At first, the game shot to fame on the App Store. Then came the addiction and the internet memes that clearly established the fame of the game. Then came the revelation that the developer was earning $50,000 per day through the game.
And then, right out of the blue, the tweet that said the app will be removed because the developer can’t take any more. Keeping up with that sad promise, Flappy Birds has been removed from the App Store (as well as from Google’s Play Store). We examine the back story and the rumors behind the episode.
The Flappy Birds Primer
If you missed the week-long headline barrage related to Flappy Birds (which we have specifically refrained from immersing ourselves in because there’s this huge tinge of sensationalism to it all), the game is a retro-themed iOS (and Android) game where you try to make a bird fly past giant tubes which resemble those from Nintendo’s Mario. The trick is to make it as far as possible without hitting on the tubes or falling to the ground.
Designed as a simple but enormously difficult game-of-wits, Flappy Birds grew in popularity so much that has attracted not just media attention in the form of reddit threads and internet memes but also an interview with the developer where he revealed the staggering profits that the game was earning every single day.
Then, all of a sudden, the developer tweeted that he was going to pull the game out. For the hardcore fans of the game, it came as a shock. There seemed to be no going back though: the game has been pulled from the App Store (for iOS) and the Play Store (for Android). And there’s no sign of the game coming back (although many believe it’s a marketing gimmick and that the game would be back soon).
Why Did Flappy Birds Go?
A cursory examination of why Dong Nguyen, the developer, decided to remove the game doesn’t reveal much. The whole of internet is being spammed with speculations: it’s a marketing gimmick, it’s because he received a lot of hate emails and death threats, the game could run into legal issues and that’s why he pulled it out, there was nothing innovative/new with the game and this was a point of contention… and whatnot.
One of the more sensible comments made was that the developer – an indie, small-time dev from Vietnam – wasn’t expecting such an intense media attention after what happened with Flappy Birds. And not to forget, it’s one of the hardest things to suddenly find yourself in limelight so intense that it ruins your privacy and sense of peace.
Reports of earnings that peaked $50k per day would not go unnoticed in his own country which could also be one of the reasons why he decided to fly low. While he has clearly removed Flappy Birds, he has also stated that he’d continue developing more games. His own website is still live.
The notion of legal issues – although categorically denied by the developer and others – does seem like a point to note though. The game, while being an innovative spin-off of many linear games where the objective is to go as far as possible, borrows a lot from other popular games of our times. Most notably, the Mario tubes, the retro style, the ‘bird’ as the motif (not like Angry Birds in style but in intention) etc. Should it face a legal issue, that could be a complexity that the developer wanted to avoid.
Getting the Game Back?
Android folks have it a little easy. I stumbled on a couple of websites that had the .apk file for the game hosted. For iPhone users, though, it’s not a good day if you’re looking for Flappy Birds. Those who have it can continue playing it. Those that don’t: better luck next time.
(jailbreak community hints at IPA files being available but that hasn’t turned any good yet. And besides, it is illegal to download and install IPA files distributed without the developer’s consent).