Finding inspiration from Kwazy Cupcakes, the most addictive mobile game that never existed

Shane Schick

I honestly have no idea whether "Brooklyn Nine-Ninewill flame out after a couple of seasons or go on to become the next "Cheers," but even if it ended tomorrow, app developers should be grateful that it introduced Kwazy Cupcakes to the world. 

Even if you've never watched "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" (and I don't really watch that often--honest!), the episode featuring Kwazy Cupcakes had a few nuggets of inspiration worth discussing. It was really only a subplot within the episode, and it's hardly giving away spoilers to tell you how it plays out: The boss man character played by Andre Braugher, who criticizes Kwazy Cupcakes, secretly starts playing it. He gets hooked. He gets caught playing it. He is challenged by his subordinates to give it up, and does, but when it's uninstalled from his phone, he can't help asking, "Did I lose all my scores?"

Source: YouTube

You could dismiss it as a fantastical Candy Crush Saga rip-off, but Kwazy Cupcakes had all the ingredients for a real-life mobile gaming success. An unforgettable name, gameplay that was easy enough even TV viewers glancing over a character's shoulder could figure it out, and word-of-mouth marketing that drove adoption. If only it were as easily to mass-produce that kind of a blockbuster app in real life. 

I was probably one of the few watching to be focused on this, but I couldn't help thinking about how the maker of Kwazy Cupcakes could have retained that police boss user. It's possible that there are many users exactly like him: those who scorn apps and mobile games as time-wasters, then try them out of curiosity, then become total converts. In this case, the show was making fun of people who get so hooked, but that level of engagement is a common (if rarely achieved) developer goal. Shouldn't there be alternate endings to this story? 

What if, for example, the makers of Kwazy Cupcakes had learned enough about the arc of such users that they intervened before it was too late? If there was a way to define that point where Braugher's character (or his minions) decide it's getting out of hand, that might be the moment to offer an incentive like virtual currency, or a free in-app purchase. Or, it might be the moment to send a push notification that says something like, "You're not alone! Thousands of people love Kwazy Cupcakes!" and offer to share his scores with Facebook or Twitter friends. 

While recommendations or influence from friends is probably the best way to get more users, it also represents a huge gray area for developers. The best mobile analytics tools in the world wouldn't have given any insight into the offline antics that were going on here. It may be the only thing to do is identify the personas of common usage scenarios and crafting a strategy in response. TV shows tend to trade in stereotypes, but it's somewhere to start--kwazy as that may sound.--Shane