On my subway ride to work this morning, I played a mobile game that had me furiously swiping upward on my iPhone with alternating thumbs to make big green virtual dollar bills fly up and off the phone screen. It’s called “Make It Rain,” and it’s currently the No. 1 free app in Apple’s app store.
All my ridiculous-looking swiping garnered me a bunch of virtual money, so I spent some of it to buy virtual buckets that would fill up with cash in the background when I wasn’t using the app. Later in the day, the virtual FBI investigated my virtual stockpile and was going to seize it, but I bought them off with a virtual bribe.
If I play for a bit longer, I’ll have enough money to buy a virtual cigarette factory, or possibly a virtual strip mine. In the meantime, I hired a virtual PR person and a virtual lobbyist.
Make It Rain has been downloaded 1.6 million times, mostly on the iPhone, and it’s making $50,000 per day, half from in-game purchases and half from ads. Most of this has happened in the last week, with something like 250,000 installs per day. Based on reviews and other data, it appears to be particularly popular with young men in high school and college — the frat boy demographic.
Make It Rain co-creator Josh Segall is a bit befuddled. “The new Flappy Bird is about income inequality and political corruption,” he said. “I wish we had been expecting it because maybe then we would have made a game that people would want to play for longer.”
It’s not necessarily clear that the app’s cynical undertones are getting through to its users. Sure, when you open the app the first screen shows quotes like “The love of money is the root of all evil.” But then you start swiping as fast as you can to make it rain.
“Some people are in on the joke and really get it and love it,” Segall said. “Some people it takes longer to get, I think.” He sent over a negative-turned-positive app review in which a person initially left a complaint about having spent so much real-world money to make his virtual-world money pile grow faster without reaching any sort of end point. The reviewer later added an update that said, “You end up scrambling for all this money, and for what? I’m definitely not happier I accumulated it. Valuable lesson.”
A lawyer by training who previously ran for office, Segall runs an indie app studio called Space Inch with his two college buddies — one who is an architect and the other who is the guitarist for OK Go, Andy Ross. They currently make a decent living off their puzzle app Disco Bees — up to $10,000 per day with 2 million installs.
Space Inch spent about $10,000 and a few weeks’ time developing Make It Rain and launched it April 2, hoping to get some new users that they could funnel to Disco Bees, which has an older and more female audience. According to Segall, $1,000 worth of Facebook ads got about 3,000 installs. He swears they haven’t spent any money doing promotion since then.
As for me, once I turn off the alerts telling me to come back to the game and collect my buckets of money because they are full, I doubt I’ll return much to Make It Rain.
Segall readily admits that the game could have been better designed to be more of a, well, game. He says he has little faith that Make It Rain’s popularity will last for many more days or weeks — that’s part of why he reached out to the press.
But Segall added that other players have gotten way more into it than I have. At top swiping speed with the maximum multipliers, the amount you can make per second goes from a few bucks — I think I topped out at $36 — to $5.1 trillion dollars per second. There’s also a maximum wallet size of $18 pentillion dollars.
Make It Rain will soon have to raise those limits because people are already reaching them, Segall said.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.