If you like cats, or own a cat, or aren’t sure how you feel about cats but still appreciate how cute they can be, Neko Atsume may be the app for you. This easy-to-play game lets users set out food, toys, cushions and other goodies in your back yard to attract neighborhood kitties. Visitors are automatically recorded in your “catbook,” where you can store pictures of your favorites and try to gather all 47 feline friends.
Apart from standard food and simple scratching posts, the in-game store also has toys like a fish bowl, cardboard trains, and a cat bed shaped like tiramisu. You can buy these goodies with silver and gold fish that cats leave behind as gifts.
While some cats will show up for a simple rubber ball or cardboard box, there are also 17 rare cats, which can only be attracted by special objects. Joe DiMeowgio, for example, will only come visit when you leave out his signature baseball toy.
Developer Yutaka Takasak has said his goal was just to create a fun, simple game that anyone could enjoy—and he really doesn’t know why the game has become so popular. It was released in Japanese in October of 2014, and won the CEDEC Game Design award in August 2015. Its popularity in the US, despite the language barrier, led to an English release that October. As of December 2015, it had been downloaded 10 million times.
Apart from the obvious source of the game’s success (watching cats is the best way to procrastinate), Neko Atsume has also become incredibly popular among online communities. You may recognize the infamous Tubbs, whose slouching belly has made him a popular meme over the last few months.
A quick visit to the Neko Atsume subreddit will reveal everything from fan art to data analysis projects looking for the best toy and food combinations to get the largest gifts. This is dedicated cat collecting.