It's a horrificly difficult game, yet Flappy Bird (iOS, Android) has become the most downloaded free iOS and Android game over the past week. As part of its viral behavior, it's become a cash cow for developer Dong Nguyen, who told The Verge on Wednesday that the game is earning $50,000 a day on average from in-app ads.
The game is as simple as its graphics are. You tap the screen to move a tiny, awkwardly represented yellow bird through gaps between pipes. Navigate safely through the obstacles and all is well. Make a mistake and touch a pipe, and Flappy Bird ends up nosediving into the group after a loud smack.
Although the game has experienced some 50 million downloads, it's horribly hard to play. It could take a player an hour just to reach the score of five.
While difficult and viral, it has not reached the proportions that the satirical website Huzlers.com wanted people to believe. It claimed that a Chicago teenager had been arrested on charges of murder after killing his own brother, who had surpassed his high score in Flappy Bird.
Flappy Bird again raises the question: What is it that makes an app a hit? Nguyen said,
The reason Flappy Bird is so popular is that it happens to be something different from mobile games today, and is a really good game to compete against each other.
People in the same classroom can play and compete easily because [Flappy Bird] is simple to learn, but you need skill to get a high score.
Interestingly enough, Flappy Bird languished in the App Store and Google Play for quite some time, with an initial iOS release in May of last year. It's unclear exactly why it suddenly became popular; the surge seems to have begun in early December.
Nguyen told that he created the game in two or three days and added that he has not promoted the app in any way since its release.
Although some find the ads intrusive and wish for (yes, indeed) an in-app purchase to remove them, Nguyen said that he has no plans to change -- or even update -- the game.
Flappy Bird has reached a state where anything added to the game will ruin it somehow, so I'd like to leave it as is. I will think about a sequel but I'm not sure about the timeline.