Games have failed to become a new form of entertainment, 22Cans boss Peter Molyneux has claimed.
While Molyneux is known in the industry as one who has high expectations for games as a medium, his latest project, Curiosity, is a different tack from his usual emphasis on freedom and emotional connection.
So why has the visionary behind Populous, Theme Park, and the Milo prototype set his new studio to work on a game about chiseling away at a gigantic cube?
According to remarks made over Skype to an audience at the Montreal International Game Summit, he sees the failure of his vision for games as an issue of scale.
“Back in the ’80s, the dream that we all had in this industry was that we would be truly another form of entertainment,” said Molyneux as recorded by Games Industry International.
“You know what? To a certain extent we failed on that dream. We failed in it because we’ve made some fantastic experiences for a very small number of people.
"Now is the opportunity to make fantastic, amazing, unique experiences, to use all this technology to make amazing, delightful, incredible worlds for millions of people.”
With this in mind, Molyneux has shifted away from games about chatting with a virtual eight-year-old to the dark horse mass market appeal of chipping away at a colossal cube in hopes of winning an undisclosed prize.
Perhaps this isn’t the textbook definition of "mass market appeal," but the success of the experimental game has been noteworthy since its accidental release on the App Store last week.
"My assumption was that a few thousand people would start tapping away at the cube, perhaps adding a few thousand per day and reaching maybe 50,000 in a month," said Molyneux.
"Instead, the game hit 50,000 players within three hours of launch. The userbase has also grown dramatically, with nearly two million players to date, and an expected 300,000 tappers each day. Together, those players have tapped half a billion cubelets."
Perhaps the reason for the success can be chalked up to the childish thrill of finding a prize in a box of cereal, but along the way curious Curiosity players have found other ways of entertaining themselves.
Players have taken to producing in-game graffitti such as an exquisite rendering of a lady holding an umbrella, a space invader, a Pokemon Mew, and of course the mainstay of the pub toilet DaVinci, genitals.
“Far and away, the most number of single pictures have been penises,” said Molyneux.
In an unexpected stroke, some of the community have taken to re-imagining these images into more appropriate artistic renderings.
Childish amusements aside, the sheer number of players shows the secret prize is compelling enough to reach an audience half the size of Molyneux’s best selling Fable series.
As to what that reward may be Molyneux remains cryptic, but was more than willing to jokingly provide some negative examples.
“I can reveal now exclusively that it is not a dead cat," said Molyneux.
"It’s not a pile of money or, unfortunately, a trip on Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. And most sad of all, it’s not Half-Life 3.”