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The Hottest Game in China Labeled a Scam, but Millions Are Still Playing

By Weilin Li
Sep. 23, 2022 updated 07:30

In the past few weeks, Sheep a Sheep (Yang Le Ge Yang) has been the hottest game on Chinese social media platforms, claiming multiple Weibo top trending spots, and rumored to have made close to 800,000 USD from WeChat ad revenue alone in a single day.

Sheep a Sheep plays like the popular hyper-casual game 3Tiles, with some simple matching and elimination mechanics. Hyper-casual games generally are easy and free to play, with minimal features. However, the promotional material for Sheep a Sheep claims it has a “very difficult second level that only 0.09% could beat” and has a ranking system that allows players to compare their progression with friends on social media.

That prompted fierce competition. For a few days, this crude-looking game took over the Chinese internet by storm, occupied people’s social media pages, and became the hottest topic of discussion.  

The second level of the game is indeed very difficult. As a matter of fact, suspiciously, a little bit too difficult. The game allows players to revert their mistakes and get new moves by sharing the game link on social media or by watching video ads. It was not long before many players realized they were watching ads over and over again instead of making actual progress.

Some Android players managed to hack the game, making sure the game’s tiles would pop up in the most matchable sequences, but even with the hack, the second level can take up to 60 tries to finish.

The screenshot of Sheep a SheepThe screenshot of Sheep a Sheep

The reason for this insane level of difficulty is the game’s fundamental design. After being fed up with all the retries, a player has made a rather convincing calculation, suggesting that the second level of the game has 14 different types of tiles, creating more than 55 million combinations according to the game’s mechanics, and only 720 of those combinations are beatable.

“Only one player can pass the level in every 100,000 rounds,” they claim.

On Zhihu, a player showed some calculations and concluded that “Only one player can pass the level in every 100,000 rounds,”On Zhihu, a player showed some calculations and concluded that “Only one player can pass the level in every 100,000 rounds,”

At this point, more experienced gamers realized this new trendy social experience is little more than a scam to lure people into watching ads to generate revenue for developers.

This type of scheme has existed since the very early days of hyper-casual games. However, in China, the ad-driven hyper-casual gaming market was never a big thing. Facebook has been one of the major platforms for these hyper-casual games, but in China, the Facebook-like social media platform RenRen failed its transition into the mobile era, and Social/IM apps like WeChat took over its place. For many years, there really wasn’t a place for Chinese mobile users to have access to hyper-casual games other than downloading a separate app.

In recent years, WeChat started to encourage hyper-casual games and web-based interactives on its integrated system called “mini programs”. Early 2021, a combination game named “Big Watermelon” became the first big hit from a third party developer on the platform.

For most Chinese mobile users, casual games using this ad-driven business model are still very new, and this could be one of the few games using it they’ve ever played. This sense of freshness could be the reason why Sheep a Sheep is still trending on social media, despite being called out as a “scam” and being accused of content and gameplay plagiarism. In the future, more games like this will likely take center stage as the competition intensifies.

Contributed by Lushark

Source: YYS