Every App Tells a Story Worth Preserving, Even Warren Buffet’s Paper Wizard

You're Warren, and your job is to deliver newspapers.

You’re Warren, and your job is to deliver newspapers.

Apple anniversaries come and go. Some mark important milestones in the company’s history. Others celebrate products that have had outsized impacts on the world. Both have their place, but I prefer Door Number 3: Weird Apple Anniversaries.

That’s why today, on its fifth anniversary, it’s worth taking a moment to solemnly reflect on the legacy of one of Apple’s least culturally significant software releases ever: Warren Buffet’s Paper Wizard. I regret to say that I didn’t cover Warren Buffet’s namesake paper-tossing arcade game in 2019. So, to make amends, let’s take a look back at this gem that dropped out of nowhere five years ago today.

Source: [CNBC](https://www.cnbc.com/2019/05/06/apple-ceo-tim-cook-interview-from-berkshire-hathaway-meeting.html)

Source: CNBC

To understand why Warren Buffet’s Paper Wizard was made, you really only need to know one thing. In 2019, Warren Buffett, who is known for his ability to pick stocks, was one of the biggest investors in Apple via his company Berkshire Hathaway. That remains as true today as it was then, with Apple stock currently making up nearly 50% of Berkshire Hathaway’s stock portfolio, amounting to over 5% of Apple’s issued stock.

2019 was the tail end of Buffet’s initial buying spree of around $35 billion of Apple stock. So it’s not too surprising that Tim Cook turned up for Berkshire Hathaway’s annual shareholder meeting that year with a funny video,1 as noted by Leif Johnson at Macworld at the time:

As the Omaha World-Herald reports, Apple made Warren Buffet’s Paper Wizard for one of Apple’s dad-jokey video shorts, and this one was shown for Apple CEO Tim Cook’s visit to Berkshire-Hathaway’s annual meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, this weekend. In the video, Buffet attempts to come up with good app ideas at an Apple facility, and Cook recommends a newspaper-throwing game based on Buffet’s early job as a paperboy.

However, Apple went a step beyond playing the game idea for laughs at the shareholders’ meeting. A couple of days after the event, the company released the game on the App Store for anyone to download and enjoy.

Warren Buffet’s Paper Wizard is a sort of first-person newspaper shooter reminiscent of Atari’s Paperboy. The game opens with an upbeat banjo jingle that loops endlessly through the first level, lodging in your brain like a sun-shiny mind virus. You start on the streets of Omaha, Buffet’s hometown, advancing automatically past homes, streets, cars, and flocks of birds.

At the bottom of the screen is a newspaper. Your job is to deliver the paper to each house and barn highlighted with a glowing blue target. Some targets are close and pass out of range quickly, while others are distant and harder to hit. Along the way, cars and birds block your path, complicating your targeting. Near the end of the first level, you advance to delivering papers to larger apartment buildings and offices, aiming at their windows.

A new town, more papers to deliver.

A new town, more papers to deliver.

For the game’s second and final level, Paper Wizard transitions to Cupertino, California, and a more melodic soundtrack. The landscape changes to a suburban street lined with ranch homes and glass office buildings before ending at Apple Park, where you circle the inner ring of the building, delivering your papers.

At the end of each level, your score is tallied, and when the game ends, you’re prompted to enter your name, which is added to a leaderboard. The final punchline of the game is that no matter how well you play, you’ll never beat Warren Buffet’s score. I know because I managed a few perfect scores back in 2019.

A leaderboard that can't be topped no matter what you do.

A leaderboard that can’t be topped no matter what you do.

Warren Buffet Paper Wizard was briefly released worldwide but pulled a week later from every store except the US App Store. That’s not too surprising. I suspect the joke of it all was too obtuse for many Americans, let alone a worldwide audience. At some point later, the game was pulled from the US App Store, too, but it remains available to re-download if you snagged the game before it disappeared.

You can still download Warren Buffet's Paper Wizard if you snagged a copy in 2019.

You can still download Warren Buffet’s Paper Wizard if you snagged a copy in 2019.

Paper Wizard is not a great iOS game. In fact, its two levels play more like a demo or proof of concept than a full-blown game, so it’s not surprising that it is no longer available.

At the same time, though, the game represents a bit of Apple history. It was the first game Apple had produced in a decade, following Texas Hold’em.2 It also highlights just how important Warren Buffet had become to Apple as an investor – a fact as true today as it was then – which is why I’m glad it is still available to re-download even if no one will ever dub it a classic iOS videogame.

Many of these apps are already gone.

Many of these apps are already gone.

But being able to re-download apps and games that are no longer on the App Store isn’t enough. Recently, we migrated 15 years of images on MacStories to a new service provider. In the process, Federico, Robb, and I ran across app after app and game after game that was no longer on the store and that we’d forgotten about. It was fun to enter that time capsule, but it also made me acutely aware that for many apps and games, there is nothing left but those screenshots, which is why we took great pains to make sure they were preserved in the transition.

However, those apps and games deserve more than a handful of screenshots on MacStories and scattered across the Internet. Apple recently began allowing ‘retro game console’ emulators on the App Store. That lets fans play games on apps like Delta, enjoying titles from classic Nintendo systems. Apple should allow the equivalent to be done with early versions of iOS. They can define ‘retro iOS distros’ as whatever version of the OS is no longer supported by recent hardware and then allow .ipa files to be sideloaded by customers.

There’s no evidence Apple would ever allow old versions of iOS to be emulated. In fact, there’s ample evidence to the contrary, which is a shame. There are apps like Tweetie that invented modern touch gestures, games like Super Monkey Ball that pioneered the integration of the iPhone’s accelerometer into its gameplay and kicked off the spiraling downward pressure on app prices, and apps like I Am Rich that helped put the early App Store gold rush into perspective. Every app and game tells a story, and without Apple’s participation in preserving those stories, they’ll inevitably be lost.

  1. It just so happens that Tim Cook made another appearance at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual stockholders meeting this past weekend. However, this time, there were no reports of funny videos or remakes of Warren Buffet’s Paper Wizard. Instead, Berkshire Hathaway’s first quarter earnings report for 2024 revealed that it had unloaded 13% of its stake in the company or about 115 million shares↩︎
  2. Talk about a bizarre bit of Apple gaming history. Texas Hold’em was a poker game that was released when the App Store first opened its doors and had roots on the iPod, where Phil Schiller appeared as a character you played against. That game disappeared from the App Store in 2011, was revived with no fanfare not long after Paper Wizard was released, and can still be downloaded today. ↩︎

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