Blockchain

‘China’s Google’ jumps on the blockchain-based game bandwagon with digital pooches

The value of the blockchain-based digital pets goes up and down depending on the market – but they are not virtual currencies themselves

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 February, 2018, 7:01pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 February, 2018, 12:14pm

Baidu, known as “China’s Google”, has become the latest Chinese tech company to jump on the blockchain-enabled digital pet bandwagon.

The Beijing-based operator of China’s largest online search engine unveiled a service where users can adopt, raise and trade digital pet dogs. The service, set to be unveiled ahead of the Year of Dog in China, is Baidu’s latest move in exploring the application of blockchain technology. In January, the company launched a blockchain platform to perform and trace transactions in applications such as insurance management and financial auditing.

Dubbed “Laici Gou” in Chinese, which has a similar pronunciation to “Let’s Go”, the website for the new blockchain-enabled game lists different kinds of digital puppies with different “designs” and price-levels, each one ranked by their scarcity.

Baidu said in a statement that its digital dog product is currently under internal test. The company also reportedly has plans for a CryptoKitties-style game for China.

Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies such as Ethereum have jumped in value, boosting the popularity of products built by blockchain, the digital ledger technology underpinning all virtual currencies.

Canadian start-up Axiom Zen claimed to have launched the world’s first blockchain-based game, CryptoKitties, last November, where users could breed and trade digital kittens using Ethereum-based smart contracts.

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Registered Baidu users will be able to adopt their first digital dog for free and receive 1,000 complimentary points for use on the Baidu marketplace, which can be used to trade pets with other digital dog owners. The scarcest dog on the platform is priced at 100 million points.

After public launch, users will be able to earn points to purchase such digital dogs when using products such as Baidu Wallet. “The points can only be used to purchase Baidu’s digital dogs and have no other functions,” Baidu said in the statement.

Earlier last month, Hangzhou-based NetEase introduced a digital cat, also based on blockchain technology, dubbed “fortune cat”. The company didn’t immediately respond to questions on the status of the game following local media reports it had been shelved.

In the case of CryptoKitties, each one is unique and ownership is validated via a smart contract on the Ethereum blockchain. Their value can go up or down depending on the market – but they are not virtual currencies themselves.

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“The game is live right now. We have about 250,000 players,” said CryptoKitties’ developer and Axiom Zen co-founder Benny Giang. “The third biggest country is China, including Greater China region [in terms of players].”

The CryptoKitties can be bred and interact with owners, according to Giang, who added that there are plans to launch this month a mobile version for the Greater China region on Apple’s iOS.

“We have special kitties for Chinese New Year,” said Giang. “We are going to translate the game in traditional and simplified Chinese. The cats will have special bios in Chinese.”

Emil Chan, vice-president of the Hong Kong Blockchain Society, said the value of these digital kittens could go to zero and the game may not be sustainable in the long term. “It is just like securities trading or horse racing. Only 1 out of 100 can survive … with or without blockchain,” said Chan.

“At the moment, everything that carries the name ‘crypto’ will catch eyeballs.”