2048 [Free] has been storming up the charts on the App Store since its release and it seems like everybody’s talking about the game. It’s particularly disheartening when you know that Threes [$2.99] was released a couple of weeks prior to that. In both games you slide tiles on a board until either you win (for 2048) or you lose (for Threes). Even though 1024, another clone of Threes, was released first, it was 2048 that gained a huge following. There’s been no shortage of drama around it since the original creator of 2048 mentioned on Hacker News that he hadn’t even heard about Threes before making his game. As things evolved, his website has been updated and now states that it is “conceptually similar to Threes by Asher Vollmer”.

Sirvo has been fairly quiet about it up until now. Today they’ve released a huge article on the development of Threes featuring the 570 emails that the team sent to each other during that process. They explain how the concept was done quite fast but how they struggled with the mechanics, and much, much more. From a monster that was eating the tiles to the now popular “doubling” gameplay that was added 7 months after they started making it, you’ll be able to have an in-depth look at how they made Threes and at how difficult it is to make a game that feels so simple. I really recommend that you do read it, because it’s fascinating.


In any case, 2048 (and 1024 before it) perfectly illustrate how quickly clones can take over the App Store. Or, as the Threes developers put it, "We do believe imitation is the greatest form of flattery, but ideally the imitation happens after we’ve had time to descend slowly from the peak -- not the moment we plant the flag."

  • alex13111

    I have actually starting hearing people today talk about 2048 and I thought to myself "if only you knew about the magnificent Threes that came before it"

    • Killercow

      I've said this exact sentence to about 20 people this week alone. It's crazy!

    • hakamhakam

      Please keep doing that, the only way you can stop these clone app is to create awareness. In my country (Thailand) both of the games didn't get that much attention (2048 is at 98 on the free games chart and Threes is at 41 on the paid games chart) so I can't really do anything about it. But I swear that if I ever come across anyone that play 2048, I'll let them know about Threes and I hope anyone who know about Threes would let other know too.

    • nini

      That developer has five different Flappy Bird clones to their name, not the best sign.

    • Ahmed90

      Bought Threes and loved it but I prefer 2048. Clone or not - the sliding factor is really neat. Sirvo got my money so they shouldn't feel bad either

  • ImJPaul

    I guess people don't want to pay when they can have almost the same thing for free. Interested to see how this pans out.

    • Jacob Gehman

      The sad truth is that most of the people who game casually on phones don't care about things like "developers" and "creators". There is an almost total disconnect between creation and consumption. They see two similar games, one that costs $2 and one that costs $0, their reaction isn't "I wonder who made this concept first," it's, "Oh, good, I can click download AND keep my $2." Like, supporting original ideas and development doesn't even come into play. Suggest it and they'll look at you like you have two heads.

      These are issues that come into our heads because we care enough to read a site like TA in the first place. We care about supporting the people who make games we like, in the hopes that they'll make moar. MAKE ALL THE MOAR GAMES.

  • Adams Immersive

    Further insanity... there appear to be 7 clones of 2048 all with the name 2048 (combined with different punctuation)!

    • Killercow

      That's only in the Appstore though. There are hundreds of them on PC because 2048 is an open source game.
      Fun Fact: That 2048 app linked to this article is not made by the original creator of 2048.

      • http://www.gamemob.com/ Alex Kunzelmann

        And, out of respect, shouldn't be linked to at all in this article.

      • http://toucharcade.com Eli Hodapp

        It's the #1 free app right now, it's getting infinitely more visibility than this article ever will. It'd be weird to not link to it.

      • Jay G

        Yeah, I've been playing it on my phone through the web browser, it only interested me at all because people are taking icons from groups of people I follow on Twitter and put them into the game. Otherwise, I would have no interest in playing if it were just number matching like in Threes. It's a bit too abstract to catch my attention.

  • Michael Stroud

    "To this day, only about 6 people in the world have ever seen a 6144 and nobody in the world has yet to “beat” Threes." Who are these superheroes? Admittedly, I've improved a bit and my top score is now 8,187 with only unlocking the 384 tile, but 61k? That's nuts!! Bravo for making one of your goals legs for this game. I love absolutely everything about this team and this game! I'm curious if there's anything in store for an update!!

    • Leeabe51

      Serenity Caldwell of Macworld scored that high. She posted a tips article, it helped, but still can't get that high.

      • Ahmed90

        She's my arch nemesis. Always had been. Her dorky walleyes....

  • moon_frogger

    Someone posted about 2048 on Facebook and I tried to tell them it's just a clone of the much classier threes but nobody seemed to care. They were all jugs amazed by 2048. It's a shame. Id buy it twice if I could. Threes that is, not 2048 lol

    • colbertj

      I pasted the AppStore link to Threes in the comment...

  • Leeabe51

    Glad to see TA covering this story.

    • witedahlia

      Agreed. This is exactly the type of stuff I love to read about. Thanks TA!

  • trazer

    My wife is playing 2048 and loving it, and had never heard of threes. Three could have been there, it just needed to be free with ads along with the same paid version for those that wanted to pay.

    I would have tried threes for free, but paying for something I was not sure was my thing not so much. Out of principle I will not try 2048 or any other clone, but threes absolutely should have had a free option.

    It now seems as all really huge games are free, or have a full free version option. That ad revenue sure adds up quick, you're almost silly not to offer both nowadays it seems.

    • hakamhakam

      Oh, so everything on App Store should be free or have a free version, tell me more about your opinion.

      • JPhilipp

        Maybe a streamlined "preview taste" should be built-in for all apps unless a developer opts out, with a system managed by Apple... e.g. it's perfectly normal for music on iTunes to get a quick song impression before you buy. Whether we like it or not, there's currently nothing that gets you kicked out faster from good download rates (and associated charts) than setting your app to be paid. People have a strong dislike for many 'freemium' IAPs, but a proper preview system could be something very different and fair. Just saying.

      • trazer

        No need to be snarky, I'm simply saying that the vast majority of "huge" hits seem to be free with ads. I personally hate ads and will happily pay for an app with no ads, but if I were a developer making a .99-$3 app then I would seriously consider having two versions, free with ads to hit most people and get the most impressions. And I'd still make money. See flappy bird for example. Then, the paid version is same game with no ads. Easy, and my game has much more potential to be "huge" and people like me who hate ads would purchase it.

        If I'm unsure I might get the free version to test, if I dislike it they May still make a few cents off me while I try it. I may then purchase it if I like it, others may just stay free, and the dev might make more from the ads in the free version than the paid version, who knows.

        That would not work with expensive apps, but if threes had a free option from the get go I bet there would be many, many less clones. I would prefer that threes had made all the money that 2048 has now made, I wonder how the money made compares between the two?

        Again, sorry I upset you, I am just stating an opinion, I will try to refrain from doing so in an offensive or stupid manner in the future, which means I'll post less and read more. Been reading here daily for three years and this is why I rarely post. Again, no offense meant.

    • Leeabe51

      From reading the development post linked in the article above, it sounds like a lot more work went into Threes gameplay, creating a deeper game that takes more skill to good in. Also, I haven't played the clones, but Threes has a ton of charm. They deserve the $2.

      • StraightlineBoy

        You've got to think that Apple could do a lot to help here simply by giving developers the power to offer a time limited demo of the full app, maybe 30 or 60 minutes, at the end of which you get the pop-up prompting you to buy if you want to keep playing. For threes that's been carefully crafted, having ugly ads in a free version just wouldn't be right

  • VirtualBoyFreak

    Well, my story is the opposite: I read of Threes but wasn't too wow'd. After I played 1024 (not 2048, even though the last update competes towards achieving that card) because it was free and seemed like a good Threes clone.

    I liked it so much that I thought "If a clone is this good, the real Threes must be amazing", and proceeded to buy Threes. Since there is no lite version of Threes, I used 1024 as the lite version of Threes (in a way, sort of). I don't know if many others will be in the same situation, but in my case a clone made me buy Threes.

  • P1XL Games

    This is the new reality: if a developer's innovative and fun game can be cloned in a few days, it will be. Games with a lot of content (story, art, levels) aren't susceptible to this, but games centered on an easily duplicated play mechanic will probably need to offer a definitive free version to ward off the clones. (P.S. I definitely don't think all games should be free, and I think innovators such as Threes deserve the money, but that won't stop the clones)

  • Adsinjapan

    Still a loyalist of Threes here.
    A few people switch between 2048 and Threes intermittently due to Threes difficulty, but I say why? I like the challenge and it doesn't take too long to get back to your previous score.
    Once again though, this all goes to show why I have this love/hate relationship with iOS gaming. If there were tighter controls over IPs and the developers ownership, such shifty, greedy plagiarism wouldn't be so rampant.

  • craighinrichs

    I play both versions and love them both. I don't get this high and mighty stance people take about games. The App Store is a market. 2048 is different enough from threes for me. A straight clone wouldn't make me keep both. I would keep the one that was the most fun. I loved the article. But I despise these hipster comments about what should or should not be popular. Don't kid yourself, 2048 helps sell paid copies of Threes! The reality is people are enjoying both. Deal with it.

    • Leeabe51

      You are missing the point, and even in console/PC gaming things like this go against copyright laws. If Sony makes a game for $30 and someone comes along and makes an exact copy of the game and sells it for cheaper, two things can happen. It's not allowed to be published in any of the stores because Sony, Microsoft, or Steam won't allow it, so at best it ends up on some web page without getting any attention. Or, the more likely case, someone sues the copycat. Apple doesn't back developers in this way, and copyrights are too slow to get in the quick app world.

      All this also hurts the App Store. Quality developers lose out, and feel less compelled to make quality products in the future and the App Store gets full of cheaply made clones/rip offs.

      • Tone

        Threes doesn't now own merging objects or numbers for that matter. This isn't a copyright issue as the game isn't called Threes! or use any assets from the game. It doesn't even use the same values! There are no 3's in 2048. So your point is irrelevant but I understand what point you are trying to make. I say they are different *enough* that I play both. Since I enjoy both why should you want to take that away from me?

        As far as how it hurts the App Store I won't disagree with you but our opinion on the matter doesn't matter at all. The fact that it is a market and people are downloading both and that is good for the App Store because they rank and I personally enjoy both games. I don't see any of the other 2048 games ranking except for one.

      • Leeabe51

        You don't understand copyright.

      • Tone

        So you are asserting that you can copyright a mechanic?

      • Leeabe51

        Not at all, but if you read any of the numerous articles on software copyrighting you start to see how it works. Simply having a certain word in a title provokes lawsuits (see King), or having a similar shaped button in the OS (see Apple/Samsung). Copyright lawsuits go after even the tiniest resemblance. Threes vs the clones, there is overwhelming overlap that could be seen as infringement, if Threes actually was copyrighted that is.

      • Tone

        In Kings example that is actually a trademark which is very different from a copyright. Threes is technically copyrighted when they put the copyright symbol in their game. You can officially copyright material by registering it but you don't have to register anything. But there are certain things that won't hold up in court.

        Anyone can sue anyone for anything. Doesn't mean they are going to win. 2048 is different enough otherwise your assertion would hold for tower defense game mechanics and all tower defense games couldn't be created. Or even platformers would fall under the same issue.

        I actually do understand copyright as I have produced many works including apps in the app store. You have to understand your rights. The creators of threes isn't going to sue anyone over copyright because there is no way they would win without a large legal team behind them.

      • Leeabe51

        Fair enough. I disagree completely, other than that Threes developers aren't going to sue anyone.

      • Adsinjapan

        Couldn't agree more!

        What I'd like to add, is that Apple is damaging the AppStore because of rampant plagiarism too.
        It is effectively driving decent developers to seek out other channels to market their own products, such as Google, that is if this all hasn't damaged
        Or disillusioned the devs to the point of giving up.

      • Ahmed90

        No one's giving up with the prospect of earning $50,000 a day. There'll always be devs to make games especially on ios, which is the hottest platform

  • Stormourner

    I would rather pick Threes! instead of the clones

  • Cookies

    There was a guy in my business class today playing a game that was literally called fours and was exactly the same barring the delightful colour scheme.

  • Zenfar

    I am going to but Threes now, much respect to the original developers.

    • Ahmed90

      I'd like to see an Imgur link of your receipt - sans your personal info. Or else it didn't happen

  • Thawkk

    Clearly the only solution now is for the Threes devs to clone their own game.

  • DemoEvolved

    Threes devs spent 10 months thinking about argyle monster mouths. It wasn't threes until about three months to ship. No kidding you can clone a game deved in three months in a couple of weeks.

    Lesson learned: add content or make it free

    • Olip96

      What content could you add to Threes ? Do you realize some content was actually removed over time ? A good game should not need additional content after its release, that's a proof that the game was not actually finished and polished. Threes was thoroughly polished over the course of its development. Threes is a perfect game with perfect mechanics and SHOULD remain unchanged.

      The point that makes me angry in your comment is "add content or it isn't worth it". I miss the old days when every game was at its best at launch and did not need to get new content to be good since developers couldn't do it anyway. This perfect world of gaming vanished with the 7th gen of consoles. Players' and developers' mentality has changed since then, and we got countless games which actually became okay years after their launch after numerous updates. That souldn't happen.

  • Spore Productions

    Arguing about who did what first is ridiculous. People like to try games before deciding to pay up. You test drive a car before buying it right? Netflix has a free trial month right? Flappy Bird would never have reached number one if it was not free.

  • Izzy Klein

    I would love to play Threes instead of 2048. However, I have an iPod Touch 4th Generation.

    If Threes is rejiggered to play on my generation, boom! Sale.

  • Jay G

    These two games share a similar mechanic in one respect, but after having played both of them now, I would not call 2048 a clone at all, it's a very different experience. It's like calling Castlevania a Super Mario Bros. clone.

  • http://www.threeboy.net Threeboy

    I've played both and 3's is a better challenge, is more polished, etc.

  • gmattergames

    I'll be the first to admit that 3's is exceptional; a truly ground breaking and elegant design approaching Tetris level innovation.

    2048 is eclipsing 3's success for one simple reason: its free!

    It's also easier and more addictive

    With it's wider appeal and and free price of admission, Sirvo should not be surprised by the speed of 2048's success, and certainly shouldn't publicly air it's sour grapes on the matter.

    What they should do is, drop their pride, then drop their price to free (with ad removal).

    3's is a superior product, it's just not priced to compete.