Thursday, March 21, 2019

"Who owns IP on the blockchain? CryptoKitties give glimpse into less-cute crypto concerns"

I had asked that people not mention CryptoKitties in my presence as I am still in mourning* but they do anyway.
From Pitchbook, at SXSW last week:
AUSTIN—When cryptocurrency temporarily gained mainstream media coverage in December 2017 and culminated with the infamous crypto crash of January 2018, there were many digital casualties as public interest dried up. However, CryptoKitties, the collectible cat avatar game that stole both hearts and Ethereum network bandwidth, lives on under ownership of VC-backed Dapper Labs, which was spun out of Axiom Zen.

At SXSW on Thursday, executives at the Vancouver, BC-based company provided their viewpoints regarding the past and future of blockchain-based collectible games in the context of the greater societal adoption of blockchain technology. CryptoKitties co-founder Dieter Shirley and founding member Kim Cope led the hour-long session.

CryptoKitties itself isn't so much an elaborate "game" as it is a visual representation of data stored on the Ethereum blockchain. "Cats" are actually strings of data that the CryptoKitties platform interprets and presents visually with the corresponding proprietary cat artwork. The underlying data can be manipulated to form new, unique strings of data in a process known as "breeding," leading to about 4 billion possible unique variations of cats. To keep it safe for work, there's no official artwork depicting the cats breeding.  
CryptoKitties search dashboard
 Each cat is unique, as shown in the CryptoKitties search dashboard.
This simple concept and corresponding visual representation are perhaps what's needed at this stage of blockchain technology's societal adoption. Cope compared it to the software legends of yesteryear: "Consider Minesweeper. It was for getting people to learn how to use mice. Hearts was for learning networking between players. CryptoKitties was the first experience for people to understand blockchain."

Shirley insisted that players truly own their cats independent of the company, which he claims is one of the benefits of blockchain. To illustrate this technological advantage, Shirley took jabs at Twitter to reference the idea of a centralized, non-blockchain based company taking advantage of ownership of digital assets.

"Twitter rose to prominence through third-party Twitter apps that used their API," Shirley claimed. "Then suddenly boom, Twitter shut it all down, and now it's nearly impossible to make money that way."

On the other hand, Shirley noted, "When you play a traditional game, you are only temporarily receiving that time from the software. With CryptoKitties, you own [the cats]. We can't change that. Even if our company goes away, your kitties are immortal."
Intellectual property and blockchain
Shirley's statement regarding ownership isn't entirely true at face value, however. As mentioned above, the underlying data is owned by the player as that data is stored on the Ethereum blockchain and can only be accessed using the player's private key. It's safely the player's property as a result, and this is rhetorically acknowledged by the CryptoKitties terms of service....MORE
*CryptoKitty Trading Volume Collapses: Andreessen, Union Square and Climateer Hurt Worst
April 2018
This Might Be Important: "New technology could wean the battery world off cobalt"
I've mentioned our general policy on publishing battery breakthroughs: Don't.
There are so many announcements of this material or that manufacturing process or this chemistry or that theoretical approach that if we posted them there would be no room for CryptoKitties (below).

April 2018
"How we made $100K trading CryptoKitties"
Not us, we're HODLers, this guy:... 

March 2018
Matt Levine's Meow Culpa—CryptoKitties, An Exegesis
Following up on Thursday's "Matt Levine Writes About CryptoKitties..."
FT Alphaville's Matthew Klein directs our attention to Mr. Levine's Friday Bloomberg View column....

March 2018
Matt Levine Writes About CryptoKitties ("this column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners").
While we haven't heard Mr. Bloomberg explicitly state that he is in favor of CryptoKitties, it is difficult to see how he could argue with the comfort they bring as an antidote to the hurley-burley of daily life.*
Not to mention the "CryptoKitties as an asset class" angle....

*You can see the evolution of our thinking from November 2017's "Kittens On the Blockchain Is NOT the Future I Was Promised" to March 7's "The Blockchain Is Just Another Way To Make Art All About Money":

At least I'll always have my CryptoKitties. Besides being cute as can be, I was told:
CryptoKitties Sales Hit $12 Million, Could be Ethereum’s Killer App After Al
Through March 11's "Elaine Thinks About Signaling and Destroys My CryptoKitties Dreams":
Her piece was written a couple weeks ago i.e. at least two cryptocurrency price tumbles ago.
Think of a waveform, but not the smooth, soothing shape of a sinusoid. Rather think of a faux quasi-periodicity with just enough regularity to trigger a mirage of pattern recognition, just enough to suck you in, across the event horizon of speculation into the madness of Hunter S Thompson:...
"Still humping the American Dream, that vision of the Big Winner somehow emerging from the last minute pre—dawn chaos of a stale Vegas casino. Big strike in Silver City. Beat the dealer and go home rich. Why not? I stopped at the Money Wheel and dropped a dollar on Thomas Jefferson—a $2 bill, the straight Freak ticket, thinking as always that some idle instinct bet might carry the whole thing off. But no. Just another two bucks down the tube. You bastards! No. Calm down. Learn to enjoy losing.... 
 -Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Excuse me, I have to take a moment