Origins of 2048: The simple puzzle game that's spawning a hundred clones

After the world had gotten over Flappy Bird, the game that literally drove people to make murder threats against the developer, everyone was waiting for the next great mobile gaming sensation. Even though Flappy Bird is set to return to our devices soon, this time it will have a newer, and just as addictive, game called 2048.


Calling it just one game is wrong and misleading, since 2048 has spawned hundreds of different variants on Android and on the Web. Created by an Italian programmer Gabriele Cirulli, the game was released on March 9 to the Google Play Store and quickly climbed the popularity charts. To play the game, all that a user had to do was to swipe number tiles to sum up two 2s or 4s or 8s and so on, till they get to the number 2048. With each swipe a new number pops up to add to the challenge and you have to keep clearing the board as the numbers keep growing. You can literally spend hours just swiping in any direction to see tiles combine. It's fun and keeps you thinking. The beauty of the game lies in its simplicity; there's no flashy interface or complex controls.


There was one problem though. The game which has been copied by so many other developers was itself a copy (or was it inspired?) by another game called 1024, which in turn was inspired by another game called Threes. Phew! Read that again to understand what you read.


Sirvo, creators of the game Threes, accused Cirulli and also makers of 1024 (Veewo studio) of copying their game in their blogpost. Sirvo takes a dig at its game’s clone and labels them easy to win. They even go on to explain how their game is still better than all the Threes-inspired games. Although they say that they are taking all in their stride, it is obvious the creators seem to be quite irked at all the copycats.

Threes, the inspiration for 2048-type puzzles

Threes, the inspiration for 2048-type puzzles


The blogpost also says, “We’re not shy about calling a clone a clone, and believe us, there’s no shortage of straight-up clones out there, especially on Android. But it’s the not-really-clone sort of games, the rip-offs, that have popped up that have our feelings puzzled. We know how to deal with a clone, and likely, so do you.”


Surprisingly, Cirulli doesn’t hide his “inspiration”. He gives due to credit to his sources of inspiration which can be seen here. Going a step further, he has posted the game’s source code online for others to developer their own version of 2048. Honestly speaking regular users usually are not finicky about whether the game is the original or a rip-off, but now anyone with knowledge of developing apps can ship out a 2048 clone. A cursory search in the Play Store store throws up a huge list of games that have blatantly tried to make the most of the game’s popularity. There is a rumour doing rounds about Flappy Bird version of 2048 and there's already one which features Doge.


Besides its simplicity, other reasons behind 2048’s popularity is that it's free - in terms of source and price. Cirulli has even posted the game code online for other developers to use and customise for their own version. There are tons of different versions and confusingly many of them have the same name - 2048. At least a couple of variations are interesting, with some games allowing you to go beyond 2048 and some adding a twist by only letting you join numbers in a Fibonacci sequence or other such number sequence. Sure, 2048 may have been a copy, but at least it has spawned some interesting variations by making the source code available. You can download the code here.

It's hard to be on the Play Store without seeing a 2048 clone these days

It's hard to be on the Play Store without seeing a 2048 clone these days


While the makers of Threes game have put a price tag of $2 on the game, Cirulli released it free of charge. Thanks to this, the peer pressure becomes a factor. Once the price barrier is removed, even plain word of mouth can take you to great heights. Because nowadays everyone wants to play the newest games. It's what happened with Flappy Bird.


We are at a point in time where applications and games have become a big part of mainstream conversation, perhaps more than ever. Today, you could start a conversation with any of your friends about the latest, craziest games or that killer messaging app. So keeping it free makes a lot of sense.


If you are ready to kill your weekend, then head on over to the Google Play Store to play 2048 on your Android device or check out the web version.

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