Why ‘Flappy Bird’ Went the Way of the Dodo

Why ‘Flappy Bird’ Went the Way of the Dodo

Why ‘Flappy Bird’ Went the Way of the Dodo

In Greek mythology, Icarus built himself wings of wax in order to soar through the skies, but his wings melted when he flew too close to the sun and plummeted to his death. Soaring too high, too quickly has claimed the fortunes of many entrepreneurs, most recently Dong Nguyen, developer of super-popular gaming app Flappy Bird.


Taking to Twitter on Feb. 8, Nguyen noted that he hated how Flappy Bird had ruined his simple life. Twenty-four hours later, the app was taken down and was no longer available for download on mobile devices. What caused this rapid rise and fall of Flappy Bird?


A Brief History of Mobile Gaming

No other types of games have risen in popularity quite like mobile games. Though console and PC games still represent a larger market share, mobile games will account for just less than $24 billion in worldwide sales through 2016, double the current figure. There are plenty of reasons to love mobile gaming – you don’t need a $1,000 high-definition television or gaming PC, and many games are free instead of $60 a pop. What’s more, you play games anywhere and connect with friends to challenge one another. With all the right elements in place, Flappy Bird entered into a strong market.


From Bird to Bird

Flappy Bird hit the app stores in May 2013, and for the most part was a sleeper app for the first few months. Then 2014 rolled around, and the game exploded. In an interview with TechCrunch, Nguyen noted that at peak popularity, two to three million users downloaded Flappy Bird each day. The free app not only gave him instant recognition, but propelled two of his other games into the top-6 free downloads. Available for iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, Flappy Bird generated a huge buzz due in part to its extreme difficulty and frustration. Users recommended that their friends try it, leading to one of the greatest word-of-mouth stories in Internet history.


Rise and Fall

Meteoric popularity surges are far from a new thing in the gaming world. After the release of Angry Birds apps, plush toys, lunchboxes, and even a television show, Finnish game production studios Rovio pulled in just over $200 million in 2012, double its revenue from the prior year. Rovio and Angry Birds didn’t stop once they hit major benchmarks, yet the popularity of Flappy Bird caused the game developer to pull the plug on his brainchild. It’s rare in any business to walk away from success.

Photo by Asadwan via Wikimedia Commons


Culture Shock

A major part of the decision to terminate Flappy Bird comes down to the cultural differences between Nguyen and his audience. Vietnamese enjoy gaming no less than Americans, but in Nguyen’s country addiction to video games has become a very real problem to the point where gamers will commit crimes in order to play new or favorite titles. Furthermore, Vietnamese game developers earn little compared to American, European, and Japanese developers, many of who snap up homegrown games for pennies on the dollar. Flappy Bird represented a major opportunity for Nguyen to capitalize, but he never wanted a smash hit like Angry Birds or Farmville. As such, he’s decided to let Flappy Bird flap off into the sunset.

Cherie Nelson


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