A while ago I was talking about addicting browser games that you shouldn’t play and I got into a discussion with a friend of mine that most of the really addicting games these games are rips of other games. I said “wanna say that to an audience” and she agreed.
For every popular game there are dozens if not hundreds of copycats. The industry is rife with clones that are just different enough to remain competitive; in fact, some of these clones even become more popular than the original games. Here are just a few of the more recent games that inspired a plethora of duplicates.
“Match 3” Games: Bejeweled Gives Rise to Candy Crush and Imitators Follow
Match 3 games date back to the Roman times and are part of a broader genre called tile games, which Tetris also belongs to. Match 3 games involve a set of tiles laid out in a grid pattern, in which you need to match any three similar tiles that connect. These tiles are then removed and the other tiles drop down, with the goal being to eliminate all tiles off the board.
The very first Match 3 web game was likely Bejeweled, which was released in 2001–nearly a decade before Candy Crush existed. Candy Crush took the basic premise of a Match 3 game and layered it with slick candy-themed graphics, social media interactivity, over 100 levels of gameplay and difficulty which ramped up at an even pace.
The Match 3 formula had been copied many times since Bejeweled and before Candy Crush but rarely with quite as much content. The addictive nature of the game was fueled with in-game purchases and the ability to reach out to friends.
Casino Games: Blackjack, Poker, Slot Machines and More
Casino games are an area that truly displays the basic appeal of creating a game clone rather than an original game. Though there are already countless Blackjack, Poker, Slot Machine and multi-game casino applications and sites, still more are released every year. Each endeavors to be better than the last in some way. Though they cannot reinvent the wheel, they still seek to perfect it.
Europa Casino’s Blackjack games are a perfect example of creatively expanding the concepts, strategies and visual look of the game of blackjack. Most people easily assume that there is only one way to play blackjack, but the casino has come up with 12 different games based on the main rules of the card game – all with their own unique interface, graphics and gameplay.
What makes these games attractive to players? If reviews are any indication, it comes down to an appealing and attractive interface, challenging artificial intelligent opponent and a polished hint and strategy guide. These are all things that are not unique to the game but rather a perfect representation of what a Blackjack game can be.
Threes: 2014 Becomes the Year of “2048”
Casual gamers saw an incredible proliferation of 2048 clones throughout 2014, but the irony is that 2048 itself was a clone of a game called Threes. Threes may have lacked the polish and finesse of 2048 but all the basic gameplay was there: the player was presented with a grid of numbers and asked to combine the numbers. With each move another number would pop up and the game ended once the board was filled.
This was cloned as 1024 and later 2048. 2048 became wildly successful. Despite being incredibly similar in form and function to Threes, the minimalist graphics were cleaner and the overall game was more polished and more professional. The Threes to 2048 transition clearly shows that it isn’t all about an idea–it’s also about implementation.
Flappy Bird: a Craze Born of Demand
The most interesting thing about “Flappy Bird”–beyond its massive popularity–is that there may never have been a clone rush at all if the game designer hadn’t inexplicably pulled the game at the height of its fame. Flappy Bird was a simple, charming sidescroller with incredibly addictive gameplay: gameplay so addictive that the developer became alarmed enough to yank it off market.
In the original “Flappy Bird,” all the player has to do is keep tapping the screen to keep a small bird aloft and help the bird navigate a series of obstacles. But the fact that the player needs to be constantly engaged can increase adrenaline levels, leading to stress and, yes, addiction. Ultimately the game developer, who was now making tens of thousands of dollars every day, pulled the game, leading to addicted players with nowhere to go.
Predictably, this led to dozens (if not hundreds) of Flappy Bird clones immediately flooding the market. Clumsy Bird was identical to Flappy Bird in almost every respect except for updated graphics. Flappy Fish stole the entire gameplay and conceit but replaced the titular Flappy Bird with a small clown fish. Among other Flappy animals were: whales, jellyfish, octopi and penguins. Hilariously, there was also a 2048 and Flappy Bird clone that combined both games and simply had floating numbers.
The bottom line is that it was a race to become the most popular, most polished version of Flappy Bird. Game designers seldom added anything new to the games except for updated graphics, showing again that polish and finesse is often what will win out in the market over originality.
The Originals and the Clones: Who Has the Edge?
Success on the app market appears to be less determined by who is first to the market and more determined by who is able to take an idea and imbue it with polish: solid programming, compelling art and extensive content. Developers need not fear working on ideas that may be less than inventive as long as they can pull off the idea with aplomb.