What started out as an internet meme is now turning into a way to survive in Venezuela’s disastrous economy.
Late last year, someone began issuing rare pepe trading cards based on the popular internet meme of a green frog. The digital cards were issued on the Counterparty platform, which is built on top of Bitcoin, as a joke poking fun at another digital trading card game, Spells of Genesis. While the various trading cards seemed to start out as nothing more than a joke, some of them have now been traded for thousands of dollars worth of XCP on Counterparty’s decentralized exchange.
There are now a large number of people issuing their own rare pepes, with the digital trading cards going through a certification process controlled by the Rare Pepe Foundation. A subculture has grown out of this new phenomenon, with much of the community having been baseball card or comic book collectors in the past.
The basic idea behind the issuance of rare pepes on top of the Counterparty platform is that it enables scarcity in a digital world. Each rare pepe card is linked to a little bit of bitcoin through a practice known as coin coloring. Whoever owns the private keys associated with the address where the bitcoins that represent a specific rare pepe card is located is the one who owns that particular trading card.
Now, a group of developers in Venezuela are building games similar to Hearthstone and Pokemon where the rare pepe trading cards will play an integral role. In an effort to better understand these new efforts, Crypto Insider reached out to one of the developers behind the new project.
The Rare Pepe Games
If you go to rarepepe.party right now, you’re mainly presented with a video of what the first game based on the Rare Pepe digital trading cards will look like. The concept is similar to Hearthstone or Magic: The Gathering where players essentially do battle with their opponents via characters on trading cards, which have specific stats and features. In this case, the characters are various rare pepes.
With many rare pepes already released (you can view them in the official rare pepe directory), the developers behind Rare Pepe Party are attempting to provide a use case for these new trading cards. While some rare pepe cards already have stats on them, the developer who chatted with Crypto Insider says those stats may not mean much when it’s time to play the game.
“We’re planning on doing ‘erratas’ over the cards because some don’t have stats, some have weird ones, and some won’t fit,” said the anonymous developer. “The game development team will do heavy playtesting and big data over gameplays of the players.”
The developer added that the creators of the game will accept input from players and the artists behind the various rare pepe trading cards. 60 new rare pepes will also be released by the development team in anticipation of the upcoming games.
In addition to a traditional trading card game, the developers are also working on a full-blown role playing game (RPG). The RPG will be similar to the classic Pokemon games, but battles between rare pepes will be done through the previously-created trading card game.
Brought to You by Bitcoin
An obvious question someone new to the world of rare pepes may ask is why the bitcoin blockchain is needed for all of this to work. One of the developers behind the project told Crypto Insider that issuing the assets via Counterparty help with the bearer-instrument nature of the trading cards. These are collectibles after all, so they must be provably limited.
In the past, some have wondered whether the scarce, collectible nature of bitcoin is what provided the digital bear asset with its initial value in the early days of the technology.
The dollar-denominated fees on the bitcoin network have increased rather substantially over the past few months, which may seem like a problem when you’re trying to trade assets on top of this particular blockchain. “We’ve studied this scenario,” said the Rare Pepe Party developer when asked about this potential issue. “If bitcoin moons there will be a certain pressure to either lower fees or to make things like pico-payments and such. Either way, we trust the infrastructure we’re building on will provide solutions.”
“We trust [a] compromise between all the political parties trying to decide bitcoin’s future will be reached, and a good solution to full blocks [and] high fees will be reached soon,” the developer added.
Bitcoin Has Kept These Developers in Business
While rare pepes are nothing more than fun and games for much of the developed world, they’re a matter of survival in Venezuela. “We’re based in Venezuela, and our business has been saved by bitcoin many times,” said the developer.
The developer claims roughly 80 percent of the offices around the area where Rare Pepe Party is being developed have shut down over the past year. The biggest businesses on their street have also dropped as much as 90 percent of their employees.
“In that timeframe, thanks to bitcoin related business, we’ve grown our employee base from just 5 to 10 (we’re still a small company),” said the developer. “We’ve air-conditioned our office. Year-over-year we’ve been improving, so we’re banking big on bitcoin and now over Counterparty assets.”
According to the developer, there is no legal framework for bitcoin-related businesses in Venezuela. Having said that, SEBIN, which the developer described as Venezuela’s secret police, has been targeting anyone involved in bitcoin for extortion and bribes, especially bitcoin miners. “Anything bitcoin related is a big no-no here at the moment,” said the developer. “This week I got wind of at least two mining operators getting knocks on their doors.”
Taking on Investment from Anyone
The development team behind Rare Pepe Party are looking for anyone to invest in their games via another asset issued on top of the Counterparty platform. These developers will issue dividends to holders of the token based on how much of the overall supply of tokens they hold.
While this sort of scheme is legally dubious in places like the United States, these developers obviously aren’t too concerned with making sure that what they’re doing is legal. Using Kickstarter or IndieGoGo is a nonstarter in Venezuela, as PayPal is extremely cumbersome to handle in the country and Amazon Payments won’t work at all. This is why the Rare Pepe Party team are turning to Bitcoin and Counterparty.
“Counterparty tokens have the ‘dividend’ operation that let’s us pay earnings easily to shareholders,” said the developer. “We can’t convert to and from US dollars. Venezuela has everything locked down in that regard. We love decentralization, even if it costs more. As a server guy, having a replicated database in thousands of servers is a no-brainer.”
In terms of the profits that will eventually be shared with shareholders, the developer who spoke with Crypto Insider pointed to a variety of different potential revenue streams. Rare Pepe Party plans to sell booster packs (like what is seen in other trading card games), allow in-game purchases for items such as card boosters, and earn fees from organizing tournaments on a regular basis. The developers behind the game will also attempt to license the technology out to third parties.
These sorts of schemes are notoriously sketchy in the bitcoin ecosystem. Having said that, Rare Pepe Party sounds more like a traditional investment than some of the hand-waving ICO schemes that have popped up over the years. There will be a product and revenue stream involved with this scheme, at least in theory.
Then again, it could just be a matter of time before these developers are no longer able to mask their use of bitcoin in Venezuela.