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An army of digital furballs have laid siege to ethereum’s blockchain in the form of the game CryptoKitties. 

The feline frenzy is the brainchild of Axion Zen, a Canadian creative venture firm. Built on ethereum’s blockchain, the gaming platform is the first of its kind.  Kittens are displayed on the game’s online marketplace like a digitized menagerie, and players can choose to buy or sell them for ether. Users can even breed their CryptoKitties, resulting in endless (and sometimes lucrative) cosmetic and genetic variances.

Cute but Costly

The internet may love its cats, but not everyone is thrilled by the latest collector’s craze. It’s caused headaches for the ethereum ecosystem as a whole, as CryptoKitties enthusiasts have flooded the ethereum network with kitten-related transactions.

As of December 7th, over $8 million have been spent in ether on CryptoKitties since the platform’s launch on November 28th.  Some kitties have even sold for upwards of $100,000 for having rare traits that collectors value.

The demand for these pixilated fuzzballs is so high that, at peak hype, they accounted for an estimated 20% of the Ethereum mining community’s computations.  Miners are having to direct so much hashing power towards CryptoKitties that the number of unconfirmed ethereum transactions has increased more than 10 fold since the kittens entered the scene.  The rise in backlogged transactions has also correlated with a rise in transaction fees.

Network congestion has been so problematic that it’s affecting more than just ethereum users. One ICO, SophiaTX, had to delay its inaugural sale date from December 5th to December 7th to ensure that their investors would not experience any complications when purchasing tokens.

Reactions

Certain observers used this debacle as an opportunity to point out ethereum’s scalability problem. 

For example, Boris Kozak took the humorous development as proof for why Ethereum needs Raiden Network and its anticipated Casper proof of stake algorithm. A user on reddit echoed these sentiments, believing that the holes CryptoKitties poke in the ethereum network will likely lead the development team to work towards scaling solutions.

Ironically, ethereum co-founder and lead developer Vitalik Buterin came out in favor of the game. Even in light of the headaches it’s causing for his crypto’s network, he tweeted:

I actually like the digital cat games. They illustrate very well that the value of a blockchain extends far beyond applications that would literally get shut down by banks or governments if they did not use one.”

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