Connect the ‘Dots’: How Betaworks Made Your New Favorite App

We took a local train so we could it play it longer...

This is Dots. (Photo: iTunes)
This is Dots. (Photo: iTunes)

Fling those dumb Angry Birds into oblivion already: there’s a new free replacement sitting in the iTunes App Store for your time-killing needs. Enter Dots, a minimalistic game that accentuates the speediness of your swiping skills by connecting as many same-colored dots as possible in 60 seconds. The more dots—or better yet, boxes—you link together and create, the higher you score.

The game was the brainchild of Betaworks hacker-in-residence Patrick Moberg, who had never designed or coded a game before. He began development of Dots in January under the direction that the non-incubator wanted to create a “zen-like” game that people wouldn’t feel guilty playing.

“The most important thing with Dots was trusting our own instincts as players,” Mr. Moberg told Betabeat. “Dots is the approach to games that we wanted to see, that almost no one is catering to. And it turns out that there’s a bunch more people who feel the same way.”

A “bunch” indeed: Since its release Wednesday, the Betaworks-produced game has racked up 200,000 downloads. Half of those came in the first 12 hours, Paul Murphy, Betaworks senior vice president of product, told Betabeat. Not bad for Betawork’s first foray into the crowded gaming field.

Dots started development three months ago, but Mr. Murphy noticed the company had a hit on its hands when people couldn’t put it down during its beta phase at the New York-based office.

“We knew a month-and-a-half ago that it was going to be a hit when we found people spending hours and hours playing it, ” exclaimed Mr. Murphy. Without the splashy promotion or marketing power of other game developers (looking at you, Zynga), he explained, the metaphoric rise of Dots is credited to positive buzz on social media.

“There’s people sharing high scores and challenging others on Twitter,” said Mr. Murphy. Betaworks promoted Dots on its social news site, Digg, in an “Apps We Like” box. He noted that Digg doesn’t promote every Betaworks project and said the site has rejected other apps from the company before.

With the instant success of Dots, it’s not inconceivable to think that Betaworks has more games up its checkered-colored sleeves. Mr. Murphy said Betaworks is a tech company that’s heavily invested in media, not a gaming studio. If another game fits into its model of building out its burgeoning empire, maybe we’ll see more.

“Entertainment is another form of media,” he hinted.

Mr. Moberg, who’s hopefully getting a bonus for catapulting the app to the top 10 of iTunes’ rankings, said he’s found the app’s instant success a little overwhelming.

“When you’re passionate about what you’re working on, you over-analyze and second-guess a lot of choices you make.  You can get lost in yourself when you worry too much about how people will react,” he wrote. “The success is a testament to Betaworks’ ethos of working on projects that you believe in and want to care for.”

Connect the ‘Dots’: How Betaworks Made Your New Favorite App