Back in July, I watched a jacksepticeye video where he played and reviewed five different .io games. At the start of the video he made a joke that his time machine worked and he had successfully travelled back to 2016 when io games were still popular. He mentions agar.io and slither.io which became popular in 2015 and 2016 respectively. The five games jacksepticeye plays in his video are:
While some of these games have received a decent amount of attention, it seems like none of them have come anywhere close to where agar.io and slither.io were at their prime. It got me wondering, what is the current state of the io genre? And is it actually dead or dying like some people say?
Of course, if we’re talking about internet gaming trends, Google Trends is the best tool for the job. Let's look at agar.io and slither.io first.
If you’re not familiar with Google trends, the line charts simply show the search interest for particular terms over time. I was quite surprised to see that slither.io was twice as popular as agar.io at its peak, I would have assumed they were about the same. We can see that they both peak in 2015 and 2016 then gradually taper off. Looking at these two games it’s pretty easy to say that the trend has definitely died.
However, there is a lot more to the story. These two viral games and their enourmous popularity spawned a wave of clones and the io trend continued. Let’s look at the search interest for the term ‘io games.’ We’re going to set the start date to January 1st 2015.
Back in 2015 when agar.io was at its peak, it seems like very few people were searching for io games, which is understandable because the trend was just beginning. As more and more io games appeared, the trend really started to emerge in mid 2016.
What’s interesting about this graph are the sharp peaks and troughs. I’m going to assume the US summer school holidays cause the search interest to fall dramatically between June and September. Players tend to spend more time gaming on their PCs and consoles during their holidays. It’s interesting to see the peaks in the search interest, for 2016, the peak was 67, for 2017 it was 88 and in 2018, there was a more sustained peak at 99-100. From 2016 to 2017, search interest in io games increased by 31%, then from 2017 to 2018 it increased another 13%. These results are pretty clear, io games are definitely not dead, in fact the genre is still growing.
Another interesting thing to note is the popularity of more recent io games. For example, the hit Battle Royale .io game, surviv.io, was released in October of 2017, and by May of 2018, they were reaching 20,000+ peak concurrent players. Here is surviv.io’s search interest relative to the ‘io games’ search term. As you can see, in May of 2018, surviv.io’s search interest was almost equal to the entire of the io genre. I think that over time, we’ll see more hit games like surviv.io which will continue to help the io game genre grow.
A small downside of using Google Trends is that often, search terms can have slight variations. For example, ‘iogames’ has a different search interest graph to, ‘io games’ which is different again to, ‘.io games.’ Fortunately, we can place multiple trendlines on the same graph. Here is what those three search terms look like. As you can see, the most popular search term is ‘io games’ and it’s showing the strongest year on year growth.