The History of 2048

There are a lot of popular game apps that have come and gone over the years, while only a few break from being just a flavor of the month and becoming a mainstay on phones around the world. Among those that achieved quick popularity and have held onto it ever since is “2048”, a game that was released in March of 2014 and became an overnight success. With tens of thousands of players each day, “2048” stimulates your brain by sliding numbered tiles together to achieve a summation of “2048”.

“2048” was developed by Italian developer Gabriele Cirulli while using JavaScript and CSS, and within two months was all over the app stores for both Android and iOS. While most would think that it takes months to develop software like that, Cirulli actually did it in just one weekend as a way to kill some time.

When “2048” was made, Cirulli had just graduated high school the year before and was toying around with web development and doing freelance work instead of going to college. Within weeks of its mobile app release, millions of people were trying their hand at getting to the coveted 2048 total. However, of the first 100 million games of “2048” that were played, only one percent of those people were able to win.

The popularity of “2048” was very similar to that of “Flappy Bird” which came out around the same time. “Flappy Bird” was the game that everyone was trying to break their own high score in, but the app was taken off of mobile stores after its creator didn’t want much to do with it anymore. “2048” has remained, however, with many still coming back each day to try their hand at finally reaching the mountaintop.

For Cirulli, he didn’t foresee his weekend project becoming a global phenomenon. “I really didn’t think about it becoming as successful as it is,” he said. The game is based on the similar “1024”, which Cirulli expanded upon with his more popular version. “I really liked 1024, but I felt like the pace was a bit slow,” he said. “And that was one of the reasons why I built 2048.”

Part of the reason that “2048” became public was that the core idea had already been done, with the “1024” developers being a bit irked that the newer game was more popular. “I didn’t feel good about keeping it private, since it was heavily based off of someone else’s work,” Cirulli said. “Once I was done with the game, I published it on GitHub Pages.”

Cirulli wasn’t looking to use “2048” as a ‘get rich quick scheme,’ either. Instead of advertisements, Cirulli placed a donation link on the app and received a few hundred dollars at the height of the game’s popularity. What was more important to him, though, was that potential career prospects started pouring in for the then-teenager.

“I have received a few important job offers in Italy and abroad,” Cirulli said. “I am either going to pursue my own project, which will not be game related. I was never really in the game industry.” Since then, Cirulli has taken on a role as a designer and developer for 1Password which safely keeps all of a user’s passwords in one location so that they don’t have to be remembered or written down.

Cirulli has also worked on projects that include Plantie which allows users to manage their plants, as well as Budge, a budgeting app that provides real-time analysis and data. Due to his disinterest in the game development world, it’s unlikely that we’ll see a true successor to “2048”, at least from Cirulli. Still, he has given us a game that will live on forever as we try to reach that elusive total.

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