can be bred. They're all pretty cute and can pass on traits such as having striped fur, spots or a certain eye color. 

Those cats can then can be bought and sold at auction for a certain amount of Ether, the cryptocurrency, similar to bitcoin, that fuels the Ethereum network. The average price is reportedly about $25 (in Ether), but a number of CrytoKitties have sold for tens of thousands of dollars. 

It's all kind of odd. But the game has become so popular it has overwhelmed the Ethereum network. TechCruch reported this week that CryptoKitties accounted for up to 15 percent of the Ethereum network's traffic.

"CryptoKitties has become so popular that it's taking up a significant amount of available space for transactions on the Ethereum platform," Garrick Hileman, from the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, told the BBC this week. "Some people are concerned that a frivolous game is now going to be crowding out more serious, significant-seeming business uses."

Obviously he's not a cat person.