CryptoKitties and the New Ludic Economy: How Blockchain Introduces Value, Ownership, and Scarcity in Digital Gaming

Serada, Alesja; Sihvonen, Tanja; Harviainen, J. Tuomas
Games and Culture

This article analyzes specific characteristics of value created through digital scarcity and blockchain-proven ownership in cryptogames. Our object of study is CryptoKitties, the first instance of a blockchain-based game that has garnered media recognition and financial interest. The objective of this article is to demonstrate the limits of scarcity in value construction for owners of CryptoKitties tokens, manifested as breedable virtual cats. Our work extends the trends set out by earlier cryptocurrency studies from the perspective of cultural studies. For the purpose of this article, we rely on open blockchain analytics such as DappRadar and Etherscan, as well as player-created analytics, backed by a one-year-long participant observation period in the said game for research material. Combining theoretical cryptocurrency and Bitcoin studies, open data analysis, and virtual ethnography enables a grounded discussion on blockchain-based game design and play.