Many executives in the food retailing industry started out as grocery baggers. Amos Marvel’s first job as a teenager was also bagging groceries, but he has parlayed that into something different — an iPhone and Android puzzle app called Bag It!
Bag It!, which made its debut last month, is the initial offering of year-old Hidden Variable Studios, North Hollywood, Calif., which consists of Marvel and five others. Marvel and his team decided to take something completely humdrum —bagging groceries — and turn it into something addictively fun.
“Our philosophy is to find the fun and fantastic in everyday life,” he said.
Bag It!’s deceptively simple premise is to take colorful grocery products, with names like Sir Eggward and Sunshine the juice carton, and strategically place them into a paper grocery bag (not plastic, for environmental reasons), dragging and rotating as necessary.
While that may appear routine and uninteresting, Hidden Variable has engineered the game with numerous variations to make it quite challenging. For example, heavier products should not crush lighter ones, so don’t put fragile Sir Eggward on the bottom of the bag. Products have to seamlessly fit together — Tetris-like; placing related items together — eggs, cereal and OJ — earns you additional points. They appear sequentially on a conveyor belt, and once placed in the bag, can’t be removed. A final shake of the bag with your phone gives items their final positioning.
And that’s just for beginners; a time element is soon introduced. Another version of the game (rampage mode) turns the initial premise on its head, asking players to crush as many items as possible. Yet another version (power surge) introduces a deadly scanning gun that zaps products. There are six versions and more than 50 levels in all.
All of this can be had for 99 cents on the iPhone, iPad and iPhone Touch ($2.99 for high-definition) and $1.99 for Android phones and tablets — an inexpensive stocking-stuffer for the holidays. So far the game has been downloaded “thousands” of times, said Marvel, whose goal is to sell 500,000 units by next March. Women and children are the target market for the game.
At the end of this month, Hidden Variable will introduce Bag It! internationally, with a free version to be offered in China. A free “light” version is slated for the U.S. market.
Since its debut, Bag It! has been getting high marks in the blogosphere. For example, app reviewer AppSpy.com gave it a five-out-of-five stars rating while TouchArcade rated it 4.5 out of five stars, saying “It's rare to find a puzzle game that feels so fresh but also so obvious.” Mommy bloggers have also delivered favorable reviews, said Marvel.
But Marvel told SN he has grander ambitions for Bag It! In fact, he is hoping to partner with foods retailers and turn the game into a training tool for real baggers in supermarkets, or make it an entertaining part of chain’s consumer grocery app.
Marvel also intends to expand the Bag It! franchise with plush toys, reusable bags, flavored lip balms and pocket hand sanitizers featuring the grocery characters. “We’re working on deals to sell these in supermarkets and game stores,” he said.