“Flappy Bird” was the game that caught everyone’s attention for a brief period of time, only to be stripped away from the masses without any warning. It was a simple concept, really. You tap your phone screen to temporarily elevate the tiny yellow bird without letting him hit the multitude of pipes or the ground below while the game keeps track of how far you made it without hitting an obstacle.
Millions of people were competing with their friends to see who could get the highest “Flappy Bird” score, and it was the game that almost everybody had on their smartphone during that golden age of apps in the early to mid-2010s. Unfortunately, “Flappy Bird” left just about as quickly as it came. So what happened? Let’s look at the story of “Flappy Bird” and its elusive creator.
“Flappy Bird” wasn’t created by a large publisher that has cornered the mobile gaming market, but rather by one man. Dong Nguyen grew up in the Vietnamese village of Van Phuc, and took an interest in video games at a young age, particularly the “Super Mario Bros.” franchise. Nguyen had been working on developing games for a few years but found some of them to be too complicated for public consumption.
Nguyen took one of the characters that were to be used in a previous game, a bird named Faby, and plugged him into the game where all you have to do is tap anywhere on the screen. One tap makes Faby increase in height slightly and temporarily as the player attempts to traverse between pipes without hitting the ground.
The simplicity of “Flappy Bird” made it an instant hit. The game was released in May 2013, and within months was the top mobile game in the world. By the end of the year, there were 50 million “Flappy Bird” downloads. People were trying to break their own high scores while sending screenshots of their scores to everyone they knew, hoping to have the highest “Flappy Bird” score amongst their friends and family.
Just like with any popular mobile game, there are always a series of knockoffs that make their way to the App Store and Google Play. It seemed like every day, there were dozens of
“Flappy Birds” clones that made their way into stores only to be taken down. Of course, there were also plenty of developers that said that “Flappy Bird” was the clone, but nothing came from the claims that Nguyen took his ideas from anybody else.
While still at the height of its popularity, millions of people woke up on February 20, 2014, only to find that Flappy Bird was no longer available in app stores. Many thought it was a mistake at first, but it turned out that “Flappy Bird” was gone for good. The only ways to try out “Flappy Bird” afterward were via the arcade game or the Amazon Fire TV version of the app as all others were removed permanently.
Where Did Nguyen Go?
So why did Nguyen decide to rip the game from app stores while it was pulling in tens of thousands per day? According to Nguyen, he said that people were becoming addicted to the game. “‘Flappy Bird’ was designed to play in a few minutes when you’re relaxed,” he said. “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.”
News outlets couldn’t stop talking about “Flappy Bird”, but Nguyen didn’t want to see the success of his own game. “It is something I never want,” Nguyen said of the popularity. “Please give me peace.” On the positive side, Nguyen did feel more confident in his game development abilities as a result of “Flappy Bird”.
Nguyen has been almost radio silent since “Flappy Bird” was taken away from stores. His small gaming development company, dotgears, has created other games including “BOOP”, “Swing Copters”, and “Ninja Spinki Challengers. However, nothing has seen quite the success of “Flappy Bird”.