This is a guest post by freelance journalist and writer Matthew North. You can follow Matthew on Twitter or on his Fintech website.

CryptoKitties Guide

So, you caught wind of the fact that there’s a brand new cryptocurrency fad, and now you want in.

This guide is exactly what you have been looking for, as we’ll explain the how-to with getting started with CryptoKitties, a game that has gained massive popularity and some people are even making a fair chunk of change raising virtual cats.

What is CryptoKitties?

As the name might suggest, CryptoKitties is a virtual pet game, which is designed to trade virtual goods. CryptoKitties is based on the Ethereum blockchain, and lets you trade and breed virtual kittens. The game has no discernable “goal”—you simply buy an online kitten, and then it will be yours forever due to the immutable nature of the blockchain.

But kittens come with various features that are called traits, and some of these traits are worth more than others. Understandably, this leads a good chunk of the user base to attempt to breed these rare cats, not just because they’re attractive and cute, but also because they can fetch for thousands of dollars each.

The market for CryptoKitties might be larger than you think, as the total sale for these kittens is around $3 million dollars, impressive given that the platform was launched in December of last year.

Before we go on, understand that CryptoKitties requires ether to operate, which is based on Ethereum. Ethereum can be converted back into fait dollars, meaning it can get expensive pretty quickly. On the other hand, Ethereum can also be a good investment if you hold on to your kittens.

CryptoKitties has also been accused of being a pyramid scheme, with its earliest adopters buying rare kittens for less money that later members were able to. Finally, the game has made the news for being notorious in hogging Ethereum’s resources. If Cryptokitties keeps being a problem, then it won’t be surprising if the platform gets shut down.

Buy some Ether for your CryptoKitties

To get started, the first step is to buy ether and place it in your digital wallet. One service is called Metalmark. MetaMask is favoured as it’s considered to be one of the easiest to use wallets out there, and it also has a browser extension for chrome. This lets it interact effortlessly with decentralized applications, such as CryptoKitties.

Once you’ve bought some Ether, install MetaMask and then setup your wallet ID. Begin by transferring some of that ether to your wallet. Once your wallet has ether in it, go to the CryptoKitties website and create an account.

Provided that MetaMask is not blocked by the Ethereum main network, you’ll have access to all the digital kittens that you could desire. You can buy, sell, and breed them right on the CryptoKitties website.

It should be noted that in order to perform any action on the Ethereum network, you’ll have to buy more Ethereum to pay the fees that come with the transactions, and more Ethereum for a transaction to go through. So always keep a little more in your wallet than you think you’ll need.

Buy some kitties

Once your wallet works and is playing nicely with the rest of the network, you can then go ahead and buy a kitten.

You might think at this point: “why am I doing this?” and there a few good reasons for and against spending time on the platform.

For starters, new players to the game might find CryptoKitties to be boring and an inordinate waste of time. You can’t interact with your kitten like feeding them or playing with them, and there is nothing else to do except to buy and sell them like any other asset that rests on the blockchain. You can only participate in the CryptoKitties economy, which is called siring in the game.

However, there the game does get interesting later on. You get to figure out the rare traits of the kitten, and how to find them. There are thousands of different kittens in the game, but from those thousands, there are only 82 maincoon kitties, and 155 jaguar kitties, putting those kitties at a premium price above all other breeds.

With the exception of owning a rare digital kitty, the game gets exciting once you go through the prices of those kittens. Some of the most expensive can go for hundreds of ETH, which is up to $100,000, while others can easily climb into the millions of dollars. In this way, CryptoKitties is a bit like a lottery – or gambling; if you manage to breed two common types of kitties together and you get a rare kitty, you could sell it off for a thick stack of cash.

But to get started, the only thing you need to do is to buy a kitty, or two kitties to get the ball rolling. With two kitties at your disposal, you can then proceed to breed, or sire them. Siring your kitties is easy to do: go to the marketplace and pick a kitty you want, the click Buy now. You’ll get a notification from your MetaMask wallet asking for you to confirm the trade, then hit confirmed.

The best kitties to buy

Like in the real world, CryptoKitties come in all different shapes sizes, with different attributes. Besides these traits, and each kitty has around 12 of them, there are also things called the generation number and cool downs to watch out for.

A generation number shows how many generations a kitty is removed from the “gen 0” kitties, which are introduced to the game every 15-20 minutes. If one Gen 0 kitty breeds another Gen 0 kitty, then its litter will be Gen 1. If a Gen 1 kitty breeds with a Gen 5 kitty, then the litter will be Gen 6. The point is that the higher the generation number is, the less value the kitty will have over the long-term.

Something also needs to be said about a Kitten’s cool down number, which is very important for both users and investors of Cryptokitties. The cool down ranges from fast to catatonic, and this shows you the length of time a kitty needs before it’s able to give birth. Clearly, kitties that can breed faster will have more value in the market. The catch however, is that each time a kitty breeds, the cool down gets a bit worse.

To put this into practice, a Gen 20 kitty with a slow 2-4 day cool down isn’t very valuable unless it also has some great traits. Conversely, a Gen 1 kitty with a fast cool down and jaguar or chateaux traits is the rarest of value, thus being far more expensive. The upside of this kitty is that you can breed even more kitties with it, creating a great litter of more valuable kitties.

With this in perspective, it would be a good idea to start with a cheap kitty just to see how all the features interact with each other. Anything between a Gen 8-14 will do to begin with – just ensure the cool down isn’t too high.

So what’s the secret to get rare kitties?

Actually, there is no secret to get rare kitties. If it were true, then everyone would have them and it would flood the market, defeating the point of having rare kitties in the first place. The actual algorithm that creates rare kitties is kept as a company secret, with Axiom Zen, the platform’s developer banning those who know its secrets.

However, there are a few steps you can take to get a better feel of this market and hopefully a head start over the other players.

First of all, you need to understand that a kitty’s genetic potential comes from a 256-bit number called a hash, and that particular traits correspond to certain digits of that number. For example, the mainecoon cat’s gene will always be number 5. The way that those genes are transferred from the parents to the offspring is kept as a secret, but it is similar to how it works in real-world biology; there’s always a chance that a kitten will inherit characteristics from its mom and dad, but this doesn’t always happen.

The opposite also applies: a kitten can get a new trait that neither the mom or dad cat have. And finally, some traits combine into other traits, so when a kitty with blue eyes breeds with a kitty with green eyes, it might give birth to a brown-eyed kitty out of sheer luck.

Figuring all the nuances of the platform out is tough work, but we’re sure that someone will eventually solve the algorithm sooner or later. But for now, the best thing to do is give the platform a try and breed your kitties as often as possible – while crossing your fingers.

You still need a strategy though, which is where the Cryptokitties comes in, and it can help you keep track of the different traits and how rare they are. So, if someone puts up their kitty for sale and claims that it is super rare, you can reference the Cryptokitties and see whether that’s actually true.

Finally, you should know that there is no fixed algorithm of rarity and that the developers for the game don’t get to decide what cats are more expensive than others. Instead, the marketplace has an economy of its own, and you’ll see that certain traits are covered more in depth than others.

The above should be more than enough for getting you started with Cryptokitties. The only other piece of advice we have is that you should check the dollar value before buying anything on the market. Working with ether can be confusing, especially due to the market’s wild volatility. Plus, spending ether can trick you into believing you are playing with house money, making it very easy to spend hundreds of dollars buying kittens.

This is a guest post by freelance journalist and writer Matthew North. You can follow Matthew on Twitter or on his Fintech website.