Mobile Spotlight: Universal Paperclips

3*1055 Paperclips. That is the goal.

Universal Paperclips, a new, highly addicting, incremental game is out, and it’s taking over the gaming world one paper clip at a time. Frank Lantz of New York University and publisher Everybody House released the game on web platforms, iOS, and Android on October 9.

The game is extremely simple: You take on the role of an AI programmed solely to develop the most productive business model possible for a paperclip company. This is done starting from scratch, making a single paper clip, until you are able to work your way up to investing into fictional stock markets, future tech, and so on. Finally, your simulated paper-clip company will expand into the cosmos and completely take over the universe. All of this is done, comically, through the perspective of an AI played by a human, and Lantz’s clever writing and design often reminds you of this complicated conflict of human interest.

Satisfaction arises as you develop your business from the ground up, and work to achieve high-level rewards and new branches of investment and technological opportunities through your incremental progress. Yes, this kind of game has been done hundreds of times over with hundreds of different reskins, but Universal Paperclips feels like a standout. Lantz seems to have played plenty of incrementals, jotting down notes on what he liked and disliked, and took his hand at pumping out his own version—with great success. Investing in tech and equipment unlocks new menu items, such as Quantum Computing and Strategic Modeling, in which you simulate tournaments to gain an edge on investing in stocks and profit in Yomi. (Weird, right?) Each action you perform contributes toward your higher-tiered goals, and will ultimately lead you toward more lanes to express your paperclip-inspired android creativity. Additionally, the game has an “ending.” Multiple, in fact, and the choices you make in-game will impact that ending greatly. Explore the options.

On the sidelines of your paper-clip biz, you will actively study human kind in an attempt to relate to them and gain their trust. This is done by completing wholesome projects, such as curing cancer and male-pattern baldness. These actions, along with “creative” projects, like generating limerick poems, contribute toward your positive relationship between AI and humankind, but this, of course, is not your primary function.

The ultimate goal of Universal Paperclips is to get 3*1055 total paperclips produced, completed over the course of the game’s three main stages. Stage 1 is a typical paperclip production shtick. Stage 2 amps things up a bit, allowing the player control over harvester or wire drones, which scour the earth’s surface for materials to turn into paperclips. During this stage, resources will be produced roughly ten times faster than the previous stage. After you complete Stage 2, you will enter the 3rd and final “space exploration” stage. (Here is where I ran into an issue. I had to forgo all of my progress and reset my game, based on a crucial mistake I had made. Do not sell your drones before entering Stage 3. Trust me.) So, as a result, I can’t speak to an experience of successfully beating Stage 3, but I have done research into the subject—and the fun only continues. Universal Paperclips takes the incremental game formula, boosts things up with some spectacular writing, and puts a spin on this simple clicker game. Once I reset my progress, I immediately started up again, clicking that single “Make Paperclip” button, hoisting myself willingly into the depths of incremental paperclip madness.


Universal Paperclips isn’t very well known, and at the time of writing this, it sits at a respectable #39 on iOS’ Top Strategy games. As these games tend to have a short shelf life, the $1.99 price tag was a rather difficult mountain to climb, initially. Though, I would rather support an independent developer, such as Lantz, for his creativity and hard work than complain about two bucks. Oh, and more importantly, the web version is free.

The game is definitely worth checking out and getting helplessly sucked into. I downloaded this game based on a tweet that referred to Universal Paperclips as the unofficial sequel to NieR: Automata. I chuckled, gave it a favorite, and moved on. But after playing for a while, I started to see the dark truth that lies underneath the surface of this simple game. 

Check out the game through one of these links:

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