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The impact of 2021’s biggest tv hit Squid Game on the mobile games market

Squid Game was undoubtedly the biggest worldwide hit this year, turning into a global phenomenon with its striking aesthetic and emotional story. The South-Korean tv series quickly became Netflix’s most-watched with 142 million households in 94 countries spending 1.65 billion viewing hours during its first four weeks from launch. 

Whenever we face such a global media phenomenon, we immediately see it manifest itself through the mobile app market too. Genre of choice? Primarily hyper casual, as these games are simple to both play and produce, and their speed of development is high. 

Flooding the internet

It seems like the whole world was at one point or another watching the first season of Squid Game. Content inspired by the show flooded the Internet, and the mobile games industry was no exception. From the very beginning of September 2021, we saw downloads charts overrun with thematic apps. For example, 456: Survival Game took just three weeks after its release on October 9th to harvest 14.3M users and burst into the very top of the ranking for the most downloaded games around the globe. And now, two months later, we wonder if the hype is at all dying down and if it might be time to let the Squid Game go until season 2.

Looking for all the games that were inspired by the show and thus released after the pilot episode, we found 842 of them; however, almost 50% (419 titles) have either been shut down already or have not been generating any traction with new users for several weeks. Overall, all the games we found could be split into a few categories, including titles that replicated the storyline fully and titles that only used certain parts or concepts of the series. Also available are the multiple downloadable wallpapers, fake call and text apps, quizzes and walkthroughs, guides on how to play the game, stickers, coloring pages and various add-ons for the existing games such as Minecraft

Highest number of games

Firstly, we looked at the number of new game releases per day starting from September 19, which is a couple of days after the premiere of the show. As we can see, the largest number of new launches occured about three weeks after September 17: we recorded the biggest amount of new titles first entering the market on one given day as 41. However, as it may have been expected, the development boom has gone down since, and as the days go by, we see fewer and fewer new releases based on the show.

Let’s now check if users continue to download Squid Game-related apps as often as they did right after the first stream of the series. 

At its highest, the cumulative downloads of all apps of the kind exceeded 11M per day in mid October. So we can safely state that the impact of the media phenomenon was huge. Then the hype went down, but the apps still generate about 4M daily downloads, and that is despite the fact that new apps free-riding on the Squid Game theme no longer come out.

As you can see, downloads started growing on October 11, peaking on October 23 with a total of 6.4M; that’s when most of the games started to wind down. The biggest market shares have gone out to 456: Survival Game (blue), Cookie Carver: Life Challenge (red), Candy Challenge 3D (yellow), Octopus Games: K Challenge 456 (gray) and K-Sniper Challenge 3D (teal). The last two were released two weeks later than their general competitors. Let’s take a closer look at the top 5 biggest games of this market segment and review how they differ in terms of gameplay. 

456: Survival Game by YoloGames is the first title in the chart that has not yet given up its position, reaching 41.9M cumulative installs. Game levels here repeat the actual sequence of games in the show: Red Light Blue Light, where the player has to cross the field while the doll is not watching; Dalgona Candy, where the player has to cut the figure out from a dalgona cookie and is limited on time; Tug of War, where players have to tug at the rope and pull it to their side to win; and Jump on Glass, when users have to take 18 steps along the bridge and reach its end safely, each step offering a choice of two squares of glass (one safe, another easily breakable) the player can step on.

Cookie Carver: Life Challenge by Azur Games holds the second place with 35.8M downloads, while being the closest fit with the original series narrative out of our top 5. In this game, there are six levels: 4 are similar to the 456: Survival Game, and then there are two more. In Marbles, the player is expected to make the opponent guess odds and evens or try to hit the hole first. For the final level, users actually play the traditional squid game, where you have to reach the “head” of the squid in order to win.

Candy Challenge 3D by Idil Morgul sits in third place with its 33.3M downloads. There are a few game options similar to the previous two games: for example, the Dalgona Candy. Also, several minigames that were shown in the Squid Game series can be found there, as well as a couple of originals as well. 

Octopus Games: K Challenge 456 was published by ABI Global on October 21 only and has already reached 24.1M downloads, coming in fourth in the chart. Its gameplay is heavily based on the show but also features a couple of scroller and arcade games of both “melee arena” and “io” types. With most original levels present, we also get a few reinterpretations of the show’s content and a couple of completely unrelated extras. Another catch is the added choice of modes (including different tracksuit colors) and things like VIP skins and… yes, seasons! So if you cannot wait for season 2 of the Squid Game to hit the screens, you can try getting your quick fix in this game instead.

Another title we’d like to highlight is K-Sniper Challenge 3D by Homa Games. The game has come in fifth in our ranking with 12.4M downloads. Its special feature is, in fact, quite a plot twist: you do not play for the survivor but rather for the sniper, making sure that everyone who failed in each of the games from the series gets “eliminated”, as per the series’ original jargon (which is killed, basically). This title seems to be the only one out of the top 5 that is still enjoying some steady growth.

Overall, all games are developed in the hypercasual genre and have quick-timed levels (mostly under 1 minute) with very simple character controls, low digitalization and very basic 3D graphics. Levels are based, albeit not exclusively, on the games from the original show and have different mechanics: for example, in some of them you have to tap on the screen, while you’ll be swiping in others; and the Dalgona Candy level resembles the so-called “satisfaction” subgenre.


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