The creator of app sensation Flappy Bird tweeted yesterday that he was removing the game from the app store within the next 24 hours, stating that it had ruined his “simple life” and implored the public to “Please give me peace”. Dong Nguyen had never expected that his indie game would reach such popularity, having reached over 50 million downloads, or the amount of interest he would receive from the press and fans alike. Obviously publicity and feedback are encouraged and needed by game developers in order to be successful and iron out the kinks in future releases, but sometimes this overwhelms small game developers. Whilst Dong has been reluctant to comment further on his reasons for removing Flappy Bird, there are a number of aspects that could have affected his decision.
I am sorry ‘Flappy Bird’ users, 22 hours from now, I will take ‘Flappy Bird’ down. I cannot take this anymore.
— Dong Nguyen (@dongatory) February 8, 2014
One of the main reasons could be the lack of time Dong had to prepare for his game’s rise to fame. Flappy Bird was first released on the App Store in May 2013, and had a relatively small following until the explosion of downloads in January 2014. The primary means for Flappy Bird’s growth was word of mouth, or in more modern times sharing of posts. Within days reviews on blogs, websites and YouTube came flooding in, some praising the addictiveness of the game, whilst other condemned it for its pastiche of Super Mario and high level of difficulty. Whilst most of the comments were constructive, as Flappy Bird became more and more popular the inevitable happened: internet trolls. The bane of creators and internet commentators, trolls came swarming in to make negative comments about Flappy Bird. Not because they thought that game was bad, more because they could and they would be protected by the relative anonymity of the internet. Whilst big corporations can shrug off negative comments, indie developers often find it more difficult, as the comments come directly to them via Twitter, Facebook and even email, making them very hard to ignore.
As with many indie gamers, each game says something about the person behind it and their experiences or view on the world around them. This means that when they release a game they open up a part of themselves to both praise and criticism. A tough skin is required in the world of gaming, and it is evident that Dong Nguyen does not have this, explaining the desire to remove Flappy Bird from the spotlight. However this seems counter-productive, as Nguyen assured his fans via Twitter that he would continue to make games, so why remove your first game if it was so successful? It is rare to find someone who actually wants to be mediocre in their success, although perhaps Nguyen fears he has hit a pixelated ceiling, making it harder to make a good game in the future as they will all be compared to Flappy Bird.
The revenue from advertising in the game, which is free to download for iOS and Android users, has been estimated at close to £30,000 a day. There are no signs of the game being removed from the various app stores yet, leading a sneaking suspicion of a last push for money with an outcome of the game not being removed. Perhaps that’s just this writer’s cynicism, as Dong Nguyen does seem genuinely plagued by his humble game’s success.