How 2048 blew up the market

2014-05-29 by Marina Astapchik

It looks like at present there are millions of addictive games flooding in that eat up our time, especially the ones for mobile devices. Suffice it to recall Candy Crush Saga, Flappy Bird, Threes. It seems that nothing new, more exciting can else be created to reel people in and win the players over.

However, a new gaming sensation 2048 did blow up the gaming market. This hit game is a number-crunching puzzle game that can be played on a Web or via its mobile site, but like many other popular mobile games, 2048 has a number of copycats for iOS and Android devices that from time to time pop up in the Apple App Store and Google Play. 

Actually, 2048 is one of those games that are easy to play but hard to win and while you'll be trying to win it over it will steal any free time you might have had, which makes the game addictive and correspondingly the players addicted to it.

The game was created by a 19-year-old Italian UI designer and a web developer Gabriele Cirulli. It was launched online in March, 2014. Just within a few weeks over 10 million people from different countries played it.  2048 has become an increasingly popular game that has been gathering new and new players every day. 50,000 people are playing the game simultaneously, and there are more to come. Daily installs of this puzzle game are estimated as 79,007. Gabriele Cirulli says that most players are from English-speaking countries, China goes next.

The game's creator didn't expect the game to be such a break-out hit. “I just made it as a fun project over the weekend, and didn't even advertise it,” says Cirulli. He also explained that he didn't expect to receive any income from his creation and that he built the web app only because his mobile phone couldn't support the iPhone and Android versions of the previous titles.

According to Cirulli, 2048 was inspired by the game 1024. And indeed it is basically like 1024 by Veewo Studio and conceptually similar to Threes, however simpler than the latter in both design and gameplay. Since the game 1024 is considered to be inspired by Threes and 2048 to be inspired by 1024, the game was even called "clone of a clone of a clone". Despite this title the game 2048 has gained steam and become extremely popular among users in the gaming market. In addition 2048, in its turn, has gained lots of own variations with new improved user friendly features. And the funny thing is that currently due to the immense popularity of 2048 among players, it's not the 2048 game that is considered by many to be the clone of Threes but the Threes game is now mistakenly considered a variation of 2048! 

If you still haven't played the game the strategy is to combine tiles containing similar numbers to make tiles with higher scores. When two similar numbers touch they merge and form new tiles with larger numbers. For instance two 64's are combined into 128, two 128's into 256 and so on.The game goes on until you reach the number 2048 which is the final tile, however it's possible to continue the game and create tiles with even higher numbers than 2048.

In fact playing the game is much harder than it sounds, since each time you move with the arrow keys, not only all the tiles move at once in the same direction to combine the similar numbers, but a new tile will also appear with a small number of either two or four. When interviewed Gabriele Cirulli once said that only 1 percent of all games have resulted in a 2048 tile.


Figure 1: 2048 Game

Bearing in mind the history of the game's creation and being aware of the simple rules of 2048 let's try to figure out why the 2048 game has become so popular in the gaming market, as well as to identify the reasons for that.

The first obvious reason lies in the flow of the game itself. It's a puzzle game that involves your brains and makes your mind work. You try 2048 for one round, don't win (it's difficult!) and then you have no other options but to try a few more rounds again and again unwinding challenging situations that the puzzle offers you until you finally win and rest completely satisfied. The game 2048 makes you addicted to it in a flash and even when you think that you can control your addiction to the game it's almost impossible to stop playing and trying to win after several unsuccessful attempts. And even when you win the addiction continues. As one of the players comments: "The addiction doesn’t end once you win. As soon as you reach the highest winning score 2048 there is a possibility to continue and have higher scores. "

According to analysts, 2048’s main appeal and the game’s ability to hook players is in its simplicity, and indeed the game is simple with no complicated rules, however wins being very rare.

It is also worth noting that at present there are lots of improvements on the game and lots of bugs has been fixed now, which makes playing the game smoother and less clunky.

One more reason for the tremendous popularity of 2048 in the market is that you don't have to pay for it. While for instance you need to pay $1.99 for the game Threes, it is free to download 2048. It definitely makes the game more competitive in the gaming market.

Another factor that has influenced the success of the game is that 2048 runs an open-source code, therefore other coders have added lots of new features, creative modifications to the original game. According to the users' comments the game can be praised for its graphics, sound effects, night mode, different clever twists like changing the shape of the board and adding new possible directions for moves. It should also be noted that the game is frequently being improved based on its users' feedback and comments. Some time ago the game was played without the possibility to save it, then a comment about it was written and in no time the game acquired a new option to save game state and continue later on. The same thing is about the possibility to continue the game after collected 2048 tile. Now 2048 supports both keyboard controls and swipe gestures, it includes a score leaderboard and improved touchscreen playability and much more.

All these modifications definitely contributed to the general success of 2048. There are now over twenty variants of the 2048 game, as well as other games that have the term "2048"³ in their titles or game descriptions in hopes of being found in the search results with the help of this 2048 number. In fact, there are already several sites dedicated to aggregating all the 2048 variants.

One more important thing that contributed to the success of the game lies in its usability: users can enjoy playing the game on both most popular mobile platforms: iOS & Android. The game has versions in Google play which work on almost every Android devices starting from 2.2+.

2048 is still new enough and there is no any sort of public research on its place in the market. However, Elinext Group experts admit that one thing is definitely obvious – 2048 app is a fun, addictive and a very simple puzzle game which is hard to win but which has easily won the gaming market itself. They also add that the world tendency is to create easy for perception software products that will enthrall users attention by passion to win. As a result most of serious businesses try to engage features of gamification into communication with their target audience. Among Elinext Group latest projects there are mobile games that include elements of marketing campaigns.  

Elinext Group game projects:

Smart Fish mobile game
Wonder Columns mobile game
Resque Game mobile project
Pantene Pro-V Augmented Reality Game
Ariel Deep Down Cleaning AR Game

Industries and Technology Areas:

Industries: entertainment

Technology Areas: mobile games, computer games

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