“Have you played Threes yet?”

I rarely ask my wife about whether or not she’s played certain games, but Threes, I felt, would mark a great exception. She’s more into mobile gaming than I am, dipping her toes into titles that friends of friends recommend and play. She’s not a mobile gamer in the hardcore-can’t get enough-sense of the term. She just plays when she hits a wall of boredom.

She hadn’t heard of Threes yet. I heard of Threes through a good friend on Twitter. I dropped the scratch, because I’m not one of those folks who can’t stand paying dollars for mobile games, and it’s quickly becoming my go-to time-waster on my phone.

Then my wife dropped some money on it this weekend. We’re both playing the game.

Our friends? Well, a few are playing Threes. Others? They’re playing 2048. That’s the knock-off. It’s easier, it’s free and there are just about a billion copycat versions of it on the app marketplaces.

“Have you played 2048 yet?”

Which one?

Which brings me to the point of this article. If you’ve been here at TechnoBuffalo for a while and are familiar with my work, you know mobile gaming doesn’t really rate for me. I do it, but I don’t love it.

The biggest problem with mobile gaming? It’s not the cost, ads or controls, though those things stink. It’s not the low rate of discoverability, though that’s a big problem too. It’s copycats and wannabes, and they are killing the genre.

 Okay, So About Threes

Threes was developed by Sirvo, a small team of three people; Asher Vollmer, Greg Wohlwend and Jimmy Hinson. It released on the iOS platform on Feb. 6. It was ported to Android officially by Hidden Variable Studios on March 12.

Threes is a numbers game, sort of. It’s about combining 1 and 2 to make 3, then matching 3s to makes 6s and 6s to make 12s and so on and so forth. The goal is to get the highest numbers possible on this slide puzzle style board.

It’s been in development for a long time, complete with plenty of iterations and play tests to make it the best Threes it can possibly be. The Wiki suggests that the team had been working on the game for nearly a year, a long time for a mobile title like this, and it won recognition at festivals like IGF.

Sirvo tried tons of ideas. They even played around with a Sushi styled board, which you can see in this article, before sticking with the final form we all know today.

When Threes released, it did so to a wave of praise from critics and fellow game developers. The official site for the game comes with a few choice quotes, too.

“I love it. It’s perfect.” -Zach Gage – Spelltower

“Simple, elegant, maddening.” – Adam Saltsman – Canabalt

It’s a great game. It also costs money, something a lot of mobile gamers refuse to fork over for their gaming fix. Threes normally sells for, you guessed it, three bucks. It’s on sale right now for two, but three is the standard.

Some might say that that’s this game’s biggest downfall. The fact that the developers worked on Threes for over a year, released it and had the audacity to charge nearly as much as a Chai Latte at Starbucks is really bad, I guess.

Threes GIF
Threes Sushi Board

Say “Hello” to 2048!

Before you go jumping to conclusions, I don’t really think the original 2048 is the big problem with mobile gaming. The original 2048 released online through browsers only. It was developed by Gabriele Cirulli, who, surprisingly enough, openly credits his inspirations.

Here’s the official site for the game. Directly below the browser-based playable puzzle runs a few lines of text. The second line quite plainly says that there is no official mobile version of the game, provides a mobile friendly link to play it and warns players of copycats.

NOTE: This site is the official version of 2048. You can play it on your phone via http://git.io/2048. All other apps or sites are derivatives or fakes, and should be used with caution.

That’s great. I like that line. I love the third line.

Created by Gabriele Cirulli. Based on 1024 by Veewo Studio and conceptually similar to Threes by Asher Vollmer.

There you go. Cirulli openly admits that his game is based on one and similar to another. But, wait a minute…what’s 1024?

1024 is a knock-off of Threes, through and through. Its original campaign? “No need to pay for Threes.” Don’t you just love it?

 The Cloning, My Friends, is a Problem

Which brings us to today. It’s almost Flappy Bird all over again, though Flappy Bird was a clone too. One developer makes a new game, another developer copies it with a small twist, a third copies that with a name change and then hundreds and hundreds steal the name and logo and click publish.

The app marketplaces have become completely inundated with wannabe applications that do nothing but copy and paste the efforts of brilliant developers for a quick buck. It’s gotten so bad that most consumers don’t even know which end is up.

Here’s a review of the original 1024, a game that followed Threes but preceded Cirulli’s 2048, on the iOS App Store:

Man, this game is in Japanese (I believe) and it is just a dumb spin-off of 2048. As you can see, this game was published on April 18 while 2048 was created April 5. Stick to 2048, this game is smaller and just plainly stupid.

I think Veewo is Chinese, though that’s not the big problem here. This consumer thinks 1024 came second, and they don’t even recognize that Threes is the granddaddy of both. The date the consumer refers to is the update date, not the launch date.

It’s getting sad, and it’s making the mobile marketplaces horrific spaces to exist in as both developers and consumers.

You want the truth? I didn’t even know the original 2048 wasn’t available in app form before I started researching this story. That’s how bad this whole thing has gotten.

The clones won’t stop. They’ve gotten far too successful and way too easy.  Check this out.

2048 Number Puzzle Game

2048 Number puzzle game. This is in the Google Play marketplace. Now, if you’ve been keeping track, this is a clone of a clone of a clone with a name change. We’re, like, four layers removed from the original source material. Today, at the time of drafting this post, 252,728 people have reviewed 2048 Number puzzle game. That’s reviewed. Not played. Reviewed. I don’t review anything on my phone, and I bet I’m not alone.

When clones of clones of clones pull in more than a quarter of a million reviews on a single marketplace, you know there’s a problem.

The sad part is not that these clones have made surfing the app stores that much more difficult. That’s not the sad part. The sad part is that these clones are so successful that the original games and their original developers have no reason to exist beyond inspiring the copycatting.

Threes on Android? Here, see for yourself.

Threes on Andoird

14,872 reviews. Compared to a clone of a clone of a clone with roughly 20 times more reviews from users. That’s depressing.

Why would any talented developer want to risk bringing their game to the mobile platform? If it catches on, heaven forbid, it’s just as likely to be cloned so much that it stops making money. That’s pathetic, and it’s the biggest problem with mobile gaming today.

Here’s a link to the real Threes on iOS and Android. Support real developers. Drop the cash. Do your part to help mobile gaming.