Flappy Bird dev says he pulled app because people loved it too much


An employee plays the game Flappy Bird at a smartphone store in Hanoi on Feb. 10, 2014. The Vietnamese developer behind the hit free game has pulled his creation from online stores after announcing that its runaway success had ruined his "simple life". (Hoang Dinh Nam/AFP/Getty Images)

Dong Nguyen, the developer of the viral hit Flappy Bird, has a couple of things to tell fans of his now-defunct app.

First, he wants to thank them. And second, he wants to tell them that he took it down for their own good.

“The main reason of removing ‘Flappy Bird’ is the negative effect to my players,” Nguyen told The Washington Post in an e-mail exchange. He said that the game caused “unexpected addiction” for his players — something he could not bear to see.

“I have a serious reason to take down the game and I would like to apologize people for that,” said Nguyen, who is based in Vietnam.

The complex story of Flappy Bird — its sudden shot to fame, time as an object of fierce Internet derision and obsession, and abrupt removal from Apple and Google’s app stores — runs very counter to Nguyen’s own, very basic, design philosophy.

He, as he said on his Twitter feed before pulling Flappy Bird from stores, likes things to be simple. Flappy Bird, as well as other games he’s published, are designed to evoke a time when games were just games and not billion-dollar productions.

“There were a lot of inspirations, mostly from games I played in my childhood,” he said, when asked about why he made Flappy Bird. “I like pixel art and it makes a game feel more a game to me than modern vector art.”

Nguyen wanted to use a “simple mechanism” for the game. Having players tap to fly over and under difficult obstacles, he said, was “pretty much the simplest idea that I can think of.”

With the basics established, he said, all that was left was to “tune the gameplay to be smooth, fun and feel different than other games.”

Obviously, something struck a chord. After sitting largely unnoticed on Apple and Google’s app stores for months, the game suddenly shot to the top of both stores’ charts over the past month, prompting everyone to wonder just how the game got so popular so quickly. Some have even questioned whether Nguyen might have used artificial means to boost the numbers of Flappy Bird and other games he’s developed, such as Shuriken Block and Super Ball Juggling.

On that front, Nguyen says he’s as clueless as everyone else.

“The reason ‘Flappy Bird’ is so popular is unclear to me,” he said. He did, however, speculate that it could be because people were sharing their scores on social networks. That’s a theory supported by others, including Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan, who called the game a “great lesson on how a simple Share button” can help something go viral.

If that is the case, Nguyen said he is grateful for the stunning word-of-mouth endorsements of his game.

“I would like to say thank you to people for playing my game and helping my game get more visibility,” he said.

In the meantime, some may wonder how he is doing — especially after walking away from an app he once told The Verge made up to $50,000 in ad revenue per day.

Nguyen’s answer was as simple as the games he makes. “I’m fine now," he said, “Thank you.”

Now, it’s just on to the next project.

“Of course, I will make more games in the future,” he said. Nothing about the whole Flappy Bird flap, he said, will change that, or his philosophy of design.

“I still make games for myself to enjoy first and share with other people through mobile app stores,” he said. “The way I make games is still the same, I want to keep the process of making simple.”

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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