Indie developers make meme games fast, but do they pay off?

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Indie devs turned these viral memes into games quickly. Photo: Rob LeFebvre
Indie devs turned these viral memes into games quickly. Photo: Rob LeFebvre

When #TheDress went viral, you might have tweeted about it, or argued over the color with your Facebook friends. You may have forwarded that video of the Llamas giving merry chase, or the Left Shark messing up its dance moves during Katy Perry’s halftime show.

Indie game developers, however, saw an opportunity.

With games like Left Shark Dance Attack, Super WeaselPecker, and the addition of The Dress to the existing game Fashion Story, these game makers seized the opportunity of the moment and brought these viral memes into the digital realm for fun…and hopefully a quick profit.

“We understand these types of games have a short shelf life,” Evan S of Left Shark Dance Attack‘s Best Apps LLC told us, “but most games on the App Store have a short shelf life.”

There’s not a whole lot of analysis, here – just some quick thinking on the part of indie developers, already a fairly savvy lot.

“One night I saw these tweets about the llama chase incident and thought hey, why don’t we make a really small game based on that event, just put it out there and see what happens,” said Jyri Kilpeläinen, creator of Super Llama Chase and Super WeaselPecker.

I don’t think we should quit our day jobs just yet.

They used their previous game, Super Line Rush, so that they could release the first version of Super Llama Chase to Google Play pretty quickly. Soon after, #weaselpecker exploded across the internet and he re-skinned the game again to feature the hapless bird and its erstwhile attacker in Super WeaselPecker: Air Ride. Both games are currently on iOS and Android.

Adding #TheDress to Fashion Story was the first time Storm8 has dabbled in viral memes, too, and they did so incredibly fast.

Storm8 usually plans a roadmap for their games and updates, far in advance of release dates, which lets them execute ideas across various departments like art, programming, and story. This time, though, they did it in short order with a smaller team.

“Once we stopped staring at the dress and arguing about the color (which is obviously white and gold) and had the idea to put it in the game,” said Matt Lenehan, product manager at Storm8, “everything came together in just a matter of hours.”

While it may be a ton of fun to grab the internet viral stars and make a game out of them, the results have been less consistent in a monetary sense.

Storm8 won’t comment on actual numbers, and even though it reported an increase in how many people were playing Fashion Story each day, that’s not a guarantee of users paying for things in-game. Left Shark Dance Attack has been hit or miss, said Left Shark‘s Smith, though he implied it was mostly miss. Super WeaselPecker and Super Llama Chase only made about $35 from advertisement across both app stores, from a total of 1750 downloads. That’s not very much for a month out. None of these apps have been featured in the App Store, according to mobile date group, App Annie.

“I don’t think we should quit our dayjobs just yet,” said Kilpeläinen.