What do you do if you're a 19-year-old with some time to pass on the weekend? Make a game that becomes an unexpected internet hit, according to one teen tech whiz.
Gabriele Cirulli, who just turned 20 after making the game 2048 last month, perhaps received the best birthday present of all when his creation made in one weekend in February hit 10 million unique visitors this month.
2048, a browser-based puzzle game, in which players have to rearrange tiles to make the number 2048, has had over 100 million plays after being released on March 9, but Cirulli didn't expect it to take off.
"I really didn't think about it becoming as successful as it is. I made it just as a weekend project. It was a way to pass some time," he told CNBC in a phone interview from Italy.
The game is frustrating judging by the responses to it on social media, but is feeding the appetite of those in search of the next addictive hit. Cirulli said out of the 100 million games played, only 1 percent has won.
Other games such as Candy Crush, made by U.K. company King which priced its IPO at $22.50 a share on Wednesday, and Flappy Bird, which was recently axed by its creator, have generated a massive base of players.
The next 'Flappy Bird'?
Analysts believe 2048's appeal lies in its simplicity.
"The growth is really impressive. I think just two weeks in, it could be the next Flappy Bird," Heloise Thomson, gaming analyst at Enders Analysis, said in a phone interview.
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"When you create a game like Flappy Bird, you create an impossible obstacle and people want to rise to the challenge. It is a great model to have for the game. 2048 has the same kind of feeling, it is elegant and an impossible challenge."
2048 is a free game that can be played on a web browser. Cirulli said his version was based on a previous game called 1024 which had a similar concept. An unofficial smartphone app has popped up which the Italian said he had no affiliation with.
'Few hundred bucks'
Cirulli said he has made a "few hundred bucks" off of the game from player donations, but has not advertised on the website. He added that his intention was never really to make a profit and he is "extremely satisfied" with the money he has received.
The game designer graduated from high school in 2013, but didn't go to university. He is currently working as a freelancer in web development and said his gaming endeavours have opened many doors for him.
"I have received a few important job offers in Italy and abroad. I am either going to pursue my own project, which will not be game related. I was never really in the game industry. It was almost an accident. I am more into the web services industry, so I'm going to move to work on my own project or accept a job offer," Cirulli said.
Analysts suggest that maintaining the popularity of 2048 could be tough.
"I think the difficulty once you've got a scaled game is to maintain the size of your business," Piers Harding-Rolls, head of Games at IHS, said in a phone interview.
"Delivering that success on a repeat basis is the challenge and that's where the risk to your product lies."