June 19, 2024
A Banana clicker game is going viral on Steam — here’s why

What’s a banana worth? A diamond banana may be worth $70 or $165, depending on the day. The gentleman banana — a banana with a hat and dress shoes — is less than a dollar. The pickle banana, which is a banana-shaped pickle, is roughly $15. There’s even a banana, the golden, shiny banana, that sold for more than $1,000. But most bananas, regardless of their looks, are worth just pennies — even the banana made of dark matter. Does any of this make sense to you? It shouldn’t, unless you’re one of the thousands of people “playing” Banana, an idle clicker game where you simply click a banana to make a number go up.

OK, so what is Banana? Once you download Banana and boot it up, a window will pop up. It’s a banana on a vomit green background. Click on the banana and the numbers will go up. I’m at 772. And… that’s it! You just click. Every so often, you’ll get a banana drop right into your Steam inventory: one of dozens of differently decorated bananas currently available, like the diamond or gentleman bananas. “Banana, with the own words of the dev theselions, Banana is pretty much a stupid game, a copy of Egg but way worse,” developer team member Hery told Polygon.

Image: aaladin66, Pony, Sky, AestheticSpartan

Last week, more than 141,000 people were clicking on a banana concurrently, according to SteamDB. Now, that number has nearly doubled. A lot of people are playing Banana, but the numbers aren’t quite right: Banana has a botting problem; Hery told Polygon that a third of that 141,000 number was real players — so around 47,000 people. (They’ve contacted Valve support to figure out how to stop it.) But since then, Banana’s continued to grow. As of June 10, more than 252,000 computers had Banana open. It’s likely that more of these players are “real;” the game’s virality has continued to expand as more people learn about the game. The higher it ranks on SteamDB — right now, it’s just under Counter-Strike 2 and Dota 2 — the more people learn about the game.

“Unfortunately we are currently facing some problems around botting, since the game takes basically 1% to no resources of your PC, people are abusing up to 1000 alternative accounts in order to get Rarer drops or atleast drops in bulk,” Hery said over Discord chat.

Because you don’t have to do anything in Banana to get a drop, just click every so often, it’s easy to keep open in the background for legitimate players, too.

Now we’re getting closer to the value of the bananas: Each banana is an item that goes into your Steam inventory, where they can then be bought and sold on the Steam Marketplace. (They don’t do anything in-game.) It’s largely very low-stakes trading, as most bananas are worth mere cents. My “cherry blossomana,” which is banana painted with cherry blossoms, is worth $0.04. If someone buys it, I make money for doing absolutely nothing. The rarer the banana, the more it sells for. One banana — the Crypticnana — sold for $378.92 on May 31; it’s a mysterious banana, and only 25 exist. On June 11, the Crypticnana sold for $514. But the top banana is the Special Golden Banana (it is what it says on the tin) that sold for $1,378.58 on June 9, then for $964.67 on June 11. Currently, there’s just one listed for sale at $1,345.01. Meanwhile, I sold a cherry blossomnana for $0.02.

“I do believe that the reason why it mostly caught on is because it’s a legal ‘Infinite money glitch,’” Hery said. “Users make money out of a free game while selling free virtual items.”

Because yes, people are buying even the least valuable or rare bananas. It’s hard to say why — maybe for the meme? Or because the investment is typically so low? Humans like to collect stuff, even virtual bananas. It’s not really an NFT, but it kind of works that way — but without blockchain involvement. It’s a very weird virtual trading card.

The money you earn from selling your virtual bananas goes into your Steam Wallet, which you can use to buy stuff on Steam. The developer team (which is a group of four people spread across the world, from South America to Germany) makes most of its money from the Banana item store, which outright sells certain bananas for $0.25. (Hery declined to share how much they’ve made from the item store.) But the developers also take a small percentage of marketplace selling, too, as does Valve, with the rest going to the seller.

A GIF of a banana showing several different hacked screens

Image: aaladin66, Pony, Sky, AestheticSpartan

Several folks on the Banana Discord and Steam forums have speculated about the validity of the game — is it some sort of scam? A Ponzi scheme? Something to do with cryptocurrency or NFTs? A play for the developer just to make money? Is there something hidden in the game? You can understand why people would be wary. It’s weird. Hery said the team disagrees with all those assessments. It’s just a dumb game with bananas.

Hery said Banana will likely get updates, including a way for people to use their items to change the way the banana looks in-game. It might get a minigame, too, and maybe a way to exchange multiples of bananas for another one. Users can also submit banana art to be eventually added into the game, and lots of people have submitted designs on the Banana Discord.

But for now, it’s just clicking bananas.

Update (June 11): This story has been updated to reflected increasing player numbers.

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