The Rise and Fall of The Flappy Bird App

It was a game that developers would have shied away from making. It was a game that was too basic and nobody would have thought would earn any revenue or have any user. Yet, the rise of Flappy Bird, a mobile game developed by Vietnamese Dong Nguyen in a span of two to three days, has taught many otherwise. The objective of the game is to direct a flying bird through a set of pipes without hitting them. The game is renowned for how difficult it is to play. It is this latter part or the difficulty in playing the game that has actually done the trick.

What Does This Mean For App Developers?

Flappy Bird was a huge success, despite its low budget origin, similar to the “independent developer” successes of Dean “Rocket” Hall’s DayZ or Markus “Notch” Persson’s Minecraft. In January 2014 it was the most downloaded app in the “Free Apps” chart in the iOS app store in the United States, China and the United Kingdom, and as the technology news website The Verge reported, was generating $50,000 daily in revenue through the in-game advertising.

However, due to a number of controversies, chief amongst them being that Flappy Bird’s game play and some of the artwork (the design of the pipes and the titular character) was a direct rip-off of the extremely popular Super Mario Bros. games made by Nintendo, on 9th February, 2014, Nguyen removed the game from both Apple’s iOS and Google Play app stores.

What Are the Lessons to Be Learned From Flappy Bird’s Success?

Ewan Spence writes on Forbes that the lessons learned from the rapid success, and just as rapid downfall, of Flappy Bird are not pleasant ones. Although $50,000 day revenue for an indie app developer is a large amount, in comparison to the profit Supercell’s Clash of Clan’s makes daily with $2.27 million, it is a rather paltry sum.

Another major problem when an indie app developer’s product starts getting popular is the clones which inevitably pour in. Some of these cloned products look the same, and even in some cases, have the same name. In fact, a week after Flappy Bird was removed from Google and Apple’s app stores, all products with the word “flappy” in their titles were being rejected. Ken Carpenter, a Canadian game designer had his app, named “Flappy Dragon”, rejected from Apple’s app store on grounds of trying to “leverage a popular app.”

These are lessons that developers will have to keep in mind when they make their apps. If there’s anything Flappy Bird’s success proves, it’s that products made by a lone developer or a small team have the potential to reach viral-level popularity. What you need to understand is what audience loves to play. For that perhaps, you should as a developer or app entrepreneur, think about what type of game you would like to play the most which is not available yet in the app stores!


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