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CryptoPunks, CryptoCats, and CryptoKitties: Their Origins and Current Status?

If you know anything about non-fungible tokens (NFTs), you’ve probably heard of Matt Furie or the Bored Ape Yacht Club (BAYC) — those anthropomorphic digital apes owned by celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow and Eminem. Despite the fact that over $23 billion has been spent on NFTs since 2017, the vast majority of it has gone to a small number of well-known projects.

Larva Labs, a market pioneer, gave the intellectual property rights to its historic CryptoPunks and Meebits to Yuga Labs, the makers of the Bored Ape Yacht Club, establishing Yuga as a visible force in the “profile picture” (PFP) space.

What can we learn from the path of these NFTs, which were released in 2017, and how did we get here? To gain a deeper understanding of the phenomenon, we’ll look at three pioneers who helped define the era: CryptoPunks, CryptoCats, and CryptoKitties.

How CrytoPunks Begin?

The CryptoPunks project was begun in June 2017 by Larva Labs, a two-person team consisting of creative technologists Matt Hall and John Watkinson, and has been dubbed the “alpha and omega” of the crypto art movement by British auction house Christie’s.

CryptoPunks was published as an experiment to study the dynamics of scarcity and demand as an antithesis to the changeable and centralised nature of conventional collectibles like Pokémon cards. The final design of each 24×24 8-bit-style pixel art picture, which was inspired by the 1970s London punk scene and the dystopian grit of cyberpunk, was randomly created and unalterable after it went live on the Ethereum network, using a series of computational templates.

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Because of this unusual process, the collection’s variants are classified according to rarity, which is determined by features like as beards, caps, and pipes, as well as by kinds, the most uncommon of which are nine light-blue-skinned extraterrestrial Punks. There are 6,039 male Punks, 3,840 female Punks, and various pop culture stereotypes, including 88 green-skinned zombie Punks and 24 ape Punks, in addition to the ethereal aliens. There are additionally eight Punks that have no distinguishing traits and are often referred to as the Genesis Punks.

Each character, which can be viewed as individual pieces of generative art that exist as part of a larger conceptual work, has a profile page that details its specific qualities and transaction history, as demonstrated by CryptoPunk 8348, which is notable for being the only Punk with seven attributes.

Larva Labs gave out 9,000 Punks for free to everyone with an Ethereum wallet, less the cost of gas, which was 11 cents at the time. 1,000 Punks were preserved by Larva Labs. Despite being sluggish to gain popularity, the collection eventually sold out after being featured in media sites such as Mashable.

Importance of CryptoPunks

Each character, which can be viewed as individual pieces of generative art that exist as part of a larger conceptual work, has a profile page that details its specific qualities and transaction history, as demonstrated by CryptoPunk 8348, which is notable for being the only Punk with seven attributes.

Larva Labs gave out 9,000 Punks for free to everyone with an Ethereum wallet, less the cost of gas, which was 11 cents at the time. 1,000 Punks were preserved by Larva Labs. Despite being sluggish to gain popularity, the collection eventually sold out after being featured in media sites such as Mashable.

The changes were noteworthy at the time since they meant collectors would no longer be able to possess one-half of a Punk, or a percentage of the token, as was the case with most ERC-20 decentralised applications (dapps).

CryptoPunks, CryptoCats, and CryptoKitties

Finally, these contributions, together with previous collections such as Curio Cards, contributed to the development of the official non-fungible ERC-721 standard, which is utilised by NFT markets such as OpenSea.

Physical lithographs of CryptoPunks

Larva Labs also created 24 lithographs signed by co-founder Watkinson (done by hand with oil and water). Each of the 24 actual CryptoPunks came with a sealed envelope holding the private keys, which, when unsealed and opened, gave the buyer possession of the Punk. In July 2021, a Sotheby’s auction featured nine prints, five of which sold for between $197,170 and $295,755.

V1 and V2 Punks Controversy

A problem in the smart contract was discovered shortly after the CryptoPunks collection was introduced in 2017, allowing customers to have their ether refunded, leaving sellers without their NFT or the ETH they were expected to get for a sale. As a result, Larva Labs rewrote the contract and airdropped what are now known as the official V2 Punks.

However, due to Ethereum’s immutability, the original contract, despite its flaws, remained on the network. This allowed V1 Punks owners to use an ERC-721 wrapper to patch over the flaw and distribute a different collection from the updated V2 Punks.

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Despite pricing and background colour variations, determining which Punks are the “genuine” ones is a bit of a challenge because the community for each set of Punks claim their versions are legitimate. Both sides have fair points to make. Nonetheless, Larva Labs and auction houses see the V2 version as the “genuine” Punk.

The incident was also what prompted Larva Labs to submit a copyrights warning to OpenSea, forcing the marketplace to remove the V1 collection from its catalogue.

Despite Larva Labs’ original claims regarding the V1 collection’s inauthenticity, co-founder Hall eventually apologised to the community for selling V1 Punks, claiming it was a stupid move.

CryptoPunks on-chain Storage

Despite the fact that the photos were previously held off-chain, Larva Labs stated in August 2021 that it has placed all of the artwork for the existing CryptoPunks on the Ethereum blockchain in response to collector sentiments. While keeping data on-chain is famously expensive and hence uncommon, the move to Ethereum aided in the NFTs’ lifespan and durability, assuring the Punk community that their assets would not vanish from the internet.

How it’s going

The Larva Labs co-founders sold the intellectual property of CryptoPunks and an associated collection called Meebits to Yuga Labs in March 2022, citing their inherent passion and skills as creative technologies, as well as their belief that they were unsuited to best manage the growing demand for profile pictures.

Yuga Labs claimed it will change the intellectual property to provide proprietors of NFTs from both sets complete commercialization rights. This offers the proprietors of CryptoPunks and Meebits legal freedom to develop new goods, services, and projects. According to reports, Yuga Labs will not pursue any of Larva Labs’ past takedown demands for derivative projects like the V1 Punks.

2. How CryptoCats Begun

CryptoCats isn’t linked to CryptoPunks, although it was inspired by them and got Larva Labs’ approval thanks to a collaborative design of one black “Punk Kitten.”

Before the ERC-721 token standard, the online cats were established as an 8-bit fork of the Punk contract. The project’s Australian team, which includes Gendry Morales, Nas Munawar, and Jochy Reyes, released their first batch of 12 “original” cats on the Ethereum blockchain in November 2017, far ahead of CryptoKitties’ official debut.

The full series currently has 625 NFTs and was issued on a regular basis to meet market demand. Following the success of the first cats, the team increased production and released 177 additional cats in November 2017, branded the “Australia Blockchain Edition” and marked by green and gold bars.

CryptoPunks, CryptoCats, and CryptoKitties

To effectively control the increased attention, the Melbourne-based business later created 436 kittens for an initial mint price. However, until a rediscovery of the project on the CryptoPunks Discord channel in March 2021, when approximately $100,000 worth of volume came into the collection, leaving only one surviving Cat (#414) locked in the contract, a substantial portion of that last “December edition” remained unsold.

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The CryptoCats team created an official ERC721 Wrapper called the CryptoCat WCCAT token and introduced Wrapped CryptoCats Official on OpenSea in response to the renewed interest and to secure a stake in royalties from secondary sales, which weren’t included in the original contract. Cat 14 was the first NFT to sell for 8 ETH.

How it’s going

In March 2021, the CryptoCats team hosted a print signing event that included the distribution of 625 tokens. That was a tangible piece of artwork that displayed all of the CryptoCat NFTs made in honour of the CryptoCat adventure.

The CryptoCat team is still active through collaborations with ABXY Labs as of this writing in March 2022, and is seeking to further incorporate NFTs into the gaming sector. More information about this is likely to be shared on the team’s Discord chat app and on Twitter.

  1. How CryptoKitties started

Axion Labs introduced CryptoKitties shortly after CryptoCats was released. Those tokens were introduced in October 2017 and quickly became the next big thing in the NFT world.

The collection, which was introduced in collaboration with Dapper Labs the following month, contained a unique breeding function that allowed holders to produce totally new CryptoKitty NFTs.

Holders can breed (combine) any two NFTs using a genetic algorithm to generate kids with their own set of unique qualities dictated by the smart contract’s immutable genotypes.

Significance of CryptoKitties

Soon after the NFTs went live, the widespread interest in breeding prompted CryptoKitties to clog the Ethereum network, preventing other Ethereum-based services from working smoothly and raising gas fees to absurdly high levels.

CryptoKitties stated in May 2020 that it will migrate to a new, native blockchain named Flow in response to high gas prices and long processing times caused by the constantly proliferating digital kitties.

CryptoPunks, CryptoCats, and CryptoKitties

Several new features were added to the CryptoKitties game as a result of the transfer, including the following:

  • 3D designs and animations.
  • Greater scalability.
  • A proof-of-stake consensus approach allows for a free-to-play paradigm.
  • Cross-game integration utilizing CryptoKitties in other games on Flow.

Collaborations and Collectibles

CryptoKitties, in conjunction with breeding, aided in the development of new NFT categories known as Crypto Collectibles, which are unique and limited edition collaboration content from artists and companies. Designs by British rock band Muse and interpretations by Chinese artist Momo Wang, whose limited-edition CryptoKitties debuted on the Nifty Gateway store, are two examples.

How it’s going

CryptoKitties’ scalability and reach have been aided by a $11 million investment, the assistance of Warner Music Group and Ubisoft, and the switch to the Flow blockchain.

The expansion of CryptoKitty continues, with the total volume of sales standing at approximately 67,630 ETH, or $173 million, as of March 2022, while Dapper Labs continues to expand its Flow network through collaborations with the National Basketball Association and Animoca Brands.

What We Learned

Overall, despite the fact that the exponential expansion of these collections of NFTs resulted in certain problems and controversy, they all managed to achieve scalability, efficiency, and acceptance.

For example, while being brilliant creators, the founders of Larva Labs recognised they weren’t the greatest stewards of an image that came to symbolise people’s online identities, and Yuga Labs came up with its own solution and purchased CryptoPunk’s intellectual property.

Similarly, although the novelty of mating with CryptoKitties caused network congestion and high gas prices, the move to the Flow blockchain offered a foundation to let the NFTs survive.

While CryptoCats had humble origins, its rediscovery is another another example of how a relatively obscure collection may suddenly rise to notoriety and secure its place in digital artwork history without the need for a multimillion-dollar marketing effort.

Just as these famous collections characterised the early age of NFTs, a new generation of disruptive, unique asset collections is expected to emerge soon, pushing the frontiers of this burgeoning crypto industry even further.

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