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I’m flattered, in more ways than one. “Imitation is the sincerest (form) of flattery" said Charles Caleb Colton -- he knew what he was talking about.
Recently NimbleBit noted that Zynga’s Dream Heights bore a very close resemblance to their hit game Tiny Tower. Pretty much a copy in fact. I admire Nimblebit’s sense of humor about all of this.
This is not that story.
Instead, it’s a story about how the gameplay in one of our early iPhone games -- circa 2007 -- has finally been successfully copied FIVE years after being introduced.
It’s also about being a bit too far ahead of our time. I believe we’ve all been there.
Snappers (the new game) and Pigs a Pop’n (the old one):
Pigs a Pop’n started life as a web app for the iPhone in September 2007. Apple didn’t even have their app store running until the summer of 2008. The iPhone app shipped in December of 2008. Snappers released in December 2012.
You have a limited number of times you can click on on the characters (we call it ‘feeds’ in Pigs). Each time a character is clicked on (or fed) they grow. Eventually they get full-sized and explode. Those explosions then cause chain reactions -- characters grow if hit.
The game Pigs a Pop’n happens to have two kind of pigs. “Hog Wild” is a different color, grows a bit larger and explodes in eight directions. Snappers gives you exactly the number of clicks needed to complete the puzzle, Pigs starts out with an excess and you can earn extra clicks (feeds) based on the size of the chain reaction. As the levels progress you have a greater proportion of smaller pigs to start with (making the level harder). Very few people get past level 10. A handful might get to 20.
The point is, until Snappers showed up, we had not seen another chain-reaction game.
We did clone our own concept with gems and called that Mystic Jewels:
Mystic actually did better than Pigs, probably because it appealed to a wider demographic. Not everyone appreciates my strange sense of humor, so it seems -- or maybe the world wasn’t quite ready for the “exploding pigs” concept in 2007.
(in case you were wondering, Angry Birds showed up in December 2009)
Here’s what the web app looked like:
You can still play it here: http://www.playscreen.com/iphone/pigsapopn/main.htm
Snappers is a hit. Pigs, while liked by many -- we got really nice reviews -- didn’t hit the big time even with a good number of users. So why is Snappers a hit and Pigs isn’t?
Marketing for one. As crowded as the iOS market is, the marketing channels are far more developed and Snappers was able to take advantage of this. Also the game audience has evolved. We launched Pigs to a market of “early adopters.” The iOS market is now the mainstream and the mainstream has grown to appreciate simple games that do one thing very well. Back in 2008 the successful titles were “feature rich” and perhaps Pigs and Mystic were too simple for that era.
So, I’m flattered. I have no idea if the Snappers team even saw Pigs or Mystic, but it’s nice to see that the chain reaction game mechanic can lead to a hit!
[We like to joke that we are probably the only folks who didn’t want native apps on the iPhone -- we had over 20 web apps, some of which were the most popular ones according to Apple. At one point we were driving more than a million in-game advertising impressions per day. The truth is, I believe that the app store is the best thing that has ever happened to gaming in the 30 years I have been in the business.]