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The Viral Disease – Why are Flappy Bird and Gangnam Style So Popular?

It has been 2 weeks since Dong Nguyen (@dongatory) has taken Flappy Bird down, the indie game that earned nearly 16 million tweets and 50 millions downloads of AppStore and Google. Flappy Bird has been a huge blast after its appearance on Google Play, but yet no one could have anticipated the move of it’s creator. For those of you that might be unacquainted with this amazing story, let’s open ourselves for few blasts from the past..

How it all started?

Nothing of the sort of spectacular. In April 2013 Dong Nguyen shared the first splash screen for a new iOS game called Flap Flap, a small Nintendo looking game which according to him took only 2 days to develop. That name already existed on AppStore which is why Nguyen promptly reacted and changed the name into Flappy Bird.

Just another failed game

Flappy Bird barely gained any traction. As per the records of App Store which were extracted before the game was taken down, Flappy bird received only 13 reviews up to 31st of October.

But Then…

On 29th of October Flappy Bird entered the US’s game chart being ranked as 1368 as per the report of AppAnnie. A week later the first tweet appeared which did not originate from Nguyen’s handle, but by a user who expressed negative feelings for Flappy Bird

Well, negative words usually make their things, but not in this scenario. Slowly but surely more tweets and reviews start appearing which will reach the climax 3 months later in January 2014.

An extraordinary milestone

On 14th of January Flappy Bird became a top-10 app in the United States. It was ranked the eighth-most-downloaded free app in the U.S. and the sixth-most-downloaded free game.

Logically, this development received the attention  of the media both local (based in Vietnam) and International asking Nguyen about his success recipe. Many questions popped out like:

  • What kind of promotion did you use on AppStore?
  • Did you use any kind of advertisement to boost your downloads?
  • Is it organic popularity or something else?
  • Did you use download bots?

Surely most of us would expect sensationalist development of this scenario. Other simply tried to make an honest research and pursuit of knowledge about what made Flappy Bird such success.

why is flappy bird so popular

Neither of the both groups would be given satisfactory juice to quench their thirst for information, because the perceived sophistication expected by the Vietnamese developer simply did not exist.

Instead he openly announced that the thing is going way over his head, that the success of Flappy Bird is overrated, and that most of all he wants his peace back. Interview requests, accusations and even death threats become routine. Therefore:

As you know, Nguyen stick to his word and took Flappy Bird from both marketplaces. Almost immediately carbon copies and cheap imitations appeared to fill the gap left by the past century Nintendo looking game.

It is not my purpose to elaborate every single detail of this story, but to focus on highlighting an answer to the following question:

Why is Flappy Bird so popular?

First of all I would take the accusation made by Blue Cloud Solutions that Flappy Bird’s popularity is artificial as lacking proof and too sensationalist.

A game maintaining its popularity on such artificial and illegal methods cannot sustain itself long away from the radars of AppStore. Plus this accusation takes away the entire buzz that Flappy Bird received on Social Media, which can be attributed as the core factor of success of this game, and doing so is ridiculous.

Remember the Gangnam style

You may recall when Gawker wrote the story about Gangnam Style video titled – Did This Underground Hip Hop Artist from South Korea Just Release the Best Music Video of the Year (July 2012), a story quickly followed by the Bilboard writeup?

These are prominent portals which great mass of followers on social media which brought a river of re-tweets? However the climax arrived during the MTV awards when Gangnam Style appeared as last minute guest. Britney Spears tweeted about the Gangnam Style, and you already know the rest:

It is kinda obvious. In the realm of social media it is not always about good or bad. It is about exposure and impression. If today 10 people I follow on Twitter tweet either positive or negative about a particular mobile app – I am almost certain to go and check it myself.Once the user takes it, he does all the job on your behalf. Tweets and memes flooded the web…

why is flappy bird so popular

So perfectly imperfect

Flappy Bird made a huge leap back appealing to simplicity in gaming experience. It’s Nintendo looking appearance was a Bull’s Eye. Most of us have grown up with the Nintendo interface and subconsciously we are susceptible to every stimulus or environment that takes it back to those happy moments.

Another opinion from a Quora user is also worth of noticing:

Once you have downloaded the game and learnt to keep your bird airborne for a few seconds, the first pipe hits you. Frustrated at not even opening your score you tap vigorously at your screen and manage the first point and if lucky the second. .After learning the objective of the game and gaining some mastery over the bird you check the leaderboard and realize the top score is much much ahead than yours. Defeated you exit the game but hell there is no exit button ! You promise yourselves that you’ll not touch the game again but somewhere at the back of your mind you are not ready to accept defeat. Not to some crappy bird who can’t learn to fly. AND bam! Just like that you are hooked.

This Quora user  puts it out even better:

Why is Flappy bird a success? Because it’s ridiculously tough! And historically people are crazy about ridiculous tough competitions

Can the success of Flappy Bird be repeated any time soon? Unlikely because it represented a perfect blend of circumstances and game play supported by the all pervading social media phenomena. What are your thoughts?

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