After millions of downloads, Flappy Bird has vanished from the App Store and Google Play. Dong Nguyen, the game’s Vietnamese developer, permanently grounded Flappy Bird – a title that was allegedly bringing him $50,000 a week in ad revenue – in an apparent bid to clear his conscience.
“Flappy Bird was designed to play in a few minutes when you are relaxed,” Nguyen told Forbes in his only interview since pulling the app. “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.”
For the uninitiated, Flappy Bird was the top-ranked free game for both Apple and Android, with more than 50 million downloads since going viral last month. It was described by many as frustratingly difficult, yet incredibly simple – tap the screen to make a bird flap its wings as you try to avoid green pipes. If you crash into one, it’s an automatic “game over.” There is no “end,” either – players simply try to stay alive for as long as they can, with many taking to Facebook and Twitter to boast about surviving for more than 30 seconds.
The pixelated animation style (and, of course, the pipes) drew many comparisons to Super Mario Bros. It led many to speculate that Nintendo may have been behind the game’s disappearance – something that Nguyen denies.
Nguyen claims that he coded the game in his free time after work over the course of two or three days. His sudden success was viewed by some as an opportunity for Vietnam’s fledgling community of developers to break onto the scene.
“This is the success story the country needed,” Than Trong Phuc, the director of a technology-focused investment fund in Ho Chi Minh, told Bloomberg. “The money from Silicon Valley will come. It will come looking for the next Flappy Bird – or the Flappy Bird developer himself.”
Despite Phuc’s optimism, Nguyen took to his Twitter account ahead of killing the game to tell his 120,000 followers that its rapid success had taken an emotional toll on him. Some rabid fans went as far as lodging death threats when they found out that the game would be removed.
“I cannot take this anymore,” he tweeted on February 8, a day before removing Flappy Bird for good. “I can call Flappy Bird [a] success of mine. But it also ruins my simple life. So now I hate it.”
Gaming addiction is a much more serious issue in Asia than it is in the West, and likely something that Nguyen considered in pulling Flappy Bird from app stores.
“Unlike Westerners, many Asian gamers (especially teens) play their games in internet cafes, which means they’re totally unsupervised,” wrote Forbes. “High-profile crimes, like the murder of a 7-year-old girl by a game-addicted teen in 2011, have helped further stigmatize video games [in Vietnam].”
In its absence, Flappy Bird clones – with uninspired names like Flappy Fish, Flappy Pig and Flappy Chicken – have appeared in droves. Used smartphones and tablets with Flappy Bird installed have flooded auction sites like eBay, with reserve prices in the thousands of dollars.