Kakaotalk games and their short-lived popularity

Take any form of public transport in any city in Korea and you will see a cultural phenomenon in action: people frantically tapping or swiping their smartphones. Why? They’re all playing different games for the popular messaging app Kakaotalk.

If you haven’t heard of it before, Kakaotalk is Korea’s answer to the West’s Whatsapp or Japan’s LINE. As sending an SMS can be costly and there is a 180 character restriction per message, pretty much everyone in this country has a Kakaotalk account. It’s society’s lifeline and you’ll see all different types of people using it from children under 10 to middle aged businessmen telling their wives that they are on their way home.

Screenshot_2012-12-29-20-49-22This year saw a new dimension brought to the app: games. These are connected to the user’s “katalk” account so that you can have weekly battles with your friends for the top spot. The first and most popular game was “Anipang” which is similar to Pop Cap Games’ Bejeweled Blitz except that cute animals and noises replace the sparkling gems. From my 5 months of living in Korea, I have already noticed that Koreans love to move onto the newest fad. Anipang became old very quickly and “Dragon Flight” became ‘the new Anipang’. In this the user just has to guide their dragon whilst firing at other dragons and avoiding meteors. I personally never got into this game as I was shockingly bad at it but I always saw shop workers in convenience stores playing on it whilst they were bored. One of my classmates was also completely addicted and managed to reach the highest level within a short space of time.

Dragon Flight was only released last month but it has already been succeeded by a new game which translates into ‘Everyone’s Games’. Although it is just a set of 5 mini-games, it seems to be doing well as each of the games is completely different and have different challenges for each and your accumulated score for the week is the highest scores for each of the games combined. One of the games is even a ‘whack-a-mole’ one.

dragonAside from Dragon Flight and ‘Everyone’s Games’, two other official Kakaotalk games were released: ‘Puzzle Zoo Zoo’ and ‘Tap Tap Blitz’. These even appear available to download in the actual Katalk application whereas you have to search itunes or google play store in order to find some of the other non-official ones. An example of this being ‘I Love Coffee’ which has quickly become my new obsession; I’m a sucker for a time management game! Puzzle Zoo Zoo’ and Tap Tap Blitz never took off and I think I know why; they weren’t original or addictive enough to tear everyone away from their favourite games. In fact, in about the space of a month I only saw one person playing Tap Tap Blitz and I didn’t see one person play Puzzle Zoo Zoo.

It’s a very interesting fad as I think the Korean obsession for moving onto new things is perfectly illustrated by how rapidly the most popular game is dropped in favour of another one. I often have my friend sending me game invites as he tells me that the other games are “old”. I, however, am very happy with Anipang and am often the only person in my subway vicinity still playing it as I’m locked into a fierce competition for first place with one of my friends. Yes, she too is a foreigner.

So, if you ever receive an invitation from a friend to play a Kakaotalk game, just go for it. I warn you though, you will get addicted!

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