Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The incredible rise and fall of Flappy Bird

Over the past two months, a phenomenon happened in the mobile app world. A game came out of nowhere and took the world by storm (it has 50 million downloads and there are 16 million tweets about it!). And it is not a AAA game. It is made by one person, one developer from Vietnam. The game is called Flappy Bird.

This is a very simple game but it was very addictive - because of its simplicity and yet difficult to play, it became the game people are obsessed to beat, or be better than their friends. Many people have a love-hate relationship with it. They hated the game but they can't do without it. That sounds like drug - could this be the formula to build a mobile app?

The developer told  TechCrunch in an interview: "I don't know how my games can be so popular. Most of my players are kids in schools. I would like to thanks them for playing my game and sharing it to other people."

This is the issue with mobile games these days - so many of these addictive games are targetted at kids in school. It is something that I need to think and discuss in another day as I have kids on my own and what can we do to stop them from getting addiction to games (I can't believe I said that!)

Flappy Bird's rise in the iOS and Google Play Store was so momentous and exponential that many people criticize the developer of using dirty tricks to promote the game, such as paying marketing agency or running malicious bots to leave fake reviews and ratings to the App Store (read here for one dissection of the app's rise in the App Store.).

This game is free but it is ad-supported. One estimate said that revenue from the ad would be around $50K/day. That's a lot of money for one person to make.. especially if you are in Hanoi.

The developer claimed that he didn't do any promotion, nor did he do any illegal attempt to push the app up the charts. But the criticism onto him, all the death threats of internet, the negative emails and tweets that kept on bombarding his account - and I think it is mainly due to internet getting jealous of his achievement - was so intense that he decided to pull the game off the App Store. When Forbes managed to track him down, he told the interviewer that the game was too addictive to the world and he has to pull it. BTW, he was late to the interview because he was asked to have an audience with the deputy prime minister of Viet Nam (can you imagine the popularity of this phenomenon?)

You can and should read about the rise and fall of Flappy Bird in this mashable article to get the whole story from beginning till the end.

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