The saga of smash hit app ‘Flappy Bird’

Last year a phenomenon took over smartphones and tablets worldwide. It was called “Flappy Bird,” and it turned into a huge cash cow for Vietnamese developer Dong Nguyen. In an interview with The Verge.com, Nguyen revealed that the game, which sat atop the App Store and Google Play Store charts for nearly a month, earned on average $50,000 a day from in-app ads.

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The game worked as follows: you tapped the screen to propel a tiny, pixelated bird upwards. If you hit any of the green pipes in your way as you flew toward some unknowable finish line, the game was over. The goal was simply to accumulate the highest score possible. The catch? You very likely spent an hour even reaching a score of five. The app had been downloaded 50 million times, and has accumulated over 47,000 reviews in the App Store — as many as apps like Evernote and Gmail.

“The reason Flappy Bird was so popular is that it happened to be something different from mobile games today, and is a really good game to compete against each other,” Nguyen said. “People in the same classroom could play and compete easily because [Flappy Bird] is simple to learn, but you need skill to get a high score.” The app was compatible with Apple’s Game Center and Google’s Google Play Games, so it was easy to compare scores with friends. You could also share your scores on Facebook and Twitter, a feature which some have attributed its success to.

So why all the past tense? What happened to Flappy Bird? In February, Nguyen surprised players by pulling the game down at the height of its popularity, saying people were becoming too addicted.

“Flappy Bird has unexpected effects,” said Nguyen in an interview with USA TODAY after removing the game from app stores. “It causes addiction (in) people. I think it is an unexpected problem … and I have to remove it.”

Regardless of why it disappeared, it appears Flappy Bird will take flight once again on mobile app stores. According to an exchange on Twitter, Nguyen was asked whether he planned to bring Flappy Bird back to the “App Store.” His response: “Yes, but not soon.”

The bottom line? Unexpected online success can be a double-edged sword. While you can generate a considerable amount of income, you need the ability to accommodate vast demand for an online product and you need to prepared for the consequences of that demand.

© Prepared by LoBo & Petrocine Marketing Communications, a Melville, Long Island advertising agency serving a wide range of clients in education, finance, healthcare, natural nutrition, hospitality, the automotive industry and more.