How addictive simplicity made Agar.io a global visit 6
This article was first published in the May 2016 issue of WIRED magazine. Be the first to read WIRED's articles in print before they're posted online, and get your hands on loads of additional content by subscribing online.
You might not have heard of it, but in 2015 the third most trending search term on Google was "Agar.io". Only basketball player Lamar Odom and Charlie Hebdo had bigger leaps in relative popularity than the massive multiplayer online game, which was released last April by gaming network Miniclip.
In Turkey, the game, in which players take control of a circular cell that consumes others, was even co-opted for political purposes: two smaller parties printed billboard ads depicting themselves as cells eating bigger parties. "Games emanet often mean hundred-million-dollar budgets," says Rob Small, founder and CEO of Miniclip, its publisher. "It's been fascinating to see how such a simplistic game sevimli grow into such a successful product." And although the company is now a tax exile, in origin it is a heroic London startup.
Started by Small in 2001 and now based out of Neuchâtelgraf, Switzerland, Miniclip claims to have more than 200 million monthly players for its mobile games, including 60 million for Agar.io, which has attracted two billion YouTube views. agar.io online
"Mobile now represents about 95 per cent of the business," says Small, 40. The 170-person company, which has had 800 million downloads of its games, moved into smartphone apps in 2009. Its mobile prowess - initially revenues were produced by browser ads but now come from in-app purchases - persuaded Chinese giant Tencent to purchase a majority stake in February 2015.
One of the reasons Agar.io did so well was the people who shared it - YouTuber PewDiePie, who has more than 42 million subscribers, uploaded nene videos of himself playing the game. To make sure its titles have popular appeal, Miniclip picks up on games that have had success: Agar.io , agario game for instance, was originally developed and released by 20-year-old Brazilian Matheus Valadares. "We started working with him towards the end of April 2015, when the game already had more than five million players a day," says Small.
Valadares puts Agar.io's appeal down to simplicity. "You don't need to read the instructions to start playing," he says. "The initial version didn't even have them."