modern culture since 1991

Wings Over Sealand

How to lose $210m in two seconds

Posted on March 31, 2012 by RevStu

If your fingers exert even the slightest amount of pressure on the pulse of the mobile-gaming zeitgeist, the image below is going to set your deja-vu-sense a-tingling.

If there's one thing you can't accuse App Store developers of, it's being slow to rip off a success story. In this case, the success story in question is the astonishing overnight smash-hit Draw Something, which exploded into the news so dramatically that notorious idea-pirates Zynga (the same company who shamelessly cloned Tiny Tower) actually opted to pay a rumoured $210m for the company who made it rather than just banging out their own hasty barefaced knock-off like they usually would.

The game in our picture is functionally all but identical to Draw Something, except with more features. You get extra drawing tools and lots more colours to play with, and there are extra game modes on top of the straightforward turn-based picture exchange of OMGPOP's No.1 phenomenon. (Which in fact barely qualifies as a "game" at all, but that's another feature entirely.) The funny thing, though, is that it ISN'T a knock-off.

It's a game that came out two months BEFORE Draw Something, is basically exactly the same but superior to it in almost every way, yet has conspicuously failed to earn so much money that its bewildered creators can do little but giggle all day at their insane good fortune. Why? Well, of course we can't say for absolute certain. But we'd be happy to wager a pretty substantial amount of money on the fact that some complete dogturd-brained demi-wit decided to lumber it with the name Charadium II.

Names are important, and there can have been fewer more striking examples of that fact in living memory. "Draw Something" is a brilliant name – descriptive, snappy and memorable. Tell someone about it and even if they don't have their phone on them at the time there's pretty much no chance they'll have forgotten it by the time they get home. In contrast, the only way "Charadium II" could have been more offputtingly titled to its intended target audience would have been if they'd chosen to call it "&–++==GrwIxyn0rXX!!__29987 (ev^&%^4): Part XVIIX5 – The Fwhargnolaz Doctrine".

What does "charadium" mean? It means nothing, and if you were to take a wild stab based on the name alone and the clue that it was some sort of parlour game, you'd assume it was something to do with Charades, not what it actually is (ie Pictionary). The "-dium" on the end makes it sound pompous and overblown for good measure.

We're not sure why they've gone with the "II" suffix at all (since people don't like feeling that they're late joining in with something), as there's no Charadium I on the App Store and the game just calls itself "Charadium" onscreen, but the choice of Roman numerals has for decades now been cultural shorthand for "the creators of this artefact are almost certainly wankers far more interested in Lord Of The Rings than is healthy for a grown adult", and therefore hammers the last nail into the coffin.

Frankly, they'd have had more chance of success if they'd released a game called "Buy This And You'll Definitely Get Cancer".

People often don't believe us when we tell them videogame publishers are cretins. We can think of a couple of hundred million brand-new reasons that prove we're right.




EDIT: We've been poking around a little, and it looks like the first Charadium – which was even MORE similar to Draw Something, leading us to stroke our chin thoughtfully – was in fact available for iOS over two YEARS ago, in December 2009, but was pulled for unknown reasons in early April 2010. It was replaced by a Pro version, which lasted until August the same year before also vanishing. Possibly they didn't think they'd made the name quite awful enough yet.

4 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 01 04 12 14:01

    Duimschroef - Pijnlijk Rechtvaardig over games en tech

  2. 09 04 12 09:35

    The Monday Papers | Rock, Paper, Shotgun

  3. 09 04 12 11:18

    Superlicious | Superlevel

  4. 10 07 12 15:25

    On the curiously clone-resistant nature of indie RPGs @

15 to “How to lose $210m in two seconds”

  1. Romanista says:

    Was kinda surprised that zynga chose buying over cloning here…

  2. Derrp says:

    Why you sio predjudice? Maybe "Buy this and you will definitely get cancer" is fun.
    Don't judge a book by its cover!

  3. Bruce says:

    Charidum 1 was pulled to become We Doodle, a free to play game exactly like Draw Something by ngmoco. It was hyper aggressive with IAP and lacked the real time drawing component. 

  4. JG says:

    Romanista, why are you surprised? Zynga bought it for 13 million players a day (more than all Zynga games combined), $400,000+ revenue per day, and to acquire the team that created the magic. Copying and starting from 0 players 6 months from now would be foolish.

  5. DG says:

    Zynga usually do offer to buy before they clone, they tried to buy Nimblebit before making their Tiny Tower shit-o-clone.

  6. Jonathan Harford says:

    This piece ignores the fact that I can play Draw Something with all of one's smartphone-toting friends, which no doubt contributed greatly to its popularity. Charadium II is limited to iOS.

  7. Tom K. says:

    My new iDevice game, "Sim Entrepreneur", is now available.
    With a certain amount of starting cash – set by the difficulty level you choose – you must pressure successful businesses to sell to you outright so that you may aggressively exploit them in various ways (up to and including allowing the Mafia to launder money through your business, which is only marginally more risky than abusing tax avoidance up until the point it is actually tax evasion – i.e. not risky at all!).

    I am hoping that Zynga will offer to buy my game when it is successful, so that they die of irony poisoning.

  8. Mike says:

    We Doodle was far better than Draw Something.

  9. I have a pen and a stack of Post-It Notes. Can Zygna by me out, please?

  10. Rog says:

    daniel thomas macinnes says:
    3 April, 2012 at 3:34 pm
    I have a pen and a stack of Post-It Notes. Can Zygna by me out, please?

    Post it themselves have beaten you to it, they have a multiplayer version of the same game that’s been around for at least 2 years. It’s an office classic.

  11. Alex says:

    I disagree that 'Draw Something' is necessarily a great name. It entirely lacks imagination. Is this what we're reduced to, all culture being reduced to simplistic, ultra-descriptive shite due to the vagaries of SEO and low attention-spans? 
    Perhaps Doom should simply have been called 'Shoot Things', and The Secret of Monkey Island may have done better as 'Pirate Adventure Game'. Sod 'Scrabble', to be fully effective it should have been called 'Letters Make Words'.
    Are we all idiots or is the market encouraging us to be so by treating us like idiots?

  12. snout says:


    ‘Charadium’ is a shockingly crap name, though, because the game is actually Pictionary.

  13. Tom K. says:

    “I disagree that ‘Draw Something’ is necessarily a great name. It entirely lacks imagination.”

    Yes, while ‘Draw Anything’ encapsulates the true limitless of human creativity.

  14. I agree that the name stinks, but I think the writer is missing the bigger point.  He is implying that Draw Something is successful because of its name.  The name is just fine, but I think that the game is successful for many reasons and none have to do with the name.  I was curious and downloaded 'Charadium' and as I anticipated, it completely misses the boat as compared to Draw Something.  Draw Something is successful (IMHO) because of: a) its simplicity, b) the cooperative play and the clever way cooperation earns rewards, c) good rewards that are linked directly to gameplay — the user really wants the rewards, d) the fact that you don't need to be playing in real-time, d) great use of FB — other apps do this too, but they really make it super simple to find friends who are playing and invite friends to download the app who are not playing, e) very simply gameplay, easy to understand, so simple to do, f) clever free game — it has all of the features but you can't earn rewards; contrast that with Charadium where the free version has even less drawing features than Draw Something, g) very rewarding and great sequences that are intuitive — when I get the notification that my friend has played I get to enjoy 3 phases; watching them guess my word, me guessing their word, and me drawing a new word.  It just works well, everything is graphically pleasing and it's so easy to use.
    Draw Something is a much, much better game.  I didn't say it's more feature rich, but it's a better game and there is no doubt in my mind why it was so successful.

  15. Josh Dura says:

    I think there is a more fundamental problem with the way the App Store's are organized. They don't facilitate discovery and SEO is nonexistent when you are inside a App Store. 
    I agree that finding a name that is easy to remember is important, but then, that is not all about it. Even in your own post, you had mentioned only about Charadium but then there is another game called Depict and another one named Sketch w friends which is even better than Charadium. Again, I'm not sure why these guys decided to name it as Sketch "W" friends instead of Sketch with friends. I have all these three installed on my device (Yes, I am a Pictionary addict) and I find Draw Something to be the worst of them all.  
    The whole point is, discovery is a larger issue than we think it is and the reason you probably didn't see the other game is because you could have used a different keyword/search, than what I used. I am sure that the idea thieves (Zynga) doesn't really buy a company based on their name and SEO values but I think it is the sheer numbers that mattered for them. Now they can spam even more people to play their stupid Ville games. God save us from them!

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    Hello. I am the Rev. Stuart Campbell,
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