Among the legion of transcendent free-to-play mobile games that achieved unprecedented success such as Angry Birds, Flappy Bird, and Clash of Clans, one game stands out for not only standing the test of time, but maintaining its simple, bare-bones mechanics and complete absence of micro-transaction. That game is Slither.io.
Slither.io is a 2016 F2P game for Andriod, iOS, and PC, in which 50 players compete to eat colored orbs and grow as large as possible. The game has three simple rules: Eat to grow longer, don't run into other players, and hold the mouse for a speed boost when you're long. That's it, that's the whole game. So, how did Slither.io become one of the most successful mobile games of all time, and who is the man behind the snake royale?
What is Slither.io And How Do You Play?
Slither.io can be played with either a touch screen or a mouse. The game is played from a top-down perspective. You play as a tiny snake that can be customized with different colors and patterns. Like the classic Nokia game, Snake, your Slither.io character can never stop moving and will follow your mouse/finger where ever you move it. Scattered everywhere are tiny multi-colored orbs. Every time you move over an orb, you will consume it and increase in length. There are 50 other snakes in the game so, if you ever run head first into another snake, regardless of you or its size, you will immediately die and exit the game. However, whenever another snake collides head first with any snake, including you, they instantly die and leave behind all of the orbs they have eaten.
The strategy is to use your shape and size to force other snakes to collide into each other (and you) in order to consume their orbs and grow as quickly as possible. The bigger you are, the easier it is to kill other players. A popular strategy involves encircling other smaller snakes and spinning around them, making your circle tighter and tighter until they eventually run into you and you can consume their orbs.
Unlike Snake, you can cross over yourself, just not other snakes. There is a leader board in the top right of the screen that tracks the length of the top 10 players in your game. On the bottom left, you can see your own size to compare.
It really is a proto-battle royale of sorts, pitting you against 50 other players as you try to outlive them all, knowing one death will remove you from the game permanently. Even today, more than three years after release, you can play the game on any platform and still immediately be placed into a full group.
Who Made Slither.io?
Slither.io was created by a sole developer named Steven Howse. Howse was self-taught and inspired to make Slither.io after playing the popular Miniclip game Agar.io. In fact, the two games are almost identical. Howse wanted to make a simple game that was accessible to a wide audience and very easy to pick up and play in short bursts. The one thing Slither.io has that Agar.io does not, however, is a connection to that classic arcade game and the first mobile game all of us ever played, Snake.
Howse was struggling financially when he decided to make Slither.io, he worked on the game for six months before releasing it on iOS and Android. Not knowing what to do next, Howse considered getting a "real" job. Then, suddenly, as if overnight, Slither.io became a huge success. The game, which has no microtransactions or in-app purchases to speak of, other than the option to permanently remove ads for $4, became so successful during the summer of 2016 that Howse was spending $15,000 a month on server space in order to accommodate the constantly growing player base. He was earning over $100,000 a day in ad revenue.
How Did Slither.io Become So Successful?
One name: PewDiePie. The biggest name on YouTube, now with nearly 100 million subscribers, began making Slither.io videos in April 2016, shortly after it released. Howse did not approach PewDiePie about making videos for his game. Instead, the videos came to be organically and provided an unbelievable amount of exposure for Howse and the game.
PewDiePie made two videos for Slither.io, each receiving millions of views, and that was it. The word of mouth for the game was fantastic, the fact that it was free and didn't push in-app purchases made it successful to a wide audience. Also, the simple-yet-addicting gameplay meant people were coming back over and over, playing the game and watching ads. It's one of the last, pure, and totally organic success stories of the modern gaming age.
Slither.io is still available on Android, iOS, and online at Crazygames.com. On Android, the game has been downloaded over 100 million times since it released in March 2016. Countless imitations and iterations have come and gone over the years, but none of them made a splash the way Slither.io did. You can thank PewDiePie, the lack of micro-trans, or just the fact that the game is genuinely fun. Whatever the reason for its success, Slither.io belongs in the pantheon of important titles in gaming history.