Flappy Bird is a bad game. But, that’s not because it’s the “hardest game ever.”
Flappy Bird is a mobile app where you navigate a bird between as many pipes as possible before you run into something. I hear my peers whining about it quite often because it’s “rage-inducing.” It takes practice, sure, and luck that it won’t glitch up, but I don’t believe it’s actually difficult; it’s just the zeitgeist for us to commiserate about pointless things, and Flappy Bird is definitely pointless. It’s a meme stacked on another meme. Talk about first-world problems. I wouldn’t care, normally. Smartphone games, while sometimes shallow, have casual appeal and are budget-priced. In the case of Flappy Bird, the game is free.
Vietnamese creator Dong Nguyen announced Saturday he was taking the game down because he couldn’t handle its popularity. Nguyen was reportedly making $50,000 a day from the in-game ads. Who would turn down that income without good reason? Well, I quickly found that reasons abound.
In fact, Flappy Bird steals art from the classic Super Mario World: the iconic warp pipe. It’s not an exact reproduction, but it’s more than homage. Its inclusion is meant to play on nostalgia, apparently in the absence of the developer’s own creativity. That’s illegal, and it’s not even the end of the story.
Another game, Piou Piou, is uncannily similar. Piou Piou features a bird with big lips who has to fly around oblong green cacti. I suggest checking both games out side-by-side, because it’s readily apparent Flappy Bird is a retro-looking rip-off. It’s not fair for the developer of Piou Piou, who now has to suffer being second best when they came up with the idea in the first place.
Stealing ideas in the mobile market isn’t unheard of — take a look at game provider Zynga, who built a corporation on the success of others. But in this case, when one man is making a fortune off of theft, there must be scrutiny. The gameplay of Piou Piou is slightly different, but its heart lives on in Flappy Bird.
There’s another issue: How did a game released in May to no fanfare suddenly reach the top of app store charts in December? The developer has said that he used no promotion, and that he’s just lucky.
Others who have looked into its rise suspect foul play. Carter Thomas, an iOS marketer, concluded on his blog that the game bought its initial popularity. Firstly, its download numbers start shooting upward in December, in a pattern typical to popularity manipulation. Nguyen’s other games follow the same pattern, a clue that they might be manipulated as well. Second, the early reviews all share the same wording and themes of despair at the game’s difficulty.
There’s a chance Nguyen is the luckiest, most self-effacing man on the planet. But, it’s much more likely that he’s about to be found out.
Sunday Nguyen held true to his word and the game is no longer available for download. So, let’s all take out our phones and uninstall Flappy Bird. It doesn’t deserve to live on — let it fly awkwardly into the sunset.