Hot on the Web
Lost in Cyberspace
Online San Diego
Feature Articles
Book Reviews and Reading Diary
Music Reviews
Favorite quotates
Contact Me

Hot on the Web

The most effective distribution network ever?

This column originally ran in ComputorEdge on April 2, 2004
(Issue 2214, Simple Fixes for Perplexing Problems)

The recent spate of viruses and other assorted digital maladies point at the Internet's distribution power. It is one of the most effective and efficient methods of distribution a certain class of products ever devised.

But it's often difficult to measure exactly how effective the 'Net is using viruses, because the idiots who write them aren't idiot enough to announce the when and where of a virus being launched.

So we know when a new virus started appearing on certain networks, when the first alarms start rolling in, but not exactly when it was released.

Until now.

Welcome the penguin. Or Pinguin, actually.

Viral marketing, by accident

Chris Hilgert, a game designer from Austria, was working on a new demo for his membership game site, He apparently sent this demo game – written to run in the free Flash plugin – to a couple of friends, at least one of whom posted it on the Usenet.

Pretty soon, the game is appearing on Web sites all over the globe. Here we are just two months later, and Pinguin is all the rage, with an uncountable number of mods (okay, not really mods, but unofficial versions) offering all kinds of different game play.

Or at least that's the official story from Hilgert as reported by Andrew Young on

Inadvertent or not, Hilgert has certainly taken the golden marketing opportunity provided by his flying penguins and made the most of it. In addition to touting his gaming site, Pinguin now has its own site where you can play the official version from Hilgert.

Why Yetisports? That brings us back to the game itself, which features a Yeti – a Himalayan version of Sasquatch, Big Foot or the Abominable Snowman – using a club to send penguins flying over the snow. The penguins drop from a cliff above the Yeti, and he has to hit them on their way down to the ground.

It sounds simple. It looks simple. It's addictively tough.

Which is why the thing is all the rage.

Hilgert's now written a sequel to the original Pinguin (yes, just two months after the original was launched – talk about the Internet compressing normal product cycles ...) in which the Yeti uses snowballs to knock the penguins into a giant snow dartboard.

It's even tougher than the original.

Both of them are available for free download or online play at the site; you can even post them on private intranets – just not on your Web site. Not unless you want lawyers with bad German (er, Austrian) accents coming after you.

Some great games

A visit to shows that Hilgert is as good as anyone at crafting Flash games. Certainly, the dozen and a half games on his site are as good as those turned out by Skyworks – the main game designer behind the fabulous gaming site (the official site for Lifesavers candy, and a great time-waster). Like, features sport simulations (soccer, skiing, golf), card games and puzzles (poker, a breakout clone) and other oddities that could only exist online.

The graphics are among the most impressive out there – generally even better than those from Skyworks. And while you have to register to play, there doesn't seem to be any cost. (On Mozilla, at least, the sign-up process is buggy – after filling in the fields and clicking OK, I got a message telling me to try again, that I'd forgotten to fill in a field. Tried that several times, and now kept getting an error message that the name I was using was already taken! On a lark, I simply went back to the home page and logged in. No problems from then on. Go figure ...)

In fact, it's worth visiting Hilgert's main Web site just to see the amazing animated welcome screen – think the greenery of "Shrek" without the monster. The brook is burbling, butterflies are flitting, flowers are growing, trees swaying in the wind. It's pretty darn impressive. (The other sites linked from are an e-books developer - "ebuch" in German; I know that thanks to AltaVista's Web site translator at – and a free Web hosting service,

We should be grateful that all this free publicity is at least going to someone with the substance to back up the hype. Hilgert may be the unwitting recipient of the 'Net's bounty, or may be a very savvy entrepreneur who knew exactly what he was doing when he released Pinguin to his social circle – but either way, those who follow the links from Pinguin to his other sites are richly rewarded with digital goodies.