Flappy Bird developer on take down: ‘it was just too addictive’

Flappy Bird developer Dong Nguyen says the mega-hit game was "just too addicted" so he decided to take it down

TOO MUCH. Game developer Nguyen Ha Dong didn't like the way his game blew up. AFP Photo

MANILA, Philippines — Flappy Bird developer Nguyen Ha Dong broke his silence on Tuesday, February 11 after he removed his popular smartphone game from both iTunes and Google Play app stores. 

Speaking exclusively to the Wall Street Journal, the Hanoi based developer explained his controversial decision, “it was just too addictive,” he said. “That was the main negative. So I decided to take it down,” he added.

On Twitter early Sunday morning, February 9, Nguyen announced he was taking down the app but was cryptic about his reasons, “I cannot take this anymore.”

22 hours later, as promised, the app was removed from both iOS and Android distribution platforms. Users who have downloaded the game can still play Flappy Bird, but those who don’t have it on their smartphones can no longer get it legally.

Earlier in the week Nguyen tweeted about how people were overusing the game. In the WSJ interview he expounds, “I just wanted to create a game that people could enjoy for a few minutes.”

The take-down move was followed by conspiracy theories, including possible copyright infringement issues because of the game’s similarity to another iOS game Piou Piou vs Cactus, and the use of pipes that highly resemble those in Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros.   

Others thought the move was just a publicity stunt, a marketing gimmick to generate even more interest in his company. 

If it was, it worked. The move didn’t make sense and it kept people talking. 

Just days before, Nguyen released an updated version of the game for iOS complete with new birds and a new background. 

Even more distributing was the fact that Nguyen was supposedly raking in an average of $50K a day on ad revenue. Why would he turn his back on all that profit? Nguyen tells the WSJ, the attention made him feel uncomfortable.

Vietnam-based sources tell Rappler, Nguyen is currently under a self-imposed lockdown inside his family’s three-story apartment. Described as a shy and timid, Nguyen didn’t like the attention. He has also avoided local press seeking interviews.

Nguyen tells the WSJ he just wants to develop games. 

The meteoric rise of Flappy Bird was unexpected. After a slow start (the game was released for iOS back in May 2013 and on Android in January 2014) his game hit number one on both the iTunes app store and the Google Play store last month.

Nguyen attributes the game’s success to luck. 

GAME OVER. The extremely frustrating game was taken down by the author himself. Photo by Michael Josh Villanueva / Rappler

But the popularity of Flappy Bird is partly due to its design. Designed as a retro-arcade game, users play the character of a funky looking bird, tapping on the screen flaps your characters wings. The speed and frequency of taps determine how you navigate through a maze of never ending pipes. The goal is simple, beat your high score by staying alive for as long as you can.

Exceedingly simple mechanics but extremely difficult to play, the game is one that doesn’t compute. You see friends doing poorly, and think to yourself, “it can’t be that hard,” so you try to outdo them and end up just as frustrated, and whether you like to admit it or not just as addicted.

This frustration is what spread through the social sphere. Aided by a post on Buzz Feed, and a video by the world’s most subscribed YouTuber, the game has been downloaded an estimated 50 million times.

Till today, Facebook and Twitter news feeds and timelines around the world are filled with screen shots of new high scores. It’s no longer just you going after your own score, it’s you going after everyone else’s.  

With the right strategy and enough practice the game isn’t as tough as it appears when you first start playing. Over the course of 3 work days and a weekend I’ve moved from “I can hardly score”  to “I average 30”. My latest high score 56 and I tell myself I’ll stop when I hit 100, but there’s one more record I want to beat. 

Nguyen’s high score is 150.  – Rappler.com

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