As I type this, my chicken farm is populated by 7.3 million chickens producing 2.7 billion eggs per minute. I have 41 septillion dollars in the bank, which will buy me a couple more upgrades for the machine-learning incubators that hatch new hens for me automatically. By all human-scale accounts, I am the greatest magnate in the history of civilization, but by Egg Inc. standards, I’m roughly halfway through. Maybe even less.
Egg Inc. (available for Android and iOS) is a game I downloaded to my Google Pixel on a whim one day, and booted up on my flight to Barcelona for Mobile World Congress. It seemed like a decent distraction to fill my disconnected time. But it turned out to be so much more than that. This is one of the smartest and best-designed mobile games I’ve ever played, even if it doesn’t require a great deal of skill or thoughtfulness from the player. It just wants me to give a damn about my chicken farm and to tend to it regularly. And it rewards that loyalty with gloriously, endlessly escalating numbers and upgrades.
At the outset, all you get is a hatchery, a tiny shack that barely counts for a hen house, and an open area to do research. But as you hatch more chickens — done by tapping on a big red chicken button, obviously — and build up cash from the sale of eggs, a vast array of upgrades make themselves available to buy. Before long, you’ll have enough money to add legitimate housing for your chickens, including an "Eggkea" and a vast tower structure that reminds me of Taipei 101. Though you’ll need to balance your economy to also support a shipping department. Hatch more chickens, sell more eggs, rinse and repeat ad nauseam. Except you never get sick of it.
The genius of this game is not in its mechanics, which consist of either tapping a small red button with one finger or bashing away at a space bar-sized version with four fingers. No, the addictiveness comes from the bottomless pit of upgrades you can procure and the sense of satisfaction you get with each incremental step. I’ve tried to explain this game to my colleagues in Barcelona and they’ve all either given me a raised eyebrow response or asked me if I’ve played Cow Clicker before. This isn’t that. Egg Inc. is just supremely well thought out and I like it quite unironically. If I’m not cool enough to convince you, maybe deadmau5 and his epic 100-million-chicken farm might:
A few other cool things about this game: it has drones, its advertising is entirely optional and unintrusive, and its in-game purchases don’t feel at all necessary to complete it. In fact, using them would probably undermine the sense of accomplishment that stems from sustaining a farm over the course of numerous days. And yes, once you reach the higher levels, you’ll need the patience to see the farm grow over the course of more than a few minutes. My way of playing it was to just bash out a few swarms of chickens every time I had some breathing room between MWC meetings and events. It was a stress relief, even if it was probably a weird look to strangers seeing my quad-finger tapping technique in action.
But back to the drones. Every few seconds, a drone or two will fly over your farm, and you can knock it down by tapping on it and loot its payload. There are also elite drones that take non-linear paths through the sky and fly faster. They unload bigger bounties. These drones and the various upgrades are what diversifies this game beyond the realm of a simple click-for-currency tapping grind. Plus, if I deign to watch a video ad, Egg Inc. will reward me with either a bucketload of cash or a carton of golden eggs, the latter of which I can spend to produce "epic" upgrades that are transferred between farms.
Oh, did I mention that it’s not just one farm, but dozens that you’ll need to develop to complete the game? It all starts simple enough with the basic edible egg, but over time you’ll encounter the medical egg, the rocket fuel egg, the fusion egg, the quantum egg, and even the immortality egg (which, at $12,500, is frankly a spectacular bargain). Each of those eggs requires a new farm, which essentially functions as a new level, and you have to keep growing and escalating until you basically discover the secrets of the universe and how it all got started. Or so I presume. I haven’t made it that far yet.
Honestly, this game is free to play, it’s really well designed, and the only real danger is that you’ll fall for it just as I have. Give it a try, and then come back to tell my unbelieving coworkers how much fun it really is.