‘Squid Game’ mobile games – what we could see from the trend?

Nov 22, 2021

Netflix released Squid Game on September 17th, 2021. Over 132 million people watched the show in the first 23 days of its release, with 4.4 million new subscribers joining the platform. It’s a new record for Netflix, overtaking Bridgerton’s number one spot.

Netflix has even announced it will create its own localised Squid Game videogame, as an attempt to increase its popularity in regions like North America.

Netflix isn’t the only one reaping the benefits of this Korean Battle Royale show. The world has been flooded with memes, Halloween costumes, and merch based upon the show. The mobile games markets have not escaped – hundreds of hyper-casual games have hit the app stores, all inspired by the show.

Why does “Squid Game” make such a good mobile game?

If you have not yet had a chance to watch the show, contestants must make it through six rounds of challenges, which are based on Korean children’s games. There’s a tug of war, candy carving, and different dice games (plus the now-famous Red Light, Green Light), all of which feature simple, easily understood core mechanics. All of which makes each round simple to turn into a hyper casual title in its own right.

Netflix has essentially handed over a platter of hyper-casual game concepts with its very own trend to developers. Millions of players are wanting to try out these ‘trials’ for themselves, and they’re turning to the gaming industry to make it come true.

Insights from GameIntel

The earliest game launched: 闯关游戏模拟器-抠糖饼

The earliest game we can see in the top charts for the App Store is 闯关游戏模拟器-抠糖饼 by 成蛟 何 (which loosely translates to “Breakthrough Game Simulator-Sugar Biscuit”). It launched in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan on the 29th of September, only 12 days after Squid Game was released (yeah, that fast), and soon after reached number two in the charts.

It copies all of the challenges from Squid Game. Interestingly though, the developers have chosen to include the keywords ‘sugar’, ‘biscuit’ and ‘simulator’ into the title. This may be due to the popularity of the second round in Squid Game, suggesting that this is what players are searching for in the App Store.

Despite it being launched on the 29th of September, it didn’t reach the top 20 in China until the second of October. To go from initial launch to charts in just a few days is impressive. The game stayed in the top charts for the first couple of weeks and then fell down to #67 from the 18th of October onwards (just a month after the show was aired). Most likely due to some of the other Squid-Game-based titles making their way into the charts.

The first game to make it global: K-Games Challenge

The next game to hit the global charts was K-Games Challenge, by Supercent. In a similar fashion, it includes all of the rounds featured in the TV show. It launched on the 2nd of October, and it reached the charts in Portugal and Brazil on the 4th of October.

This was the first Squid Game title to make it global, just two and half weeks after the initial release of the series on Netflix. On October 5th, it hit the charts in the United States, France, Canada, Russia, Germany, Belgium, Denmark, Finland and more.

It reached number one in almost every country on October 6th, making it, arguably, the first game to truly take advantage of the Squid Game trend.

K-Games Challenge currently has a 4.5 rating with 17,300 reviews on the App Store in the United States. Much like the previous game, it stayed in the top charts until the 18th of October, before dropping. It’s now ranking at number 190 in the Games chart and number 60 in Simulation.

Most consistently successful game: Candy Challenge 3D

Candy Challenge 3D, created by Idil Morgul, was released on the 2nd of October.

This title didn’t make the charts until October 7th (20 days after the show was released). Unlike the previous two titles, this game is focused on the second challenge in the show: cutting a shape out of a honeycomb without breaking it. The game not only included the keyword ‘Candy’ in its name, but most of the images and descriptions used are around this specific challenge.

Candy Challenge 3D has remained in the charts ever since October 7th and has hit number one several times in multiple markets. It has been the highest-ranked game to hit the charts, and been in the top 10 for the longest time of all of the games investigated. It also has the highest rating, with an average score of 4.58  with over 37,000 ratings.

At least three games in the global top 10 charts are Squid Game titles

From the 9th of October, there were at least three games inspired by “Squid Game” in the top 10 game charts, in almost every country until around the 25th of October.

At its peak, there were around four or five games inspired by Squid Game in the top 20 games in almost every country investigated.

Since then, only two games have made it to the top of the charts regularly; Candy Challenge 3D by Idil Morgul, and Survival Game – 3D Challenge by Kien Nguyen. Which shows just how fleeting trends can be in the mobile games industry, and how important it is to jump on them quickly, creatively and sympathetically.

“Challenge” is the top keyword for chart-hitting Squid Game titles

Out of the top games with the Squid Game style that we’ve seen in the top 20 charts since launch, 70 percent of them feature the keyword ‘challenge’. Presumably, due to IP reasons, none of these games use Squid Game in the title (or at least shouldn’t). But they’ve all incorporated recognisable elements of the show into the descriptions and titles.

  • Candy Challenge 3D
  • K-Games Challenge
  • All challenges – survival game
  • Survival Challenge 3D
  • Survival Game – 3D Challenge
  • Survival Games: Life Challenge
  • Dalgona Challenge 3D!
  • 闯关游戏模拟器-抠糖饼 – “Breakthrough Game Simulator-Sugar Biscuit”
  • Bridge Race Master
  • Cookie Carver

Some games are just copying the art style

Even if the game isn’t about Squid Game, we’ve seen titles incorporate the iconic mask into their thumbnails and other elements, in an attempt to jump on the trend quickly. Bazooka Boy, by Supersonic Studios, was originally released in August 2020.

The icon used to be of a yellow avatar holding a bazooka. In their latest update on October 15th, they’ve changed their icon to incorporate a ‘legally distinct’ Squid Game mask and assault rifle. A reference to the guards in the show.

The game’s ranking has been steady. But since the switch, it has re-entered the top charts, hitting number 14 in India on October 6th. But this is still a unique way to increase your games traffic and popularity, without making major updates to your game.

Or they’re using Squid Game in their ads

Some developers are jumping on the trend and using the show’s theme and featured games in their advertising strategy. One of the ads for Shelter War: Last City features the ‘Red Light Green Light’ mini-game, but there’s no evidence of its inclusion within the game itself.

It’s clear that some devs are piggybacking upon the show’s success in a lot of different ways, especially to optimise their user acquisition campaigns.

Source: GameIntel