Video: The Rise and Fall of Flappy Bird: A Feathered Phenomenon
In May 2013, app developer Dong Nguyen spent a few nights after work programming a small, simple and very re-playable game for mobile devices. It didn’t take long to make, just a day or two of after-work effort. The product of his time was Flappy Bird, which he published for free on the iOS App Store and later on Android.
At first, very few people knew of the game or cared to download it. It had a handful of reviews to its name, but nothing close to notable success. But a few months later, Nguyen’s app would become not only one of the most rampantly successful apps in recent memory, but one that would be permanently abolished in an instant.
This is the Rise and Fall of Flappy Bird
Flappy Bird was completed and released in May of 2013 and updated for iOS 7 support in September. For months, the game saw little in the way of reviews or downloads, and the app seemed like more or less of a flop for its developer dotGears, owned by programmer Dong Nguyen.
But in December, the game started getting reviews – sometimes as much as 5 reviews an hour, and roughly 20 reviews total per day. This continued until the end of December and into the new year. By January 9th, Flappy Bird was seeing exponentially more downloads, now in the thousands, and upwards of 90 reviews per day.
Things were looking up for Flappy Bird, but that’s just it, they kept going up. And up, and up, and up. 3 days later, the review count doubled: 180 reviews a day, 400 reviews a day, and by January 24th the game was seeing 136 reviews per hour, nearly 1200 per day. Even then, it kept going.
Two days later, 206 reviews per hour. Two days after that, 330. 400 24 hours later. And by the end of the month, Flappy Bird seemingly peaked at 630 reviews in on ehour, 5500 on one day. But it didn’t peak. When February began, the triumphant rise of Flappy Bird would soar to new heights, getting ever-closer to the sun.
February 1st, reviews hit 800 per hour, with 6500 reviews stacking per day. Millions of people were downloading flappy Bird now. Millions. People played it, loved it, tweeted about it, and shared it with their friends. Though it was free, it was making over $50,000 per day in ad revenue from the included Google Ads integration in-game, according to a report on The Verge. And despite all of the claims that the game had art that some users thought was ripped right out of Mario, and others deemed it the Helicopter Clone it might very well be, things looked up for Nguyen and his game.
Then, he took it down. Permanently. After giving a less than 24 hour notice to the world, Nguyen apologized, and had Flappy Bird removed from both the Apple App Store and Android Google Play Marketplace. He sent out a series of 4 tweets regarding the situation, but didn’t give any official reasoning for the game’s removal.
However, a few days following the incident, Nguyen spoke exclusively with Forbes, and credited his decision to take down Flappy Bird to the game being far too addictive.
“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. It’s gone forever.”
In removing the app from the app store, Nguyen is walking away from a large pot of money, but he doesn’t care – he’s made it clear that this decision, to him, was the best one, and that he’s very much thought it through.
And so, Flappy Bird came, and Flappy Bird went. You can no longer download it directly from the App Store or Google Play, at least, not if you hadn’t downloaded it before – if you have, then you’ll always be able to, as per Apple’s user policy. But for everyone else, Flappy Bird has flapped his last.
That’s why a bunch of iPhones with the game installed are now going for thousands of dollars on eBay — not because the game is now a rare gem, but because people are idiots. But if you don’t want to go through the effort of buying an overpriced phone with the game installed, or don’t want to pirate it and sideload it to your device, then you could spend your afternoons simply playing Helicopter.
Because that game still rocks.
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