Jun 10, 2015
Amid all the craziness of my new job, I was surprised to note that both a friend of mine and my brother were both playing Cow Evolution, which is a simple enough clicker game that you'd think would be interesting for all of 2 minutes before people would move on.
But that fact that such diverse people were playing the game had me curious - what was the game doing right that was making it successful enough to maintain a decent enough hold on a decent segment of the gaming market? And the game is mostly cow puns and poop jokes! How can this be?
And so I took the plunge and installed the game.
Cow Evolution is a free-to-play clicker game created by Tapps Games. It's available on pretty much all mobile platforms and it appears to be free to download but it does include some in-app purchases.
The basic game is simple enough - the game starts you off with one baby cow. At regular intervals, another baby cow will be dropped from the sky. Combine two baby cows, and you get an adult cow. Combine two adult cows, you get another cow. And so on and so forth. As things come together, you'll end up with bigger and bigger cows reaching all the way to divine cows that are larger than Earth itself.
Cows do one thing really well - they poop a lot. And poop in this game is your basic currency for some reason. Thus you exchange the poop credits for various purchase options including more cows (typically a few levels below your highest level cow created thus far) or other upgrades. Boosts can double your poop production temporarily or increase the rate at which cow crates are dropped. You can also upgrade your crates so that you get higher level cows right out of the gate.
Once you get to the World scale of cows, you'll also get visits from a Martian who offers to buy your cows in exchange for rubies, which is a separate currency from your poop credits. Rubies are used to buy Martian cows, which generally look like your Earth cows but (1) tend to be green and (2) kind of have more eyes and other appendages.
Finally there are diamonds, which is the last type of currency that you can actually pay real world money for. Diamonds are needed to purchase certain upgrades or cab be used to buy cows. Even if you don't purchase diamonds with money, diamonds are also randomly awarded when you open up crates. So given enough time and clicks, you will get enough diamonds to purchase the higher upgrades. The game does feel pretty generous in this regard.
The game smartly combines elements of timers for tasks, a sense of odd gratification every time you combine two cows together to "mootate" them, The poop appears comical as the cows vibrate and release their bowels, but then you also get that sense of a "reward" since you also see a coin symbol appear, signifying your new earnings. The fact that the game goes to the billions in terms of total funds needed can make you feel ridiculously wealthy using imaginary poop-based currency. You can even repeatedly tap cows to get them to poop faster, thus adding to your coin reserves.
What surprised me the most was the fact that the game actually has no significant integrations involved. You can log in using Facebook account and that does...not much. There are no benefits or game requirements tied to your friends, which is a good and a bad thing. At best you can get a free diamond by promoting the game on Facebook and that's about it. So it seems the core game design itself has proven to be sufficient to get players engaged.
There's some replay value every time you "Recreate the Universe", which is an option that opens up every time you muster enough cows equivalent to creating the divine being 4 times. This resets the game including your accumulated money except for your purchased upgrades. This gives you a chance to unlock a different divine being along with a diamond reward to get you started and a permanent bonus to your production. You can do this as often as you want until you collect al 5 divine beings, which all have different probabilities of spawning. Your Martian cows don't reset though, and so you can continue to upgrade things until you get the biggest alien cow, which can be exchanged for 30 diamonds. I did mention the game is pretty generous over time.
Cow Evolution is a simple game which is a nice distraction from other things that we lump together as "real life" or whatever. But the game is highly repetitive by design, so I can see some people tuning out pretty quickly. So the game gets a decent 3 pooping cows out of a possible 5.