Hug Me is a bingo game from RockYou on Facebook. An app called “Hug Me” has been available since October of 2009 and initially peaked with an MAU figure of about 5.5 million in December of that year before collapsing to almost zero. Strangely, the Facebook description for the game doesn’t mention bingo at all, instead implying that the app is, in fact, an “action-based communication” system allowing its users to hug, slap, tickle and do other things to their friends.
In recent weeks the app has been showing a marked increase in activity, presumably due to its total relaunch as a bingo app — as such, we have decided to take a closer look at the game and determine what it offers for its players in 2012.
Hug Me gives players the opportunity to play bingo in a variety of different virtual “rooms.” The vast majority of these rooms are “Auto Bingo” rooms, in which the entire game is taken care of for the player — all they have to do is show up and throw down some virtual cash or bingo tickets to enter. This also means that players can enter mid-round, as the game takes care of automatically marking all of the numbers that have already come up. Manual rooms, conversely, allow players to play fewer cards simultaneously, and require them to actually click on the numbers as they come up. They are rewarded for their increased interaction with experience points, which are used to level up and acquire additional in-game currency.
The game offers a slight twist on other bingo games by not following the usual rules — to score a bingo, players must make specific and varied patterns on their card rather than simply making a line or marking all four corners. This is not explained to the player at all on first launching the game, so it may lead to confusion for those who don’t spot the small icon on screen that depicts the pattern they are attempting to make.
There’s another twist that is probably responsible for attracting such noticeable numbers of new players recently — the addition of real money gaming. Certain bingo rooms offer cash prizes to players, with jackpots of up to $1,000 on offer. According to the official rules, players must be 21 years of age or over to participate in “blue” or “silver” card games — the latter of which offers real money prizes — and for “gold” card games (which also offer real money prizes) must be a resident of Canada (except Quebec) or one of a number of different U.S. states. Silver cards are available for free through completing certain actions in the game, while gold cards are awarded regularly (and likewise for free) to eligible entrants who have purchased various packages in the in-game store, or via a mail-in request. The game’s strong and repeated assertions that it is “free to play” even for games with real money prizes is presumably an attempt to circumvent the online gambling laws of the United States by not technically having players directly gamble a stake for the chance at a prize.
Alongside the real-money draw, Hug Me also carries strong incentives for players to invite friends and play socially. A “team” mechanic increases players’ daily bonuses of in-game currency and other virtual goods the more players they have playing alongside one another, and a real-time chat facility allows players to talk to one another during a game of “Auto Bingo” — during manual bingo, chat is hidden by default though may be popped up if the user desires.
Hug Me would be a competent if fairly unremarkable bingo game were it not for the real money angle. The strong focus on “Auto Bingo” means that there’s really very little for players to do in a lot of the rooms, and a lack of interesting “game-like” features seen in rival titles such as powerups and the like mean that it’s a mostly a no-frills experience . The interface is also overly-cluttered, complex and daunting to newcomers, and makes little effort to explain its few twists on the conventional bingo formula.
In short, then, Hug Me is worth keeping an eye on to see if the real money angle provides enough of a draw to attract significant numbers of new players to the fold — or if its apparent attempts to circumvent the U.S’ stringent online gambling laws prove successful or practical — but in terms of gameplay it’s nothing that hasn’t been seen many times before on Facebook.
Mostly an unremarkable bingo game, but the real money angle makes it worth keeping an eye on.