Cryptocurrencies are known for their volatility, but the recent failure of Squid Game tokens reminded us of a serious problem in the cryptocurrency community: what happens when a cryptocurrency dies?
How dead cryptocurrencies appear
Creating your own fiat currency is almost impossible, but when it comes to cryptocurrencies, the barrier to entry is much lower – just look at the number of tokens on the market. Since 2017, the number of initial coin offerings (ICOs, initial coin offerings) has been growing, and as of this writing, more than 8,000 cryptocurrencies are mentioned on CoinMarketCap.
For various reasons, not all of them are traded. The cryptocurrency market is cluttered with so-called “deadcoins,” tokens that have failed and are no longer active. There are even special platforms for documenting which cryptocurrencies have failed.
The website Coinopsy allows users to mark “dead coins” and then checks the data submitted. Its staff found that the number of “dead coins” has increased by 35% since 2020, and today there are as many as 2,311.
The rise of “dead coins” has been compared to the dot-com bubble of the late 1990s, when investors inflated stock prices of Internet companies before the bubble burst, creating a bear market. A similar bubble burst is happening now with cryptocurrencies. Some 69% of the 8,000 currencies listed on CoinMarketCap are worth less than $1, many of which have collapsed and no one wants them.
Why cryptocurrencies are dying
Fraud, unfortunately, is one of the main causes of “dead coins. Fraudsters lure investors with the promise of high returns and then cash out as soon as the price goes up. Satis Group analysts in 2018 found that 80% of ICOs in 2017 were actually fraudulent projects.
Another cause of “dead coins” is hackers who identify blockchain flaws and profit from them. Recently, hackers have been using flash loans to manipulate prices and even steal from cryptocurrencies. This has led to a collapse in prices and caused many failed cryptocurrencies to crash in 2021.
Even if a project has good intentions, it can still join the ranks of failed tokens. “Most projects start with the dream of taking over the world and creating large-scale products for a huge audience,” says Luis Carranza, cryptocurrency expert and founder of the NFT platform Fayre.
He suggests that the tokens are failing for two reasons: launch errors and problems with the cryptocurrency itself.
“Some fail because of the standard problems that many traditional startups face, including market fit issues, lack of cash, inability to ‘turn around’ properly, and marketing and user attraction/retention issues,” he added.
Others, according to Carranza, fail because of specific problems associated with cryptocurrencies, such as poor “tokenomics” (the characteristics of cryptocurrency supply and demand, a kind of business plan for the token – Ed. note). “This can happen when a token is structured in such a way that it has low liquidity, short vesting cycles and shortsighted planning,” he explained.
CoinMarketCap estimates that six out of ten low-volume tokens are no longer supported by their developers.
The number of “dead coins” is constantly growing. Which ones were the most prominent in 2021? We gave five examples of “dead” tokens whose prices dropped sharply this year.
The Squid Game
Of all the “dead coins” of 2021, Squid Game is the most infamous. The South Korean series on Netflix was the inspiration for a token that launched in late October and stole millions of dollars from users. The goal of the project was to use tokens in a yet-to-be-launched play-to-earn game. The most troubling signal was that the tokens could not be sold once purchased.
The token debuted on the market at $0.04 on Oct. 27 and had risen to $35 by Oct. 31. After attracting more investors, the token soared to a peak of $2,856 on Nov. 1 before falling to $0.002 that same day, according to CoinMarketCap. The founders cashed out, leaving other investors desperate.
This type of scam is called “rug pulling,” and it thrives on decentralized exchanges because it allows users to place tokens for free without any audit. The key feature of such a scam is a sharp jump in price within 24 hours, as it exploits the interest of people who do not want to stay away from a popular asset.
The developers of the Squid Game token cashed in at the peak price and made $3.7 million, according to the BscScan transaction. Some investors have lost thousands of dollars on the scheme: one investor told CNBC that he invested $28,000 of his savings in the token and lost it all.
“When it comes to new cryptocurrency ‘projects,’ you have to understand that many of them are nothing but scams. Many projects have no team, no technology, no value – it’s just a group of people who want to create hype around a brand and get some money,” commented Charlie Barton, an investment specialist at UK financial platform Finder.
This year the price of Bogged Finance (BOG) token fell almost 100% – in this case the collapse was not caused by the founders’ bad intentions, but by a malicious attack.
Bogged Finance is a decentralized finance (DeFi) package for the Binance smart-chain that aims to integrate tools commonly used on centralized exchanges. These tools run on the BOG token.
Already in May Bogged Finance was on a bearish trend, dropping from $22.54 on May 12 to $9.26 on May 21. On May 22, BOG came under attack and lost almost all of its value, plummeting from $8.39 to a low of $0.0001.
An unknown hacker emptied $3 million of BOG’s $6 million in liquidity using instant loans. The attacker used these loans to manipulate a weakness in the smart contract, resulting in more than 15 million BOG tokens being mined. The attack was liquidated within 45 seconds, but it was too late.
Bogged Finance relaunched, dumping tokens back to the original owners, and burned over 7.5 million BOG in an attempt to recover some of the value of the token. A month later, BOG did rise to the $0.9 mark, but it went no further than the $1 price.
Bogged Finance was not alone: other cryptocurrencies were also attacked with instant loans this year. The price of Pancake Bunny (BUNNY) fell from $545.82 to $3.12 in 2021 – down 175% – due to such manipulation.
In May, a hacker borrowed a large number of Binance Coin (BNB) tokens from Pancake Swap and used them to manipulate the price of the Pancake Bunny token. He then instantly sold the tokens, causing the price to collapse. Within two days, the value of BUNNY dropped from $238 to $25.
Pancake Bunny reassured its investors on Twitter, stressing that none of the vaults had been hacked and it was just an economic operation.
Unlike other attacks, Pancake Bunny was able to return money to investors who had lost their investments due to price manipulation. It created a compensation fund based on the amount of BUNNY produced before the collapse. Thanks to this, investors were able to get back more than $18 million.
The company bEarn (BUSD) was also attacked with instant credits, but instead of manipulating prices it faced the emptying of one of its vaults.
The token was launched earlier this year and peaked at $955.99 before declining throughout the year to $16, making it the worst cryptocurrency in 2021. Although bEarn was already in a bearish trend, the attack accelerated the decline.
On May 16, the attacker took a $7.8 million BUSD flash loan from Cream Finance and used it to deposit and withdraw funds from bVaults about 30 times. The platform lost about $11 million in stabelcoins, and its price dropped from $407.18 to $118.41 a week later.
Ekta is a cryptocurrency that aims to connect the physical and digital worlds through the tokenization of real assets. Launched in August, the price of Ekta peaked at $10.41 and dropped to $0.15 after the attack. The tokens are currently offline.
On October 11, Ekta suffered an internal hack by an individual with privileged access to Pancake Swap and Bridge smart contracts. Ekta did not provide any further information about the situation due to fears that the hack would happen again. Following the hack, Ekta gave strict instructions to users to stop trading, but plans to resume operations shortly.
As of November 26, there is still a “no trading” message on Twitter.
How to avoid failure
The above list of “dead coins” shows that a project may have noble goals, but that does not insure it from collapse.
The 99Bitcoins website has its own list of “dead coins.” “Large coins that do generate interest by introducing new technologies or other innovations have a much higher survival rate and rarely make our list,” explains Uri Shalev, chief content officer at the DeadCoins site.
“Most of the coins on the list are low-profile projects that were either fraudulent from day one or died due to lack of interest from users, creators or both,” he concluded.
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