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Flappy Bird is a 2013 mobile game designed by Dong Nguyen and published by dotGEARS (stylized as .GEARS), his small indie-game developer company based in Vietnam.
The game was released in May 2013 but received a sudden rise in popularity in early 2014 due to the notoriously difficult, yet addicting gameplay. At the end of January 2014, it was the most downloaded free game in the App Store for iOS. During this period, its developer said that Flappy Bird was earning $50,000 a day from in-app advertisements as well as sales.
However, the game was removed from both the App Store and the Play Store in Febuary 10, 2014 after a strings of controversies, and leave behind an unwanted legacy as one of the most cloned games of all time.
Flappy Bird is a side-scrolling one-button-press game featuring 2D retro style graphics. The goal is to tap the screen to make the bird (named Faby) flap its wings and fly through a series of pipes. The more pipes you fly through, the higher your score is. The game will end when the bird hit one of the pipe or hit the ground.
Although the gameplay is quite simple, the difficulty of this game came from the fact that the bird is fairly difficult to navigate, as it constantly drop to the ground if the player doesn't tap the screen, yet they're also need a good timing not hit the ceiling pipe.
Flappy Bird was created and developed by Dong Nguyen in two to three days. The bird character, Faby, was originally designed in 2012 for a cancelled platform game. The gameplay was inspired by the act of bouncing a ping pong ball against a paddle for as long as possible.
Nguyen explained that a simplistic gameplay of Flappy Bird is intentional, as he claimed that some of the most popular mobile games at that time (for example, Angry Birds) were "too complicated", and targeted the game as a time-killer app for people who are "always on the move".
Initially the game was significantly easier than it became in the final version, however Nguyen said he found this version to be boring and subsequently tightened up the difficulty.
Release and Rise to Fame
Flappy Bird was originally released on May 23, 2013 on the Apple App Store with little success. Although this would change after the game was being reviewed by the Swedish Youtuber PewDiePie, who noted on how incredibly fraustating yet addicting the game was.
After PewDiePie's review was uploaded on late December 2013, Flappy Bird's popularity has dramatically exploded. In January 2014, it topped the Free Apps chart in the US and Chinese App Stores, and later that month topped the same section of the UK App Store where it was touted as "the new Angry Birds". The Android version of Flappy Bird was released to the Google Play store on January 30, 2014, and would have reached over 10 millions of downloads in just a week before its removal.
Flappy Bird received mixed-to-negative reception from critics, holding a Metacritic score of 52/100, based on seven reviews. The app was criticized by the Huffington Post, which described it as an "insanely irritating, difficult and frustrating game which combines a super-steep difficulty curve with bad, boring graphics and jerky movement". IGN gave the game a mediocre score of 5.4 out of 10, quipping that the game is as addictive as it was shallow. Despite criticizing its playability and its "no skill" requirement, IGN noted that the gameplay made it "an addictive short-term distraction" for the casual skill and score-obsessed players.
In contrast, some handful amount of veteran game developers viewed the game's concept in somewhat more positive light. Nolan Bushnell, the co-founder of Atari Inc., compared it with his own game Pong and claimed that "simple games are more satisfying". While John Romero, a co-creator of Doom, commented that Flappy Bird is "a reaction against prevailing design the way grunge was a reaction to metal."
Controversies and Accusations
Flappy Bird received a worldwide media coverage due to the nature of unexpected rise in popularity and the infamously hard difficulty of the game itself. However, media coverage has generated a strings of controversies which will eventually leads into the game's removal.
Accusation of bot manipulation
When questioned at the time by Chocolate Lab Apps, a website for app developers, Nguyen claimed to have used no promotional methods in the marketing of Flappy Bird, and credited it to "luck". However, according to a claim by online marketer Carter Thomas, he suspected that Flappy Bird's sudden rise to fame was the result of dotGAMES using bots to manipulate the download and ratings count. When Newsweek inquired about the matter, Nguyen wrote, "If I did fake it, should Apple let it live for months?"
Accusation on stolen assets and plagairism
Kotaku is one of the earliest media outlet to accusing Flappy Bird to be made of stolen assets (particularly the green pipe), referring it as a "ripped-off art" from Super Mario Bros. series, althought it later publised a correction that it was "a new albeit unoriginal drawing", the damage is already done.
According to some Vietnamese newspaper, including Thanh Niên and BBC Vietnam, Flappy Bird is very similar to a game released in 2011 (two years before Flappy Bird) called Piou Piou vs. Cactus made by the French indie developer Kek, from the gameplay (by tapping on the screen) to the main character design (a small yellow bird with big red beak) to the obstacles (green cacti and pipes), the reporter from Thanh Niên also playing Piou Piou vs. Cactus and confirmed that the similarities between the two games are astonishing. Several French newspapers such as 20 Minutes and Metronews were also accused Flappy Bird of being a clone.
Upon actknownledging about Flappy Bird's allegations, Piou Piou vs. Cactus's developer Kek also commented that he also notice the similarity to his games, but when he contacted Nguyen about it, Nguyen claimed that he did not know anything.
Due to the difficulty of the game, Flappy Bird has generated an infamy with those who have played it made a post on the social media either to show their high score or to complain of how hard it was. The Let's Play videos featured Flappy Bird usually involves around players often raging upon the game over, with some players took several hours to reach only 10 points. The frustation caused by the game has turned into a backlash to dotGAMES and Nguyen, with some of them has sent insult and even death threats to his social media accounts.
Discontinuation and removal from the App Store and Play Store
On February 8, 2014, Nguyen announced on Twitter that the game was to be removed from both Apple's App Store and Google Play, The game was removed from both Apple's App Store and Google Play exactly on time, much to the dismay of many fans.
Tuoi Tre News, an English-language newspaper in Vietnam, reported from a local technology expert that Flappy Bird's removal could have been due to a legal challenge from Nintendo over perceived visual similarities to Mario games. This allegation was denied by a Nintendo spokesman to The Wall Street Journal.
In an interview with Forbes, Nguyen cited the game's addictive nature for its cancellation, stating: "Flappy Bird was designed to play in a few minutes when you are relaxed. 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." Due to pressure from news outlet and social media, Nguyen said that the guilt that he felt over the game was affecting his sleep, and that his conscience was relieved after he took down the game.
On August 2014, dotGAMES has released a "less addictive" version of Flappy Bird titled Flappy Bird Family exclusively through the Amazon Appstore for the Amazon Fire TV platform with various new features.
Just a few days after its removal, Flappy Bird became one of the most cloned games in Apple's App Store. In only 2 days after its removal, there are over hundreds of clones of Flappy Bird on the App Store..
At the peak of its popularity, over 60 clones per day were appearing on the App Store, prompting both Google and Apple to begin rejecting games with the word "Flappy" in the name for a while.
Shortly after the game's removal, security researchers warned that some versions of Flappy Bird and its imitators available on alternative Android app stores have been found to contain malware that can lead to unauthorised charges to a user's phone bills. The number matching game Threes! has been compared to Flappy Bird because of the similarities between how people react to them and by the chain of clones that they are both respectively part of.
As of 2020, there is estimated that over 200,000 of Flappy Bird clones were published on the App Store and the Play Store.