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Fine, let's write about the stupid Banana game

Saps a-peel

A picture of a banana with the number 1 above it
Image credit: Sky

You might have noticed that the second most played game on Steam right now is Banana, which released back in April, but has seen an explosion of popularity over the past couple of weeks. What is Banana? It's a free idle clicker in which you click on a picture of a banana to make numbers go up. If the number goes up enough, the game drops additional pictures of bananas into your Steam inventory. Actually, it's not even an idle clicker - simply leaving the game open all day is enough to generate a slow but steady supply of these banana pictures.

There are a variety of banana pictures, some animated, from crystalline bananas through uwu bananas to banana black holes, all of them "made by the community in Discord" according to the Steam page. The banana pictures can be sold on the Steam Marketplace, with the developers (and Valve) taking a cut from every sale. Most of them are sold for pennies, but there are a rare few that are traded for considerable sums. At the time of writing, there are four "Crypticnanas" on the Marketplace that supposedly go for £1335.09 a peel. The homely "Thickglassnana", meanwhile, can be yours for a mere 71p, which is around the price of a bunch of tasty, potassium-rich real-life bananas from Sainsburys.

It's the trading element, of course, that underpins the Banana game's popularity - this and a dollop of FOMO, a love of shiny objects, and a faint hope, especially among despairing video games journalists, that Banana might turn out to be something more than it is. To their credit, the game's creators aren't making any grandiose Curiosity-Cube-esque promises. One of the devs, Hery, has openly described Banana as "a legal 'Infinite money glitch'" in conversation with Polygon.

As you might expect of a legal infinite money glitch, Banana has a massive botting problem, and Hery is bracingly upfront about this too. "Since the game takes basically one percent to no resources of your PC, people are abusing up to 1000 alternative accounts in order to get Rarer drops or at least drops in bulk," they told Polygon. At one point last week, around 94,000 of the game's approximately 141,000 players were bots. Today, the game peaked at 875,542 users.

The developers say they're trying to get Valve to clamp down on the bots, but it seems obvious to me that Banana was designed with this outcome in mind. There have been arguments that Banana is an outright scam of some kind - I'm not sure it fits any particular legal definition, but with its appetisingly naff fruit designs and promise of instant wealth, it's certainly geared to reel in the kind of player who falls victim to scams. It's no huge surprise that one of its creators, Theselions, has been involved in dodgy cryptocurrency shenanigans, though Banana itself doesn't appear to run off the blockchain.

"As you all have heard by now Theselions used to be involved in a steam market 'bitcoin' scam/bug," the team's co-owner aestheticspartan revealed on Discord yesterday, via Eurogamer. "We did not know about this until recent videos started to point this out and we had a talk almost immediately with the whole team about the situation. We gave him the chance to explain the situation to us and we know he is showing remorse and is sorry about what happened in the past." Theselions and the Banana team have now parted ways.

That's pretty much all there is to know about Banana at the time of publication. I honestly hope this is the only piece I write about the thing, but I'm sure I've just jinxed myself by penning those words. The ray of hope is that Steam players seem very alive to Banana's essential banality and vapidity, to the point that some are playing it for the thrill of being the butt of the joke: one of the most popular user tags for the game is "psychological horror".

Update 20th June 2024: Did I write "that's pretty much all there is to know about Banana"? That was before I watched Jauwn's deep dive into its workings and origins, which makes clear that the whole thing is shady as hell. Stay away. Thanks KDR_11k for passing it on.

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