The phenomenon known as Flappy Bird seems to be coming to an end. After a few weeks of improbable success, developer Dong Nguyen has decided to call it quits. While there was some speculation as to why, the official reason according to Nguyen is the game was making his life too complicated. There is even more speculation as to how the game became popular to begin with.
Before we talk about it further, let’s look at some quick stats regarding Flappy Bird.
So what happened here? It may be more complicated than one imagines. A cursory Google Search brings up a veritable library of lists and articles that tell you how to make your app go viral. You can find multi-page articles, lists, diagrams, and even a mathematical algorithms to help app developers figure out how to get their apps in the hands of a million people in only a few days.
This is a very short list of items that the app must have if you want a short-lived, viral success story:
There is another variable that these lists don’t mention and that variable is luck. There comes a point where developers can only go so far. Once the proper pieces are in place, it’s up to some bored blogger or Reddit/Twitter/Google+ user finding the app, trying it out, and sharing it to a massive amount of people. In the case of Flappy Bird, it was a well timed article by notable chronicler of fads, Buzzfeed.
Kind of like the Big Bang, but for applications.
Even though there are articles, papers, lists, and even mathematical algorithms written to help explain the viral attitude, the bottom line is that there is no specific thing or set of things that can make something go viral. It’s all about being in the right place in the right time with the right product. For Dong Nguyen and Flappy Bird, that right time was 3 weeks ago and that right place was Buzzfeed. If you’re an aspiring app dev, the only advice we can give you is to follow the list above, make sure you know what you’re getting into, and pray to whatever deity you happen to worship.
The question isn’t whether or not Flappy Bird was a unique situation because it absolutely was. The question is how much longer do we have to wait until the next super simple, borderline terrible app tops the charts and engrosses people worldwide. The answer is not long. In fact, over on iOS there is a really terrible game called Red Bouncing Ball Spikes that has topped the paid chart on iOS in less than 24 hours. It has a lot in common with Flappy Bird. It’s stupid simple, the game itself was not difficult to make (indeed, it is a template game), and the app was in obscurity for over a year before it became suddenly popular. The point is that when one falls, it opens the door for another to rise and throughout the history of mobile apps
Some hits stayed at the top for a long time, such as Angry Birds or Temple Run. Others experienced high short term success and moderate ongoing success like Fruit Ninja and Bejeweled Blitz. Even Flappy Bird exploded in the space of the Candy Crush Saga fad that dominated a good portion of 2013. It’s never a matter of if or when, but which app developer gets lucky this time around.
Another odd point that has been brought up is how many of these applications — particularly the ones like Flappy Bird and Red Bouncing Ball Spikes — are developed by single developers instead of teams or companies. Fortunately, we actually have statistics available to explain this phenomenon. A study called The State of Apps by Millennial Media (source link below) shows that 60% of applications are developed by groups that consist of only one person. In a data set that includes all apps, that means there is a 60% chance that the next viral fad is developed by just one person.
A curse and a blessing
This is both good and bad. If you’re a fan of indie development and are all about giving more power to the little guy, it’s good to see that most apps on mobile are developed by a single person. Of course, the other side of that issue is that because one person has limited manpower, resources, and time, the apps they generate tend to be of lower quality. Case and point, Angry Birds, while a simple game, is of much higher quality than Flappy Bird. That’s not because Dong Nguyen isn’t talented, but because Rovio has far more resources and manpower to create a more polished game.
The other sad truth to this statistic is that it is more likely that any given viral app will be of lower quality, simply because there are more of them. That’a assuming “virality” is not correlated to a game’s quality or to the developer’s marketing skills. This isn’t always a good thing, as great games like Dead Trigger 2, Final Fantasy, Clash of Clans, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, and plenty of others that strive to take the mobile gaming platform upward and forward are being overshadowed by games that hold the platform back. In other words, because there are more lower quality games developed by single people, it interferes with the advancement of gaming as a whole because the better games are hidden behind the fads.
There is some good news. In the same study sourced above, it shows that developers are projected to be less independent in 2014. According to the study, application developer groups should be on the rise while individual efforts should be scaling down. As you can see from the charts above, the number of single developers is slated to go down. This means developers will be teaming up with each other on a more consistent basis. This means there will actually be fewer Flappy Bird titles and more collaborative efforts which result in higher quality applications thanks to the increase in manpower that comes with a cooperative effort.
In the short term, we’re sure to see more apps like Flappy Bird become popular. It’s practically a time-honored tradition at this point that the top charts on Google Play and the Apple App Store will be host to at least one borderline terrible game that people find fun for some unexplained reason. The silver lining is that these applications should become less frequent in the next few years as application developers come together, form
It's practically a time-honored tradition at this point
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The worst part about this, is now everyone is jumping on the “now my phone is worth, minimum, $2000 because I have this game on it” bandwagon. There’s still ways to install it on devices, yet people are too lazy to look it up and would rather get ripped off.
If they’re that wealthy and spend that kind of money on that kind of stuff, they probably don’t deserve the excess wealth anyway.
I have a Nexus 5 with flappy bird installed. Imma go put it on ebay or amazon for $10,000.
you probably could.
It’s because someone sold on ebay “iPhone 5S with flappy bird installed” for $650 and the bid went up to $90k
PewDiePie is probably the best reason for his grown popularity. He done a video about it on Jan. 27, so many subs played it after seeing the video that a #FlappyBird on Twitter became trendy.
Yup, it was already well known (I know this because PewDiePie said in his video that everyone was saying that he needs to play it), but it absolutely exploded after Pewds played it!
Buzzfeed’s article was on January 23.
Yeah I ain’t meant that he all created the buzz around with his video. But contributed a lot of it ^^
He was just an early adopter. I actually had no idea he had a video about the game when I posted this article lol.
I’m going to make few realöy bad apps and wait for my luck!
Also “That’a assuming” >:)
Astonishing, because it was a copy of DOZENS of very similar games that existed for years before…
anyone have a cheap android with flappybirds installed for sale? I have cash!
100$ for you ;)