Since a friend recommended 2048 to me, I’ve been enjoying the sliding-and-matching tiles game on my mobile.
But when I came to installing it onto an Android tablet, the Google Play store was flooded with games calling themselves 2048. Many had similar yellow logos, similar colour palettes of tiles, and were described as ‘original’. And, of course, there were the mandatory Doge and Flappy versions, hedging their bets across multiple memes.
I wanted to make sure I downloaded the right version. I looked at the screenshots, and this revealed small differences such as grids larger than the 4x4 I had been playing on. But even when excluding differences in game mechanics, I was left with a huge number of options calling themselves 2048. It reminded me of that overwhelming, weary feeling of standing in a large supermarket aisle. Just as choosing between 20 types of strawberry jam is unbearably tedious, trying to unpick the differences to find the right game of 2048 made me want to give up. I settled for an acceptable doppelgänger, but the whole experience left me bruised, and worse had eaten up valuable playing time!
Looking up the phenomena online, a timeline emerges of clones of clones of clones. Like a game of Chinese whispers, 2048 itself was, in fact, a version of 1024, which might have been designed as a spin-off to Threes. In which case, could any of them really be considered the ‘real’ version? And why did it matter to me, if playing a copy was essentially the same?
I was looking for some app authenticity. But what a customer or user experiences as authentic, might not necessarily be the original product. The challenge for products and services isn’t being first to the party, it’s making sure they’re the ones we want to spend time with.