Steven Howse, the 32-year-old developer of Slither.io, is struggling to keep up with the demands of his new creation. His app consists of a free multiplayer game that gives users control of snakelike creatures to fight for food. The app hit the top 10 most downloaded list, right next to giants like Facebook and YouTube, shortly after hitting the market.
Howse was not prepared for the viral success his app found, and may wish that his biggest problem was still struggling to pay the rent, something he went through before creating the hugely successful game, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Slither.io spread like wildfire from word of mouth and social referrals to 68 million mobile downloads and 67 million browser users. Competition in this space is fierce, and success at the level Slither.io found is comparatively rare. Out of the 3.6 million mobile apps, 950,000 are games, but only a small percentage achieve true viral levels of success. Just capturing players’ attention in such a wide field of competitors can be tough, but monetizing that success is even more difficult.
Slither.io not only became explosively popular, but also extremely profitable. Recent reports show the app pulls in a cool $100,000 a day, and developers are struggling to keep up with the demand. The game allows up to 500 people to play at one time, and requires a high level of community interaction to progress in the game. The infrastructure to support that kind of interaction is immense.
Securing server space is one of the immediate requirements necessary to keep up with player demand. Howse spent weeks targeting locations of high demand and finding server space in those areas. He could easily use large companies like Amazon to provide server space and save time, but would quickly lose profitability paying the exorbitant rates charged for the amount of bandwidth that his app requires.
The simplicity of the gameplay is perhaps one of the reasons for its sudden success. Coordinating multi-level play with anything more complex would be difficult at best, but Slither.io sticks with simple concepts, which obviously works. Another plus is that there are no required in-game purchases. Advertising drives revenue, and players have the option to pay a small fee to opt out of seeing the advertisements.
Outside of developing infrastructure to keep the game operational, Howse spends time developing game improvements in response to user requests. Keeping users happy appears to be a high priority for Howse. He is happy that his new success, at least for now, is keeping him from pursing a backup career as a supermarket clerk.