In brief

  • A group of anonymous developers launched a cryptocurrency last month that profits every time someone dies from coronavirus.
  • Now, they've launched a multiplayer game that makes use of that token.
  • The game, while dark, is intended to educate the public about how and why the virus spreads.

CoronaCoin, the morbid blockchain project that allows you to bet on the new coronavirus epidemic, is now working on a ghoulish multiplayer game. The theme: Create your own pathogen and unleash it on as many counties as possible. Naturally, the game will require NCOV, the platform’s native token, to play. 

Sunny Kemp, a pseudonymous developer for the project who chatted with Decrypt via Telegram, described the game as a cross between the board game Risk and the mobile game Plague Inc., where you create and evolve a pathogen in an effort to annihilate the human race—only it’s on the blockchain

He told us that the inspiration for the game—which is tentatively being titled “Plague ETH” and will run on the Ethereum blockchain—came from the hugely popular virtual cats game CryptoKitties. “We thought, what if we could allow players to engineer their own virus instead of cats!”  

How it works: The entire planet is a gameboard. Players, who compete in virtual rooms, take turns infecting countries with the viruses they create. The game features multiple rounds and the player that infects the least number of people is knocked out each round, while the winner gets all of the other player’s CoronaCoins.

Coronavirus education

Before you think the whole idea too grim, there is actually an educational component here. Wiping out as many people as possible requires you to know a thing or two about pathogens—i.e., how they are spread, how they react to temperature, their infection and death rates, and so on.

Where to infect next?

“The rate of infection and severity of the virus is dependent upon how you engineer the virus,” Kemp said. The team even went so far as to consult with a biomedical researcher to ensure the game’s accuracy. “So if you have a virus that does not spread well in cold weather, and you start the game in Sweden, you aren't going to progress very far.”

Kemp anticipates the game will be finished in 2-3 weeks with beta testing before then. Seven programmers—all anonymous, but working mainly from Europe—are working on the project. The back end is mostly done, he said. Now they are working on the front-end and artwork. 

Screenshot of Plague Inc., the inspiration for CoronaCoin's "Plague ETH"

One of drawbacks with popular games on Ethereum is they tend to clog up the network. At its height of its popularity in 2017, CryptoKitties created a sixfold increase in total network requests, slowing the entire blockchain.

Kemp isn’t too concerned about that though. “We are optimistic about Ethereum scaling; there are several solutions being worked on.” He pointed to proof-of-stake and sharding as examples.

What is Coronacoin?

A recent project, Coronacoin launched last month, when the novel coronivirus stepped up its lethal spread around the world. There is no vaccine and, as of now, 100 countries have been infected with the deadly virus. 

The platform’s token NCOV started with a circulating supply of 7.6 billion, based on the world’s population. Tokens are burned once every two days based on the number of people around the globe that have been infected with Covid-19 or have died of the virus.

About half of those tokens were distributed in an airdrop, Kemp said. As for the other 3.6 billion NCOV, 20% has been put aside for donations while the remaining 30% is intended for development, bounties, airdrops, liquidity and burns.

Every month, the project also sells NCOV for ETH for monthly RedCross donations. It also uses some of its supply for bug bounties and for things like artwork for the game and marketing.

As of press time, the project has burned 125,000 coins to date, putting a tiny dent in the total supply. And oddly, instead of going up, the price of the coin has actually plummeted nearly 90 percent in the last 14 days, according to Coingecko

Many of these details were up on the project’s website at coronatoken.org, but as of now, the website has been suspended. Kemp told us the project is having trouble with its host, but is in talks to remedy the problem. (In the meantime, the team has launched a backup site: coronatoken.net.)

Let’s just hope the project’s multiplayer game encourages people to wash their hands.