Curiosity Smartphone Game Gets Dramatic Updates

British game developer Peter Molyneux - of Fable fame - announced last week in an interview with ReadWrite that his new independent studio 22Cans would soon be releasing a substantial update to its smartphone game Curiosity: What’s Inside The Cube. The update arrived for Android users on Monday, iOS folks got it on Tuesday.

The 2.0 version has a trove of data to pore over alongside some interesting game-mechanics changes to the ever-growing social experiment. Still no clues as to the purported life-changing contents hidden in the center.

Aesthetically, the app remains the same - with one huge improvement: real-time progress. Players will notice this immediately upon launching the game: Beams of white light shoot out from the cube indicating activity. Zoom in on one of these flashes and you’ll see cubelets shattering away in real time from other players’ taps.

What makes that addition so astoundingly rewarding is that it emphasizes the communal aspect of the game in a whole new way. Knowing that you’re looking at the same minuscule patch of the cube as another total stranger - and participating in clearing it away - can be a very surreal multiplayer experience, one that was completely absent when you simply viewed the cube frozen in time and had to refresh for updates.

Tapping away on the cube now feels very much like the initial amazement of traveling with a cloaked stranger in the celebrated downloadable Playstation title Journey, and is likely the kind of emotional response to simplicity that Molyneux and crew are trying to achieve with 22Cans.

In-App Purchases Now Live

The other big changes to Curiosity can be found in the in-game store - where purchases can help facilitate how you leave your mark on the cube. A $.99 drawing tool lets players mark up the cube in new ways, and even rub out mistakes to make it easier to leave cryptic quotes or finely crafted offensive pictures.

Another addition is Badgers. For $.99, players can unlock this cubelet-destroying partner, allowing you to invest coins in the creatures and drop them on the cube to increase your destruction rate. $1.99 lets you discover Golden Badgers, of which 1,000 are hidden on each layer of the cube. Finders are rewarded with a coin stash. Why 22Cans chose Badgers is not clear, but it’s sure to shake up the mechanics and lessen the stigma of mindless screen tapping.

Curiosity By The Numbers

By far the most intriguing aspect of the game's update is the comprehensive stat sheet that offers a distinct look at the cube’s progress and the way users are tackling it. The only issue is that it costs $1 to view the stat sheet for 24 hours. Once you pay, you ought to have permanent access.

Here's what I learned for my buck: After about 34 days of playing, users have hacked away roughly 8.3 billion of the cube's 68 billion cubelets. That still puts the end date of the cube at next fall, but the new destruction tools and whatever else 22Cans has up its sleeves for future updates will surely accelerate the progress.

There have been some 3.2 million downloads so far, with the U.S. accounting for close to 30% of that total. Close behind is the UK, with a little more than 20%, while France, Germany, Australia and Sweden all hovering between 5% and 10%.

Some other quick figures: Through the last week, between 200 million and 250 million cubelets were destroyed per day by betweeen 200,000 and 250,000 active users. The average time it takes to destroy each one of the alleged 2,000 or so layers remains steady at a little more than 8 hours.

These numbers are amazing for an app that was never designed to catch on this quick. But after a rocky start riddled with server failures and the forced removal of features that are just now finding their way back to the app, Curiosity seems to be on a steady roll.

All that’s left now is for everyone to wait and see what’s inside that darn cube.