Digital trends can at times seem as cyclical as the fashion industry, with fads of yesteryear coming back around into style after a time away from people’s consciousness and preferences. In the late nineties and early noughties, the mobile game Snake became one of the most widely-played games of all time and was perhaps the first true mobile ‘craze’, the likes with which we have now become so familiar, with Pokemon Go the latest phone-based activity to sweep the globe.
The pixelated snake of over a decade ago has been given a reboot in the form of new best-selling mobile app, Slither.io, which has stormed the app charts, taking on app big hitters like Facebook and YouTube.
The game’s premise is addictively simple with users controlling snakelike avatars to battle it out for food which comes in the form of small pellets. The aim of the game, which is a huge multiplayer engine, is to grow the largest snake in the game’s online community.
There is a clear and obvious (almost homage) link back to the original snake game, which had millions of Nokia users huddled over their handsets in search of a record high-score. But Slither’s viral success, which the game’s developer Steven Howse did not predict, is being driven by the free multiplayer function which adds the all-important social aspect to what is a very simple game.
Soon after the launch of Slither.io, the app raced up the top 10 “most downloaded” lists, with social mentions and old-fashioned word-of-mouth referrals generating close to 70 million downloads worldwide. Interestingly, despite games being the best-represented genre in the app market – around 900k games from a total of 3.6 million apps – very few app games go on to achieve viral success, and the ability to tap into this success in order to turn a profit is proving even more difficult.
Slither.io has bucked this trend and achieved viral success whilst pulling in serious profits. Advertising drives the majority of Slither’s revenue, with the app steering clear of in-app purchases. These are derided by many tech commentators as the number one reason why most game apps fail to achieve viral success; users are instantly put off by the need to hand over money to progress through the game or unlock new features and levels.
The app allows up to 500 people to play at one time, creating in-game social networks and cultivating an online community which is helping to fuel the app’s amazing growth. The technical challenge for the app’s development team is now keeping up with the game’s popularity and securing enough server space to handle the surge in users.
So with noughties classic Snake now reborn in the shape of new app Slither.io, will we see any more tech relics given a modern day makeover? Nintendo have recently rebooted the Pokemon franchise with Pokemon Go – the augmented reality game which has people everywhere chasing the cartoon critters in the real world using their smartphones. Maybe 2017 will be the year Tamogotchis get a relaunch! Watch this space on that one…