Hello. Songkeys here~ :D

From the WeChat mini game "Sheep Sheep", I learned the mindset of harvesting leeks in product development.

"Yangelegeyang" is a recently popular WeChat mini-game (what a typical opening by the author...). If you haven't heard of this game yet, I suggest you give it a try and experience the "charm" of this game...

This article is a reflection after playing many rounds (really many) of this game. I won't use clickbait titles or a typical author's tone, I'll directly give you the reasons why this game can become popular -

Low threshold, psychological gameplay, harvesting players, torturing you.

When you suddenly realize what "joining the sheep group" means, you have already invested time, contributed traffic, and gained fluctuating dopamine and restlessness.

Before going into details, I want to say one thing: this is not a good game!

Yangelegeyang-Join the Sheep Group

What kind of game is it?#

Simply put, it is a three-match puzzle game similar to Mahjong stacking. The gameplay is as follows:

  • Pick up a top block and place it in a slot.
  • When there are three blocks with the same pattern in a slot, they will be eliminated.
  • There are a total of seven slots.
  • There are three game props, each prop can only be used once per round, and before using it, you need to watch a 30-second advertisement. The props are:
    1. Remove: Take out the three blocks in the slot to the vacant area on the field.
    2. Undo: Undo one step.
    3. Shuffle: Randomly shuffle the blocks on the field.

That's how simple it is. And for this type of gameplay, you may feel familiar with it, or even feel that it is almost the same as the game "3 Tiles" (see the image below).

Yangelegeyang vs 3 Tiles

Putting aside the issue of plagiarism. After it was launched, it was able to ferment on major social media platforms in China (as of September 14, 2022).

How did I discover it?#

I first saw someone spamming about it in a WeChat group. Before clicking on it, I searched on Weibo and found that it had a very high level of discussion. It was also among the top trending topics on Zhihu.

Yangelegeyang Weibo Topic

And the core of the discussion was the word "criticism".

Yangelegeyang Weibo Comments

"Completion rate less than 0.1%?"

"So many people are criticizing while playing?"

So, I became curious. I fell into this trap, clicked on it, and played for a while...




Yangelegeyang Revive

(Image: Revive in the game requires watching an advertisement.)




(A few moments later...)




Game Flow#

Hello, I'm back...

Let me briefly explain the flow of this game.

  1. Start the game, one level per day (actually two levels per day), can be replayed.
  2. The first level is extremely simple. It's the kind that you can pass in 10 seconds with your eyes closed. You will feel that your intelligence has been insulted.
  3. The second level is extremely difficult, what kind of concept is it -

Yangelegeyang Level 1 and Level 2

(Image source: How do you think of the difficulty of the second level of the game "Yangelegeyang"? - Answer by Zhihu User)

In general, the difficulty comparison is -

Yangelegeyang Learning vs Exam

So, you will fail repeatedly in the second level, and then start over from the first level... During the process of failing in the second level, you will repeatedly want to obtain props for "seemingly just a little bit more" by watching many advertisements and sharing in various group chats.

During this period, you will feel annoyed, regretful, rise up again, and be defeated again. But what remains unchanged is the passion and innocence, believing that you will pass the "second level" of this seemingly crude game.

As time passes, you are already "in the sheep group".

Yangelegeyang Mie

What's wrong?#

Or should I say, "What's right?"

This game is obviously broken in terms of various aspects, especially the user experience. But it stimulates people to keep playing over and over again and generates discussions.


Let me analyze it boldly.

1. Marketing: Low-threshold gameplay + high-difficulty promotional approach#

"The completion rate is less than 0.1%" and the criticisms on various social media platforms are what attracted me. I went in to play with curiosity and a critical attitude, but I ended up failing miserably.

My mindset at that time was, "Why do they say it's impossible to pass such a simple game? I want to see what's going on."

This reminds me of the video ads for some trash mobile games: they would show very simple gameplay and demonstration, but the last step would always be a poorly executed move that leads to level failure, then they would entice you to say, "Why don't you give it a try?" Viewers with low mental resilience couldn't help but exclaim, "If it's so simple and I can't pass it, I definitely can," and then click to download, falling into the trap.

Yangelegeyang Game Ad Example

(Image: Video ad for a game, the demonstration character makes a mistake.)

2. Simple elements: Only two levels, named "routine" and "motivation"#

The game elements are simple. This allows players' enthusiasm and discussions to focus on conquering the second level.

Imagine if this game was like a typical match-three game (like "Happy Elimination"), with many levels and gradually increasing difficulty, would it generate such high levels of discussion and popularity? Probably not, it would be an ordinary game (of course, I'm not saying that this game is extraordinary either).

2.1 Routine: There must be an easy first level#

Can the game elements be even simpler? For example, skipping the first level and directly starting with the second level? I don't think so. There needs to be an extremely simple first level to make players feel:

  1. This game can be completed
  2. The first impression is very simple, even stupid
  3. Between repeated retries, there is some buffer and hope

Does this routine seem familiar? I gradually remembered the originator of this routine - Pinduoduo.

Pinduoduo is most famous for its "Slash One" activity. When users participate, they are first told that they can withdraw 100 yuan when they accumulate to that amount, and then they are asked to play a lottery wheel. They directly slash more than 80 yuan from the 100 yuan. Wow, such good luck! Next, they need to invite friends to help, and each invitation will slash a few yuan. Wow, success is within reach! But then, each invited friend can only get a few cents; when it reaches 99 yuan, this amount becomes a few cents.

Yangelegeyang Pinduoduo

(Image: Pinduoduo's "Slash One" activity page.)

Leaving aside what tricks Pinduoduo will use when it reaches 100 yuan. Let's consider the success factors of this routine, which are similar to this game - low threshold, high difficulty.

If Pinduoduo made the amount slashed by inviting friends gradually increase, would so many people still be willing to participate? I guess not.

2.2 Motivation: There must be a difficult second level#

High difficulty brings a certain desire for challenge and sharing. The more your friends' circle is filled with complaints about not being able to pass, the more it motivates you to challenge the second level and share your victory with your friends.

If the challenge is easily overcome and various strategies are widely circulated online, the motivation effect would be poor, and not many people would be willing to continue playing.

However, how did it manage to maintain the balance of "high difficulty that makes it impossible to pass but still allows some people to pass"? After searching, I found that many people have invested a lot of time and discovered that the level generation may be completely random, which means it does not guarantee a solution.

Yangelegeyang Impossible

(Image source: How to pass the second level of "Yangelegeyang"? - Answer by Zhihu User)

Is this a flaw in the game? On the contrary, it may be intentionally designed this way. It copied the scam mode of Pinduoduo - most of the 100 yuan slash activities end in failure (the method is to delay the process by inviting friends one after another, see What is the experience of bargaining on Pinduoduo with 60,000 people? Super Xiao Jie bargains on Pinduoduo, but no one succeeds online)). But there is still a certain probability for a small number of people to succeed and share their achievements, giving the public hope and confidence.

Yangelegeyang Zhihu Math

The game's homepage displays a leaderboard of completed levels and constantly reminds you of how many people have completed the level in your region, telling you - you are not alone, and we didn't deceive you.

This is a scam. But it succeeded.

3. Other less important elements: Regional pride? Gameplay coherence?#

I have also seen some other analyses, such as the sense of belonging and competition brought by regional groups; or the continuous stimulation from block elimination in terms of gameplay.

Maybe. But compared to the aforementioned harvesting players gameplay, these are not important.

Insights for me#

If there is any meaning in life that it can bring to me, it is to further understand that "some things cannot be successful just by working hard" (mistakenly).

Let's review its elements again -

  1. Low threshold makes you feel capable
  2. High difficulty brings a certain desire for challenge
  3. Successful people around you give you hope
  4. Torturing you after falling into the abyss, but you remain unyielding

Upon careful consideration, the gameplay of the stock market, cryptocurrency market, and gambling is probably the same - everyone can get started, taste a small profit, fall into difficulty, and there are successful people around you to give you hope while you struggle in the abyss.

Product deduction: Achievements system for is a social data on-chain platform that my team has been working on recently. We are currently developing an achievements system for it, hoping to increase user belongingness and stickiness.

Our achievements system is like this: users will receive a regular medal for posting 1 article, a bronze medal for 10 articles, a silver medal for 100 articles, and a gold medal for 1000 articles.

After playing this game, I realized that our achievements system is still mediocre and honest.

So, let's learn from this and think about how to design an achievements system for a social platform that can attract users. I think it might be like this -

As soon as a user registers, they are told: the entire platform will give out limited edition gold medals every week. Before the user posts anything, let them spin a wheel to unlock 88% progress, the luckiest user on the entire platform! The remaining 12% needs to be unlocked through user's own efforts! For example, each post can allow the user to spin the wheel again to unlock progress, although the points will become less and less, each time it makes the user feel that it is within reach and they can obtain it soon. At the same time, don't forget to remind the user of the number of people in their region who have completed the progress, to tell them - you are not alone, and we didn't deceive you.

Another idea is to have a certain probability of popping up a limited-time branch task every time a user posts, completing this branch task will directly unlock a certain percentage of the main task. The branch task can be something else, such as giving likes to N posts, following N people, browsing for N seconds, being online for N minutes, etc., further increasing daily activity.

When a (small number of) users really unlock the medal, of course, there should be a super cool animation, displaying the exclusive medal with their name and avatar on the screen in a dazzling way. Let the user feel proud and eager to broadcast their glory on external social media. Internally, it is also necessary to constantly display their achievements and motivate other players to strive forward.

The Plagiarized "3 Tiles"#

Speaking of the game "3 Tiles" that was copied one-to-one, I downloaded it and played it for a while yesterday. Although there are also advertisements, the graphics are smooth and delicate, the levels are progressive, and the experience is extremely comfortable. If you have really suffered and still addicted, you might as well give it a try. But I guess it won't make you play longer than "Yangelegeyang".

I wish you -

Yangelegeyang - Join the Sheep Group

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