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“Flappy Bird” Takedown: What We Can Learn From It

“Flappy Bird” Takedown: What We Can Learn From It
Ally Reis

Dong Nguyen, developer of the wildly addictive game “Flappy Bird,” announced last Saturday that the game would no longer be available for purchase on the iTunes app store or Google Play.

Following its release last May, Flappy Bird saw very little attention until the last few weeks, during which time the game’s sudden rise in popularity brought it to the top of both iTunes’ and Google Play’s charts.

A relatively simple game, Flappy Bird involved little more than tapping your smart phone’s screen to fly a bird through a series of pipes, earning a point for each pipe passed. While straightforward, the game is insanely difficult, making it also incredibly addictive, contributing to its unprecedented fame. Additionally, the basic graphics are clearly influenced by, if not a blatant copy of, Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros.

Though it’s estimated that the game made Nguyen nearly $50,000 a day in ad impressions, the developer made the move to kill Flappy Bird precisely because of this popularity. In an interview with Forbes, Nguyen said that the game “was designed to play in a few minutes when you are relaxed. But it happened to become an addictive product. I think it has become a problem. To solve that problem, it’s best to take down Flappy Bird. It’s gone forever.”

Following news of the game’s shut down, both fans and opponents searched desperately for an explanation as to why Flappy Bird’s developer would take it off the market when it had so recently become such a huge success. Many blamed Nintendo, claiming that the game giant could have forced Nguyen to take down Flappy Bird due to the obvious similarities between its graphics and those of Super Mario. However, Nintendo stated that it had absolutely no problem with Flappy Bird or its developer.

While Flappy Bird may be gone for good, there are a whole lot of clones waiting to take its place at the top of the charts. Some are homages to the success of the game, like Fall Out Boy’s version to be released in the coming week, while others simply seem to be trying to capitalize on this market of Flappy Bird addicts. There are now copycat versions that include ninjas, the doge meme or Bert from Sesame Street in place of Flappy, as well as other versions in first person player mode or with abstract layouts.

Even though Nguyen professes a concern over his game’s addictive qualities and appears to have sacrificed the incredible profits for the mental health of Flappy Bird enthusiasts, he’s still making money. And it won’t stop rolling in until he turns off the ads that are still being served to the millions of people who already downloaded – and are addicted to – the game.

So is this a genuine expression of the indie game developer mentality, or is Dong Nguyen a marketing genius, likely generating even more revenue the longer his game is unavailable for purchase? Either way, Nguyen has demonstrated that his addicting game, even after a dramatic shut down, can continue to create buzz, driving users to spend more time playing and therefore more time making him money.

With the clones already rolling out and into app stores, it’s clear that developers –and potentially advertisers – are looking to get involved in this addicted market. There’s a potential here for advertisers to increase the number of impressions by thousands, or even millions, for their ads in games, but is that really a market worth entering if developers like Nguyen could be playing the system? Whether he’s tired of the attention, creating buzz for his other games, buying time before a Nintendo lawsuit, or simply trying to benefit from addicted gamers, Nguyen has definitely set something in motion here for developers, players and advertisers alike.

 

[Sources: Cnet.com, Wall Street Journal, The Verge, Wired, Time, Alt Press]

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