Sheep A Sheep, an addictive tile-matching mini-game, has recently become an instant hit in China, with over 60 million players daily. In fact, the influx of users has already forced startup Jianyou Technology’s viral passthrough game to fail many times.
The game, available as a mini-program on Tencent’s social app WeChat, has shown up on people’s screens with astonishing speed when gaming titans like NetEase have had to wait months for clearance to launch games.
Sheep a Sheep focuses primarily on casual and social games. Previously, the company created a WeChat game called “Pirates,” which made more than 100 million yuan in revenue in the first month and drew 25 million daily active users.
According to Qimai Data, the game reached the top of the iOS free game list in less than a half-day on September 15, with over 45,000 downloads in a single day.
The player must click to slide a specific block into a strip at the bottom of a pile of randomly stacked blocks with varying patterns. To be eliminated from the game, players must connect three matching blocks. Those who eliminate all tiles win; however if the strip has seven blocks, the player loses.
The difficulty on the first level is low. However, once the player understands the fundamental procedures and game rules, the complexity rises dramatically in the second level, when all the tiles are staggered and stacked together, obscuring the lower ones. The player has no idea what patterns will show in the next layer. The popular game has only three levels, and research reveals that barely 0.1 percent of its millions of players have completed them.
The game’s simplicity in mechanics and social communication nature is one of the most intuitive features of its success. It has no entrance hurdles, and the difficulty of the second level encourages users to share, criticize, and discuss.
However, this is true of all social games. According to a CNG Data analysis published in 2021, the age and gender distribution of casual game players are largely balanced, and the share of casual game users over 30 years old is bigger than that of games requiring greater involvement and a higher level of expertise. However, more than 70% of users abandon the game after a month, and 35.7 percent play for less than a week. About 40% of users are still on the hunt for the next social game and merely come in to see what’s new.
Despite its early success, arguments over “Sheep A Sheep” have mirrored some problems surrounding China’s thriving mini-game business, such as user data collecting, originality, and fraud.
Tattoos, education, food, shareware, and other things are among the adverts that players must view if they need extra rounds to play. The advertisements last between 15 and 30 seconds. As a result, some feel that when these advertising are viewed, the game producer profits.
Others feel that the game on WeChat, a popular app among Chinese netizens, might easily lead to psychological addiction and that the opaque gaming mechanism may infringe on players’ rights.
According to several netizens, the game, which has yet to receive an official clearance number, was accused of displaying fake data on WeChat. In addition, the game’s popularity has also resulted in fraud, such as selling plug-in services and game objects, acting as customer support representatives, etc.