Be honest. If you had a stack of cash in front of you right now, you’d likely end up swiping it all into the air while yelling something like “making it rain.” It’s OK. You can admit it.
Well, for those of you who can accept that about yourself, you’re in luck. The latest mobile game sensation is Make It Rain, and it’s all about collecting cash, buying off politicians, and bringing down that sweet greenback precipitation (which is something it’s also doing for developer Space Inch games). It’s a free-to-play release for iOS and Android, and the object is to make money. You can accomplish this by swiping your phone like you are Lil Wayne in a music video. You can also automatically earn funds by spending your money on business investments, financial investments, or political (read: corruption) investments.
If all that sounds familiar, you’re likely a veteran of the inexplicably addictive Cookie Clicker or Clicking Bad web games. Those basic web releases had players doing nothing but clicking a mouse to make cookies or meth (depending on the game) and then investing that into upgrades that helped you make cookies or meth faster.
If that all sounds stupid to you, well … yeah. It is stupid, but that gameplay structure is making around $50,000 every day, according to Space Inch.
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Make It Rain is currently one of the most-downloaded games on iOS and Android. It debuted in April, and it has already racked up more than a million downloads. And, like the arcade-style flying game Flappy Bird, Make It Rain kinda came out of nowhere.
“We had the idea for something based on money counting for years,” Joshua Segall, the cofounder of developer Space Inch, told GamesBeat. “And we started seeing other games out there that are really what we consider stripped down versions of Clash of Clans. Looking at that and Cookie Clicker, we could see that making investments is just a great basic gameplay mechanic. There are all kinds of games that do that in interesting ways. Cookie Clicker does it in a really stripped down way, and we though we could do that with our money idea.”
Make It Rain isn’t Space Inch’s first game, so when the developer decided to start making its money-swiper, it did so with the intention of feeding players into its existing puzzler Disco Bees. That game has you working with a field of hexagons (honeycombs) that you have to get rid of by matching up colors. Space Inch tooks its time designing and building Disco Bees, and it figured it could maybe get a few more players by putting out another, maybe inconsequential game that had a referral link built into it.
“We didn’t think it would be wildly popular — or even as popular as Cookie Clicker — but it is,” said Segall. “And we really didn’t even do anything.”
By “anything,” Segall is talking about marketing. His studio spent $10,000 producing Make It Rain, and then they put only $1,000 toward “acquiring players” when it launched last month. Then Space Inch just let it go … only to find it rapidly climbing the charts weeks later.
One Monday they saw that Make It Rain managed 10,000 installs. Then the next day it got 15,000 more. Then 20,000, and then 140,000.
“And then we did 220,000 installs in a day. That’s what got us to No. 1,” said Segall.
With the downloads came the money. Segall confirmed that Make It Rain brings in around $50,000 from advertising and in-game purchases every day. But how did it even reach this level of success in the first place?
“We really don’t know what happened,” said Segall.
When a game starts finding viral success like this, it’s hard to figure where the downloads are coming from. And while Segall and the team at Space Inch don’t know for sure, they think the Make It Rain caught on with a college-age crowd.
“It’s the kind of thing where it’s just abnormally viral, which means that whenever a person is downloading it, they are probably telling a friend,” he said. “When we spent that $1,000, maybe we got 1,500 to 2,000 installs, and they were talking to their friends — which led to us getting more than one extra organic per person.”
Segall also thinks that game is getting lots of old-fashioned word-of-mouth marketing.
“I think the players are physically sitting next to each other, and I think a lot of it is that we targeted people in their early 20s who are around their friends a lot,” he said.
While the studio didn’t invest heavily in marketing, Make It Rain does offer players the opportunity to double their earnings rate if they share the game with two friends. And Space Inch is still trying to feed its new players into Disco Bees with a similar offer for anyone who installs that puzzle game.
But Segall says the team is pretty sure that it’s just the game itself that is creating its own success.
“I think it really is the investment game model itself is attractive to people,” said Segall. “It’s what makes Clash of Clans go. It’s what makes The Sims go. It’s what makes Cookie Clicker go. People just like to have a lemonade stand that makes 50 cents a minute and then see how buying something like a strip-mining company starts making them $20 million a second. It really takes you to this sort of world where you are buying into these shady businesses, and it’s a stripped down thing but it captures people’s imaginations.”
While that’s all possible, I think another reason that Make It Rain is such a viral success is Kanye West, Lil Wayne , and music videos.
The title of Make It Rain refers to a popular dance move (I guess that’s what you’d call it) that looks like people are swiping dollar bills into the air. It’s pompous and posturing and ridiculous, and Make It Rain captures that movement perfectly.
If you see someone holding their phone and making it rain virtual Benjamins, it’s hard not to take notice — but Segall doesn’t buy it.
“I’d be surprised if that was it,” he said.
Well, then I bet he would find it surprising to see me spinning in circles in my kitchen as my wife and cat look on confused while I make the cheddar fall in Make It Rain.
As for why games like Make It Rain, 2048, and Flappy Bird keep jumping to the top of the download charts and going viral, Segall thinks it’s because that people are always looking for something unique.
“I think people want strange and different,” he said. “No question that one of the things that makes a great game is that it’s strange and different. Just a little bit weird. And I love Candy Crush and Clash of Clans — I mean really love, so I don’t think it’s a backlash. I just think it’s that people want to try weird and creative stuff. And it looks like there will continue to be a place for that.”