Games based on internet trends and memes: Easy win or a temporary success?

2021 was a year in which we have seen lots of mobile games that are based on memes and trends of popular culture.
meme based games
Apptica compiled all the benefits and questionable parts of the concept of games and apps inspired by fleeting trends.

Huggy Wuggy, Pop It toys, and Squid Game challenges… This is only a small part of the internet trends of 2021 that the smartest developers used to create games and apps. The older generation of social media users may have never heard of these names and titles, but the studios are not betting on them.

The main idea of meme-based games is virality, and those who get it (and thanks to the internet algorithms, there might be millions of those who go crazy over certain characters or jokes) are very likely to download them.

In the past few months, mobile game stores have been flooded by games based on the biggest internet trends twice. It seems like it might be a harbinger of a new tendency among game studios that can show up in full force in 2022. Apptica compiled all the benefits and questionable parts of the concept of games and apps inspired by fleeting trends.

The main trends mostly appear in social networks, and TikTok seems to generate the most viral of them almost daily. Moreover, it happens organically: a huge response from the audience of this network makes a product, song, or meme widely known even beyond TikTok.

That is why even the most random things can become trendy in a short period of time. The best example of this axiom is probably the story of a simple anti-stress toy called Pop It, which became insanely popular last year.

The secret of its popularity was the combination of constant boredom and high levels of stress due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the frequent appearance of the toy in TikTok influencers’ videos — as simple as that. It made “Pop Its” one of the most viral trends of the year, and many developers couldn’t miss the chance to use this trend in a new app. As a result, mobile app stores are still full of Pop It-related apps and games of all kinds — from satisfying anti-stress games where a player pops virtual rubber bubbles to puzzle, running games, and even Pop It chess.

One of the most popular internet characters of the end of 2021 was Huggy Wuggy — a scary-looking blue toy with disproportionately long limbs and a wide mouth full of sharp teeth. Originally it first appeared as an antagonist in the Poppy Playtime video game which was released this October, but now even those who are not into gaming know Huggy because of memes that are scattered on the Internet.

Now, at the very beginning of 2022, both App Store and Google Play are overflowing with different games and applications with Huggy Wuggy as the main character, and many of them have already hit the top charts. In some of the games, Huggy appears in an unexpected role: some developers noticed the sympathy and compassion from internet users, so they made a nice character out of a monster.

Also, in some games, there is a crossover of different game universes: for example, in one of them, Huggy Wuggy chases little men from Among Us or plays the “Red light, green light” game with the characters of the Squid Game.

Speaking about this series: also some developers often use characters and plots from worldwide famous movies and tv-shows. We still remember well the Squid Game fever that appeared this autumn. The original series was released on Netflix on September 17th, and in less than a month the mobile app stores both on iOS and Android platforms started to overflow with thousands of games that allowed users to try cruel games shown in it. The range of game types was impressive: not only runners and shooters but also puzzles, wallpapers, quizzes and even coloring Squid Game-themed games appeared on the market and blew up the top charts. The wave of popularity was so huge that some unscrupulous developers created malicious apps that stole personal data from users that wanted nothing but a nerve-racking game experience.

Now we are moving on to the practical part. If the trends haven’t already found you themselves, you can dig into social media to get an idea of them.

The most obvious source of viral memes and characters is TikTok. To scroll through the “For you” or “Discover” page will be more than enough to learn about current tendencies. Other social networks like YouTube and Instagram can work as well. For example, this November Boss Bunny and Dives Holding studios released a mobile game about an always smiling Turkish chef named Burak (better known as CZN Burak) who is popular on Instagram.

Google Trends website can also be helpful for finding topics that are popular now. This feature analyzes the most searched queries in Google in different regions of the world, so this data might be useful in terms of GEO selection.

Also, it is a good idea to look for trends that are successfully used in games on special analytical platforms: they not only store and systematize data on applications but also provide tools for deeper market analysis. For instance, Apptica allows users to examine all apps and see which apps are just about to launch. Also, you can explore its Creative gallery to watch how your rival’s advertising creatives are performing and even to find a bunch of viral trends used in ads.

Advantages of trend-based games

  • Internet is the best marketer. The very fact that the game is based on a viral meme or trend is itself a huge bonus – and it doesn’t require explanation.
  • Also, such applications can be created quite easily. To hop on the trend as quickly as possible, the developer can make a hypercasual game with simple mechanics and graphics – the main thing is to have something that goes viral right now in it.
  • What’s more, there is almost a guarantee that games and applications of this type will have downloads – however, no one knows for how long.

Why is the creation of such games not profitable in the long run?

Developers who have caught the wave and released a trending game or application can be sure that their product will surely get lots of downloads. However, it is too early to celebrate the victory, because there are many pitfalls hiding under the waves.

First of all, the number of downloads will drop when the hype passes. This can be illustrated by the recent case when App Store and Google Play were literally attacked by various apps and games based on the Squid Game series.

The most popular Squid Game-related apps had 3-6 million downloads each. The peak of downloads and revenues occurred in the period of late October – early November when everyone finished watching the series. However, the rapid rise was followed by the same sudden lull: now, four months after the release of the series, almost no one remembers about it.

Downloads and revenue indicators of Squid Challenge: Survival Game by Great Hyper Games

Also, incomes are most likely to be low. Such games are mostly created quickly and get downloads only because of a popular plot/characters/memes or other trends. Usually, they do not have a lot of levels, nor an addictive story as a background, so there is a risk that users will quickly delete them from their smartphone, and the developer’s income will be tiny.

What’s more, games and applications with a trending plot or characters appear in large numbers, so the competition is very big. Therefore, whether it is worth quickly creating a game with uncomplicated gameplay and unpretentious graphics is a big question.

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