Flappy Bird: App Store Dynamics and the Rise of the Clone
Many questions are currently resting heavily on the minds of mobile games followers: just why did Vietnamese Dong Nguyen remove his hit app, Flappy Bird, from the app stores when it was doing so well, and what will be the aftermath of this move? Let’s recap… Flappy Bird was initially released in May 2013 as a free-to-download game for iOS and Google Play users. The mechanics of the game are simple – the user is required to guide a bird through a series of gaps (made by pipes) by either tapping the screen to make the bird flap and fly higher, or letting him sink. It wasn’t until the end of 2013 that the app began to see success… and when that success came, it was massive – the app was generating a reported $50,000 per day in advertising revenue. However, on February 8th Nguyen said he would take the game down because he ‘cannot take this anymore’, which led a number of observers to ask… Why? A number of rumours surfaced – had Nintendo sued him for using green pipes in the game, and infringing on Super Mario’s patents? Was it not in fact his decision to take down the game, but Apple’s, after some suspicious activity was found which made them think bots were downloading the game and posting fake reviews? Maybe, as Forbes suggests, it was part of a wider marketing plan, to attempt to garner sensational download levels by forewarning users that the app was going to be removed, and then continuing to advertise to those users who are playing the game. Or maybe it was just ruining his simple life, as Nguyen said. Regardless of the reason, the app’s sudden removal has led a huge number of clones to suddenly appear in the app stores, looking to capitalise on Flappy Birds success. However, as with any shameless clone, these apps will never succeed. Nguyen had created a simple game, which was intuitive for mobile users, easy for them to ‘snack’ on for short periods, and had just the right balance between difficulty and enjoyment, which encouraged the users to keep coming back. Users were required to make split second decisions about whether to flap or fall, and when they (eventually) fell they were dying to try again. This is one reason why the clones will not succeed – it is not simply the idea of flying between objects which made the game so outstanding, but the deeper polish, user friendliness and mechanics of the game. Ultimately, Nguyen wins – his other apps are currently sitting at 7th and 18th in the US Top Free Apps chart, still generating a substantial amount of advertising revenue for the young developer.