Recently, Flappy Bird – a rather simple-looking yet extraordinarily difficult game – took the internet by a storm. Not only did it secure millions of downloads in both the Apple App Store and Google Play, but it also earned a stream of (seemingly ridiculous) reviews on Twitter using the #flappybird hashtag.
By the looks of it, Flappy Bird hardly seems to have anything out of the ordinary. Its graphics seem to belong back in the 8-bit era, and the gameplay itself is nothing more than frantic screen-tapping to ensure that the flying bird does not hit the green pipes. That’s all – nothing else. The game is mind-numbingly difficult to play, and reaching a modest score of 10 is considered an achievement of enormous proportions.
So, what makes Flappy Bird so popular? How can such a plain and simple app dominate the internet and become the talk of the world? More importantly, can this success be replicated? Was it really genius, or just sheer luck that helped Flappy Bird bring down the house? Read on as I try to find answers!
A Look at Flappy Bird
Flappy Bird was released back in May of last year. However, until late 2013, it continued to linger in the lands of the unknown, with hardly anyone bothering to take notice. The obscurity of it ended in November 2013, and – between then and January 2014 – Flappy Bird secured innumerable downloads, making it the top free app.
Millions of downloads. Millions of dollars. All thanks to a game that features a bird trying to fight gravity and some green pipes right out of Super Mario.
And then, at the start of February 2014, the man behind Flappy Bird, Vietnamese developer Nguyen Ha Dong, decided to do something about the popularity of his app.
I am sorry 'Flappy Bird' users, 22 hours from now, I will take 'Flappy Bird' down. I cannot take this anymore.
— Dong Nguyen (@dongatory) February 8, 2014
The world reacted. For real, it did. Some noteworthy examples:
“NO ONLY 1 HOUR I WILL KILL YOU IF U TAKE IT DOWN”
“if you delete flappy bird I will literally kill myself. It’s my drug and I am so addicted!! PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS TO MEEE PLEASEE”
Still, for as long as it was alive, Flappy Bird was rocking the charts.
So, what were the reasons behind the success of Flappy Bird? More importantly, how does one make the next Flappy Bird?
Making The Next Flappy Bird
Keep it Simple
Perhaps the biggest reason behind the success of Flappy Bird is the fact that it is pretty simple. There is no background story, no training required, nor are there any combo weapons involved. All you have to do is keep tapping the screen and help the little bird avoid obstacles.
The world likes simplicity, especially when it comes to mobile apps. Mobile phones were created to make our lives easier, so a straightforward approach when it comes to mobile apps is a necessity. A good mobile game needs to be uncomplicated and outright easy to understand – Fruit Ninja, Angry Birds, Temple run, you name it!
Keep it Difficult
A good game, be it mobile or console, needs to be addictive. And, when it comes to being addictive, challenging and difficult things almost always win the race.
Make no mistake about it. Flappy Bird is mind-numbingly hard. It is challenging. It is difficult.
And people love challenges in games. They like feeling – “Ahh…if I could just pass one more pipe, I’ll beat my high score!”
Make it Your Passion
What did Nguyen do once he pulled the plug on Flappy Bird? He told the world that he will continue making games.
By all means, if you’re making apps and games, it should be your passion, not punishment. Furthermore, not every app has a chance to make it as big as Flappy Bird, and this is one consolation that you will have to live with. Yet, your interest in app development should not fade simply because some of your apps linger in oblivion.
The Lottery Effect
There are millions of apps in Google Play and Apple App Store. Obviously, your chances of making it to the Top 10 are much like your chances of winning the lottery – pretty bleak.
Of course, each viral explosion on the internet, assuming it is not a part of a planned organic growth model, has a “luck” factor to it.
Every free mobile app out there is just another drop in the ocean. As a result, not every app that is released is going to become the next Flappy Bird. Yet, just as Flappy Bird has proven, if the concerned app has all the ingredients of success, fortune will favor the brave without doubt!
Nguyen Ha Dong told Forbes,
“Flappy Bird was designed to play in a few minutes when you are relaxed. But it happened to become an addictive product. I think it has become a problem. To solve that problem, it’s best to take down Flappy Bird.”
And so, the bird is dead.
When it comes to mobile apps, popularity is measured by the number of users your app managed to attract. Obviously, keeping the needs of your users in mind is a priority.
Personally, I never actually downloaded Flappy Bird, though I did play it once in a while on my friends’ devices. But then, the only mobile game I have actually installed is Chess, so that speaks a lot about why I didn’t download the app that had the world talking!
That said, what do you think of Flappy Bird’s success? Share your views with us using the comments below!
Sufyan bin Uzayr is a freelance writer and Linux enthusiast. He writes for several print magazines as well as technology blogs, and has also authored a book named Sufism: A Brief History. His primary areas of interest include open source, mobile development and web CMS. He is also the Editor of an e-journal named Brave New World. You can visit his website, follow him on Twitter or friend him on Facebook and Google+.