Interview: CryptoKitties on blockchain adoption and UX

In our first interview for the CoinMarketCap blog, we found the most well-known viral game on the blockchain, CryptoKitties. An icon in itself, it has gone from a cute collectible game to a global symbol of positive change, involved in all kinds of fundraising efforts, from WikiLeaks to saving turtles to helping children’s hospitals. The brand is also a purveyor of art, having been auctioned as such, bringing greater awareness and appreciation for creativity on the blockchain.

We managed to catch Benny Giang, co-founder of CryptoKitties, for a quick interview as he gets ready to zip off to Asia for a tour announcing the new launch of the CryptoKitties Android app.


Tell us about CryptoKitties in one sentence, for those who don’t already know.

CryptoKitties are collectable, adorable, and breedable digital cats on the blockchain.

What does the behind-the-scenes at CryptoKitties look like? How does a day in the life of Benny feel?

As cliche as it is, everyday is quite different. There’s usually a mix of meetings to discuss external partnerships, marketing campaigns, and product roadmap updates. We use the agile methodology for product management so we often do sprint planning on Tuesdays as a team.

I work closely with the product team that is hoping to solve the accessibility problem for blockchain games. In this instance, it’s the Android team and there are a lot of day-to-day blockers that need to be resolved. I spend ⅓ of my time on partnerships educating the market on what blockchain technology is and how we can collaborate with their innovation teams. Everything else is spent on thinking about Asia as the most immediate launch targets for CryptoKitties.

It’s interesting that you mention accessibility problems. Strategically, is that the important thing for CryptoKitties right now? What else?

Yes, user experience (UX) is by far the top problem. Solving this will not only allow for the entire industry to open up to a wider audience but allow for greater consumer adoption.  Deepening gameplay is something we are actively working on as well, as this will increase engagement with the game. Lastly, Kittyverse (the extended realm of CryptoKitties in which our incredible community members develop third party apps and features) and the NIFTY license are turning CryptoKitties into a platform for 3rd party developers to build on top of and contribute to the whole experience.

What are some of the objections that people have leveled against CryptoKitties recently and how do you handle them?

One thing that we get asked a lot is about our choice of blockchain. Pretty much, we crashed the Ethereum network, so why are we still on Ethereum? Why not EOS? Just to answer this question, for any blockchain that is out there, we take into consideration these 5 factors:

Brand
Community
Developer tools
Technical

Shipping

By far Ethereum still wins on all of those factors. There isn’t anything live on mainnet that has come close to achieving such high ranks on all of those factors. When that time comes, and there are other great blockchains out there, we will consider building new consumer experiences on top of it.

Another one is about user activity. Numbers are down in general based on the trend of crypto prices being flat. The truth is that the UX problem persists and plays a big factor in retention. We aren’t willing to dish out capital for growth efforts when we know that the funnel conversions are lower than the ideal. Current user base is strong, however, and our ETH revenue remains relatively the same.

Distribution is another huge issue and we’re solving that by working with HTC, which we’ve just announced, and other OEMs in the near future. Our Android app launching in Asia will also help with growth.

Is there anything about CryptoKitties that you wished people knew more about?

How much time we spend listening, working, and shipping new features based on community feedback. The amount of consideration and effort that each team member puts into building new features is mind-boggling. Most of the time what we do sets the standard for other similar games. We will continue to do that by listening to all our players for feedback to improve.

Why do you think blockchain is important for the world? What’s your grand vision of the world with blockchain in it?

Like the internet, blockchain is a fundamental technology, that allows for items and currencies in the digital world to have true value. In ways, as humans grown closer to hierarchy and governments, it’s been difficult to scale trust at the peer-to-peer level without a company or a set of people watching over you.

Blockchain is highly complementary to the internet and it offers a store of value on things we’ve thought previously as digitally free. The grand vision is more similar to Ready Player One, the Oasis, where the digital world and the physical world is a blended reality: A world where people who live in small cages in Hong Kong can build wealth through ownership of digital assets. Where the many unbankable families around the world are able to send and receive money securely and fast.

It will just make the world a more efficient and happy place.

How should we increase blockchain adoption? CryptoKitties obviously plays a big role in that, so we’re sure you have some unique perspectives on this.

Think about every step of the consumer funnel. All the way from exposure, interest, purchase, education, and evangelism. Unlike the e-commerce industry where there were many years of innovation from players like Amazon, purchasing digital assets is going to be one of the biggest challenges because of the decentralized nature of it.

There are way too many friction points that lead to player drop off. To help increase this, communities around Ethereum should work to make tools and knowledge more accessible. Services built around hi-touch smart contract building will becoming increasingly useful. Looking from the other lens, consumers need a way to find a reason why they should buy this image of a cat. They need to be educated and experience for the first time what it’s like own a digital asset. Getting enough people to jump through that hoop is what we’re trying to achieve.

Which part of the world do you see the most interest in blockchain and crypto? Why do you think that is?

Crypto in Asia is huge. I think it started off with a lot of speculation but now developer communities are forming really fast. North America is also becoming a big player in the crypto space. I think it has to do with the ease of access to crypto exchanges and the deep interest in fintech. For digital assets such as CryptoKitties, there’s actually quite a few in Eastern Europe and in the US. I think it has to do with countries having large gaming communities.

What are your plans for the next year?

Stay tuned, there are a lot of new products and games we are developing. There are lots of exciting partnerships that we haven’t announced. 2019 will be a big year for blockchain gaming!