I’m a software developer. I make mobile games, among other things. I’m also a Dad to two teenage children. The combination of the two leads me to watching what they’re doing with their mobile phones.
Back when the indie game “Threes” came out I bought a copy and played it. I didn’t mention the game to my kids, but not too long after I saw my older daughter playing “2048”, so I said:
“Oh, I see you playing 2048. That’s really just a copy of another game called Threes. Do you want to play that?”
“Uh… OK. I’ll try it.”
A couple of days later she was still playing “2048” and I asked why.
“All my friends are playing 2048. None of them are playing Threes.”
“Why is that?”
“2048 is free.”
She didn’t care much about the history of either game, nor which game had better mechanics, she just wanted to be able to go to school and compare scores with her friends to share in an experience. She heard her friends talking about it and she wanted to join in the action. And because 2048 was free, she could download it right then without even pausing to think about the cost versus benefit. I don’t disagree with the pricing of the Threes game; I prefer games that I pay for in full up front, I will pay for downloadable content like level packs, and I refuse to play games with consumables (gems and such). But I am obviously not the average mobile game consumer, and I’m certainly not a teenager in high school.
When I recently found out about another indie game “Crossy Road” that was free to download I asked my daughter if she had heard of it. Nope. So I got her to download it on her phone, she played it and she really liked it. Without any prompting from me, she has already spread the game to five of her friends. I also told my younger daughter about it, she tried it and she’s also spread it to three of her friends. This is all in the course of a few hours.
I have no idea when “trendy” turns to “viral”, but if my daughters are the first in their respective schools to start spreading another indie mobile game, I’m happy to be a catalyst. It all starts somewhere.
**UPDATES (2 days later):
1. I followed up with my oldest daughter and asked her how many of her friends were now playing Crossy Road, and she replied “all of them”.
2. The young son of a friend had his iPad out last night so I showed him Crossy Road, and while he was playing it his older sister saw what he was playing it and – not to be outdone – installed it on her phone and started playing as well.
When a great indie game comes out, it feels good to help it spread.