2048 – Originality doesn’t always determine success in the app market

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Creating a successful app isn’t always about having a million dollar idea. In an industry that often rewards being first, a 19 year old student named Gabrielle Cirulli simply struck lucky when he wanted to test his programming skills on an already established concept. 2048 is the latest in a long line of “clone” apps that became infinitely more popular than its successor. Cirulli’s story demonstrates that even the simplest of student work can be a viral success.

Threes - The original concept

A game called Threes was launched on the iOS store on February 6th 2014 for $1.99. Created by a company called Sirvo, Threes involves sliding around tiles to combine numbers into multiples of threes to create the biggest number possible. It was extremely well received, gaining a Metacritic score of 92/100. Threes was worked on by a development team for several months, and was built from the ground up as a game that could challenge a user for several months. Despite critical success, the app failed to outsell the iterations of the game which followed.

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1024 - The first clone

A month later, Veewo studio released a free app called 1024 which simplified the concept by allowing tiles of two to be matched rather than three. It gave the user an endgame goal of achieving the number 1024. 1024 was clearly a direct clone of Threes, even marketing itself with the phrase “No need to pay for Threes”. However even 1024 pailed in comparison to the success of 2048, which was released less than a week later.

2048 – An overnight success   

2048 was a weekend project by Italian student Gabriele Cirulli. He took the app 1024, fused it with Threes and posted it for free on his website. His project further streamlined the concept, sliding two tiles at a time and provided the same end goal, this time to reach the number 2048. He added in simple and clean animations to brighten the concept. After only a few days of being live, 2048 got thousands of hits. This was completely unexpected for Cirulli, who’s only goal for this project was to test out his programming ability. After his site got over 4 million views in less than a week, Cirulli tweeted:

 @gabrielecirulli “28000 people playing #2048game right now. The amount of man-hours spent playing this game will never be returned to humanity.”

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Recognising that his game was not a completely original creation, Cirulli allowed his creation to be an open source on GitHub, allowing other programmers to access his code and create fun themed versions of his game for free. Ironically, dozens of clones of 2048 are available from both IOS and Android and have been downloaded even more than the original. He recognises the origins of his game at the bottom of his website, citing that 2048 is “Created by Gabriele Cirulli, based on 1024 by Veewo studio and conceptually similar to Threes by Asher Vollmer”

2048 is testament that with the right programming skills, anyone can create successful and fun apps. The Academy of Information Technology specialises in delivering hands on, portfolio focused courses for students seeking careers in the digital industries. AIT was the first institution in the country to offer a Bachelor of IT specializing in Mobile App Development. This degree gives students all the tools they need to build and program successful mobile apps. Learn more about this and other digital courses here.