Despite A Soaring Success, Developer Pulls Flappy Bird App
February 10, 2014

Despite A Soaring Success, Developer Pulls Flappy Bird App

Brett Smith for - Your Universe Online

After a short, but highly successful run, the bare-bones smartphone game “Flappy Bird” was yanked from Google Play and Apple's App Store on Sunday. Simplistic in its design, the phenomenon surrounding the game became a case study in human psychology and what makes video games so addictive.

The game’s Vietnamese creator Dong Nguyen signaled via Twitter that he was pulling the game from virtual store shelves on Saturday, by tweeting, “I am sorry 'Flappy Bird' users, 22 hours from now, I will take 'Flappy Bird' down. I cannot take this anymore."

The decision had observers scratching their heads, as Nguyen had previously posted that he was making $50,000 each day from in-game ads.

The look and feel of the game bears some resemblance to the classic Super Mario Bros. video game franchise and reports had been circulating that said Nguyen was warned about a possible copyright infringement by Nintendo.

"It sounds very much like a rumor, and if it is, we certainly can't comment on that," Nintendo's media representative told Reuters about those reports.

In the game, players must tap the screen to make Flappy fly safely through an obstacle course of green metal pipes. If players navigate between pipes, they get a single point. However, if their “Flappy” avatar touches a pipe, the bird nose-dives to its death.

Described as simple, but addictive, the game was downloaded over 50 million times and reviewed over half a million times in the Google Play store before being removed.

Duy Doan, a senior manager at Vietnamese gaming company VTC Online, told Reuters that Nguyen was smart to take down the game when he did.

"Dong is taking one step back to avoid legal risk because it's too difficult to deal with legal issues himself if it happens," Doan said.

While Nguyen has previously stated that he is not interested in selling the game or bringing in investors, one expert said investors may not be interested in such a proposition anyway.

"Flappy Bird is not to the taste of many game investors because it's just hit-based which will bring very uncertain cash flow and no recurring," said Nguyen Hieu Linh, investment manager at the Japanese CyberAgent Ventures Inc.

Flappy Bird was particularly noted for its apparent rise out of nowhere. Unlike other smartphone games that are often created by teams of game designers, Flappy Bird was reportedly created by Nguyen himself over the course of a couple of nights. Lacking sophistication, the game quickly became a case study for what makes smartphone games so addictive.

Writing in The Guardian, video game expert Keith Stuart noted that some of the most successful games, like the 1980s hit Donkey Kong, establish a crucial balance between difficulty and frustration. The trick is, Stuart said, “to make the operator believe that they can always do better and if they don’t, that failure makes them angry enough at themselves” to keep them coming back.

“Originally, the controllable character in Miyamoto’s classic arcade game Donkey Kong couldn’t leap over incoming barrels, which made the controls easy, but rendered the experience impossibly difficult,” Stuart said about the 1980s arcade game. “However, adding a jump button made players feel more in control, while only very slightly increasing the complexity of the interface.”

“Similarly, Flappy Bird is based around a simple interaction: press screen to flap wings,” he added. “But it is clear that Nguyen has spent time working out the exact vertical lift achieved by this single input; just as he has got the gap between pipes exactly right. The alchemy of these different parts has created a machine that players feel they ought to be able to operate, and when they fail, they blame themselves.”