The Shiba Inu (CRYPTO: SHIB) cryptocurrency started out strong in 2023. Token prices rose 88% between New Year's Day and Feb. 4. But the joy didn't last long. Shiba Inu has retreated more than 40% below February's peak while leading crypto names, like Ethereum and Bitcoin (CRYPTO: BTC), continued to climb higher over the same period.

Is it time to give up on the dog-themed meme coin, or should you see this sudden price dip as an invitation to stock up on Shiba Inu tokens?

Shiba Inu's potential catalysts

First, let's think about why Shiba Inu rose earlier this year. The economy started showing signs of stabilization and improvement after the rough and tumble action in 2022. That's good news for any high-risk investment, and Shiba Inu definitely qualifies under that title. On top of that, the cryptocurrency had some price catalysts of its own.

The Shibarium upgrade was originally supposed to bring its performance-boosting and fee-cutting benefits to Shiba Inu in the third quarter of 2022. The launch was pushed to Valentine's Day 2023 as the development and testing processes encountered technical problems. However, a late launch is still a launch, and Shibarium would surely boost Shiba Inu's app development activity.

The circulating supply of Shiba Inu tokens was also meant to drop this year due to the widespread "burning" of the cryptocurrency. In the spring of 2022, Shiba Inu's developers made burning tokens easier and more rewarding. Removing digital coins from public circulation has an anti-inflationary effect in the same way the rise and fall in dollar-based money supply correspond to inflationary trends in the broader economy.

Finally, the Shiba Inu Metaverse project was expected to roll out to much fanfare. If people didn't have a reason to work with Shiba Inu before, this virtual world would surely inspire a ton of consumer interest and developer activity.

Still waiting...

Sadly, the expected catalysts never showed up.

Another technical snag pushed Shibarium's launch back again. Three months later, nobody knows when this potentially game-changing upgrade will arrive.

The Metaverse launch is also still on the back burner. It's no surprise to see this project lagging behind the original schedule due to disappointing development hustle across the Shiba Inu ecosystem. Recent reports call for a "partial launch" by the end of '23, but I would not bet money on that schedule working out as planned, either. Delays have become standard procedure.

And the burn rate has struggled to keep up with the rate of freshly minted tokens. In fact, Shiba Inu's circulating supply increased by 8% over a three-day span in late March.

It's a dog's life: Shiba Inu vs. the crypto world

Shiba Inu is trying to be a good crypto, but unexpected challenges often thwart its good intentions. Maybe this project is just too clever for its own good.

Dogecoin, for example, is just a simple clone of Bitcoin with a few technical tweaks. It allows rapid inflation and arguably sacrifices some security in return for faster, smoother transactions that make it feel more like money. It doesn't get much simpler than that.

But Shiba Inu wanted more. The SHIB cryptocurrency is an Ethereum-based token, but the system also includes the limited-supply LEASH token and the governance token BONE. Many people don't know about Shiba Inu's refined structure -- and many others just don't care. There's hardly any reason to care deeply about the Shiba Inu flagship in the first place.

Can Shiba Inu ever get out of the crypto sector's dog house?

On the upside, Shiba Inu may earn a place among serious cryptocurrencies in the long run -- but I won't really believe it until the assortment of long-delayed projects actually materializes.

I mean, Ethereum just showed everyone how to execute a much-needed, long-awaited, multistep platform upgrade without skipping a beat. Adding a scalability layer like Shibarium seems trivial by comparison. If there's a lesson to learn from Shiba Inu's technical trouble, it may be that it's tough to pull off smooth upgrades when working with a small developer community.

So maybe you shouldn't rush to unload your Shiba Inu holdings today, but I would not suggest loading up on the low-priced token, either. Call it a "hold" recommendation, skewing a bit bearish.