By: Evan Kean
On February 9th, the world said goodbye to one of the most, if not the most popular app ever to appear on the app store. Flappy Bird’s fame came just as quickly as it disappeared, with the Vietnamese creator Dong Nguyen pulling the plug on both the Apple App Store game and Google Play game. Fans of the game or not, people want to know: why so soon?
In answering this question, first it helps to see why and how it was so popular.
Flappy Bird was known worldwide for its simple yet addictive gameplay: tap the bird to make it avoid obstacles. Aesthetically, Flappy Bird was just as simple. Created with pixelated graphics and cheap sound effects, it resembled something that would be seen on a Game Boy game from the 90s, not the 21st-century, international smartphone app one would expect. Regardless of its modest appearance, Flappy Bird captured the attention, and indeed, the time and focus, of millions around the globe. According to an infographic created by appstart.com, at its peak of popularity, Flappy Bird was the number one free iPhone app in 107 countries, number one free iPad app in 109 countries, and number one free Google Play app in 19 countries.
With a lifespan of only nine months, it had a brief run on the market, only blowing up in the US six months after its initial release. However, over 50 million downloads don’t lie: the app was a phenomenon. According to digital media and tech magazine The Verge, Nguyen was earning a comfortable $50,000 every day from just in-app advertisement; not bad for a game that was created over a span of two to three days.
If Flappy Bird had the booming popularity, and Nguyen was making more than enough profit from it, why would he ever want to think of taking it down? Some rumors claimed the creator was faced with a lawsuit from videogame publisher Nintendo for illegally using some of the graphics, while others claimed it was all part of a hoax to get even more hype for the app. As it turns out, the real is answer is humbling.
Nguyen was a modest man, and both the fame and infamy of being creator of a game like Flappy Bird was simply too much, too soon for him. Nguyen released an announcement the day before Flappy Bird’s takedown saying “I am sorry ‘Flappy Bird’ users, 22 hours from now, I will take ‘Flappy Bird’ down. I cannot take this anymore.” Later on in the day, Nguyen later admitted “I can call ‘Flappy Bird’ is a success of mine. But it also ruins my simple life. So now I hate it.”
Completely by accident, Nguyen learned a lesson from the fleeting time that Flappy Bird existed: money truly isn’t everything. Hopefully, this is a lesson that the rest of the world will eventually learn as well, one app at a time.