Liang Hwei  |  Singapore
Published 2014-03-21 14:30:32

A new game has come to town. Following the trend of simple yet surprisingly frustrating is the web-based 2048, a math and puzzle game has kept many procrastinating web-surfers hooked for hours.

The idea is simple. Two blocks of the same number pushed together will create a new block, adding up to a bigger number. 2 and 2 is 4. 4 and 4 is 8. The list goes on until you reach your objective – creating the seemingly attainable but ultimately elusive 2048 tile.


It’s simplicity and intuitiveness mimics that of the last viral game to make headlines – Flappy Bird – with the exception that by the power of math, the goal seems far more attainable (with seems being the key word).

The concept of 2048, however, is not original.

Developer Gabriele Cirulli has recently admitted that it was based on an app game called 1024!, which is an adaptation of an award-winning app game called Threes!. Cirulli’s version has also been replicated in several forms, some adapting interesting forms such as the Doge2048 that flashes encouraging phrases like “very unstoppable” and “so amaze” (you have to love Doge), others simply replicating the game down to look and work exactly like it.

However, with it’s plethora of predecessors and successors, Circulli’s 2048 still stands as the ‘original’ and most viral of them all. According to Cirulli’s twitter feed, the accumulative time spent on the 2048 website adds up to a total of 521 years, assuming each game lasts 8 minutes.

Garbiele Cirulli

What makes Circulli’s version so different and so much more popular

After playing through a few versions, it is instantly easy to feel why it is the more addictive version, yet the actual reason could possibly be difficult to pinpoint.

Playing the game creates a more satisfying ‘oomph’ as you progress, and in the deep recesses of your gut you feel somewhat satisfied. The colours are vibrant enough for you to be hooked, but not so gaudy that your eyes realizes that it needs a break. The speed is just fast enough to fill that craving for instant gratification, but not so fast that your brain hurts every time a number moves across the board. While the idea is simple, replicating it exactly appears to be a lot tougher than it looks.

Image Credit: Betanews
Image Credit: Betanews

The success of 2048 exemplifies how online game virality relies not only on a great idea, but also on subtle nuances in game development. This goes for every viral game ever made, and its cousins that came before or after. Flappy Bird and Splashy Fish. Angry Birds and Crush the Castle. Candy Crush and Candy Swipe. Developers seem to be revamping the same game ideas until one of them strikes gold, or even stumbling over it by accident. From the trend of addictive web and app games, a large part of the formula for virality still seems to be luck.

This trend of redeveloping existing game ideas will not stop here, but most possibly will continue to create the most viral game of 2015, 2020, and so on. After all, there is no better money-making scheme than enslaving the minds and time of every living being. But when the formula to creating viral games is discovered, we, the hapless game players, will be in deep deep trouble.

Also read: If you haven’t played 2048, you are losing out: The Internet is going crazy about it

Featured image credit: The Guardian

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