If you didn’t play it, surely you had a friend that did. For a few weeks, the mindless yet highly addictive mobile game “Flappy Bird” held smartphone users captive. After being downloaded more than 50 million times and reportedly earning $50,000 a day in ad revenue, the game was abruptly pulled from mobile app stores by its developer.
So how was such a simple game such a huge success? How was Flappy Bird not a flop?
A Bit of History
Flappy Bird didn’t fly its way to the top of the app store charts overnight. In fact, the game was first released for iOS way back in May of 2013. In January 2014, it quickly climbed to the top of the App Store, and an Android version was released at the end of January.
Eventually, however, the success of the game caught up with creator Dong Nguyen, who tweeted “I can call ‘Flappy Bird’ is a success of mine. But it also ruins my simple life. So now I hate it.” With the game completely removed from mobile app stores on February 9th, smartphones with the app installed on selling on eBay for thousands of dollars. And thus is the short-lived story of one of the most successful mobile games in history.
Why was it So Successful?
How could a game that’s so simple garner such massive success? Part of Flappy Bird’s success lies in its simplicity. Unlike similarly successful games such as Angry Birds or Candy Crush Saga, the game never changes. It never ends, and it never changes. There are no power-ups to buy, no additional levels to unlock. It’s a significant change from other app store games that are chalked full of in app purchases.
Due to Flappy Bird’s simplicity, people of all ages and backgrounds could play it (albeit with little success). The game was so simple that all you had to do to play it was tap your phone screen. In a world full of apps with motion control and all kinds of bells and whistles, Flappy Bird was as simple as it could get. In its simplicity, it was also incredibly difficult. It kept users constantly wanting more. And once it made its way to the top of the App Store, it just kept going.
Picking Up Steam
As Flappy Bird headed towards the top of the charts, more and more media outlets started covering the game, helping it go viral quicker. It was actually reviewed by major sites such as IGN and Huffington Post, both of which slammed the game (somewhat ironically) for not being fun. All this just added fuel to the fire, and grew the hype of the simple game to higher levels.
Flappy Bird was so successful because it left its users always wanting more. Screenshots of high scores were shared on every social media network countless times, and friends challenged each other to beat one’s high score. The fact that you could get into a game quickly added to its success. Unlike Candy Crush or other Zynga games, you didn’t have to wait a predetermined amount of time before picking back where you left off.
Future of Flappy
Will Flappy Bird return to the app store more powerful and addictive than before? It’s highly unlikely. The game has spawned a huge number of knockoffs that are crowding up the app store as developers cash in on Flappy Bird’s success. In fact, Flappy Doge is even a thing now.
It’s safe to say that while we won’t see Flappy Bird back in the app store anytime soon, our society will still experience random viral outbursts from mobile apps that we never could have seen coming. What will be the next Flappy Bird?