Have you heard about ANIPANG? What about HEXA? Zookeepr? Bubble Shooter? If you’ve not played one of these I’m sure you’ve at least come across them. ANIPANG is the latest mobile-based, HEXA style puzzle game craze to hit South Korea. The simple objective of blowing up as many lines of animated characters as possible may strike you as a tired re-hash of many other similar social games. But it has been a phenomenal hit. In fact, currently it is South Korean’s favorite leisure activity, with 18 million smart-phone downloads and 7 million daily users (Sundaytoz Corporation – ANIPANG’s developer data).

Before looking into ANIPANG’s secret, I want to mention Nudge, a book that states: “sensible ‘choice architecture’ can successfully nudge people towards the best decisions, by understanding behavior.” It highlights that People follow ‘architecture’, rather than making conscious behavioral choices. ANIPANG has leveraged this sensible choice architecture.

The game is played on the KAKAOTALK Platform, a free SMS application with 60 million users, and encourages users to invite contacts. And this naturally leads invitees to hit the ‘Free Download’ button. This is a fairly typical social game architecture, but what has triggered the phenomenally high numbers of downloads and what keeps users coming back for more? Fun, Graphics and Character are of course important, but a blockbuster needs more than that, and ANIPANG has it all.

Firstly, setting play limits. After five 60 second plays, you need to invite friends in a Multi-level marketing strategy, or purchase items. Non-users receive invitations from Kakao contacts, including close friends, acquaintances and colleagues.

Second, user generated social competition, through weekly score comparisons with Kakao contacts, stimulates a fun competitive spirit. ANIPANG ensures that users keep playing, inviting, and competing, with this simple, sensible architecture.

Finally; social games are a vehicle for strengthening online and offline relationships. The most important factor in ANIPANG’s success is that it encourages users to engage in fun communication with friends and contacts.

Many play ANIPANG to compete, or just to pass the time. But this game has affected our life style. It offers users an excuse to say ‘let’s hang out’, even with people we may not know well, or have lost contact with. I don’t know whether the developers of ANIPANG intended their game to have this level of social impact, but it has enabled a new level of connectivity, through fun competition. And this is why ANIPANG is so hot in South Korea.