Draw Something has been a whirlwind success over the last month, culminating in the purchase of its developer, OMGPOP, by Zynga earlier this week. Draw Something's popularity is really pretty astonishing, considering how simple the game is. If you haven't had a chance to try it out, here's the premise: you draw something, and your friend tries to guess what it is.
Whoever is drawing gets to chose between easy, medium, and hard subjects. Once they've picked one, they get to drawing, using a set of different-sized pens and a small selection of colors. Once completed, you send off the image to your partner, and they get to watch your entire creative process - including the times you wipe the whole board and start again from scratch. They have a few different letters and tile slots to work with, which adds a Scrabble-esque word game element to it. Once the receiving end submits their answer, you can watch the result; much like how they got to see the replay of your shoddy drawing technique, you get to watch them struggle with their letter set and try to guess what it is you're drawing. Both sides earn a corresponding number of coins to spend on unlockables, like new paint colours, or bombs which provide a new set of options to draw, or destroy some letter tiles to make your guessing process easier. Those coins can also be bought with real cash through in-app purchases.
Like a lot of the games I've been playing on the iPhone lately, I've found the display is too small for fine detail. It definitely made me wish I was playing with the Samsung Galaxy Note again, since that stylus and big screen sure would come in handy. Still, it's funny seeing what kind of mangled, haphazard pieces of art you're able to cook up, if only to watch your friends struggle with the piece of crap you've given them. (N.B. It is entirely likely that I am just a terrible finger-painter.) As it stands, the gameplay is generally good enough, though I've found some rounds have been hard to match up; either I don't get the notification after a friend has done their drawing, or I do, but no button shows up to see what they've got. For the time being, I'm willing to chalk this up to OMGPOP's servers buckling under the traffic, and with any luck, Zynga's acquisition will bolster their back-end. Considering you're watching a replay of the drawing process, I would like to get some bonus points for correct guesses early, which could be counterbalanced by penalties for wrong guesses.
There are a few features that would be nice to have, like an archive of your previous drawings - after all, you do end up spending a lot of time on some of these, so it's a shame to have them swept under the carpet after your turn is over. Game Center support is an obvious addition they have yet to include, along with running multiple games concurrently with the same person, like you can in Hero Academy. Some kind of chat utility would be really great, that way one could properly express their confusion to their partner when confronted with a particularly bad piece of work. Right now all you can do is draw messages in the art area then clear the page. There's a whole range of artistic tools that could be expanded, including different styles of brushes, and varying levels of opacity. The game uses Facebook Connect to create your account, but it seems like the real money maker will be when Draw Something becomes a proper web game on Facebook. As is, the interoperability with Android devices is great, and if they can keep that up for desktop, Draw Something could quickly gain widespread popularity among soccer moms who don't know Facebook is for anything other than games.
At its core, I feel like Draw Something is ultimately a game where people laugh at one another for being unable to put together simple shapes or form words. While not everybody will enjoy in that level of schadenfreude, jerks like me revel in it. I worry a little bit that the fad will dry up though; you might remember when Facebook first introduced apps, one of the most popular ones was Graffiti, which let you create and share digital drawings with friends. That didn't last too long, and I think even with a game spin to it, Draw Something may fizzle out too. With Zynga now behind Draw Something, I expect the updates to be coming fast and furious, but in the long run, buying out whichever game is momentarily more popular than whatever they're creating doesn't seem like a sustainable strategy. Between the free ad-supported version and the highly-affordable $1.99 version, plus unobtrusive prompts for microtransactions, the barrier for entry is low, and if you've got a bunch of friends already playing, then you've got some impetus to give Draw Something a try.
It massive popularity will probably be the biggest reason to try it out, and even with minimal artistic skills, your travesties of finger-painting can still be pretty entertaining. Though the microtransaction options are limited, they're unobtrusive, and with a free ad-supported version, there's little reason not to play.
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