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The rise and fall of Flappy Bird

A modern-day Icarus for the smartphone set. (Illustration by Amber Solberg)
A modern-day Icarus for the smartphone set. (Illustration by Amber Solberg)

We live in a post-Flappy Bird world. As Angry Birds changed mobile gaming forever, so too did Flappy Bird. Made by one man, Nguyen Ha Dong of Vietnam, in a three-day period, the little game that rocked the world took everyone by surprise. Tap the screen to make your bird flap its wings, and keep it from bumping into randomly generated pipe. Simple as that, yet it grew into an obsession for many. Its incredible difficulty and simultaneous accessibility made it a smash hit overnight.

Though there have been claims this number was pulled out of a hat to draw in more readers, some sites have reported Nguyen was raking in $50,000 daily at the peak of sales. But alas, one man alone cannot stand against the raving wilds of the internet. Public pressure, hate mail, increasing demand from fans and rumors of possible legal action from Nintendo prompted Nguyen to take down the game.

It immediately became a commodity. Cell phones with Flappy Bird installed sold for upwards of $80,000 (presumably to people who had never heard of copy and paste). It became the “it” thing to have. A diamond encrusted iPhone 5 could have earned you less prestige than an iPhone 5 with Flappy Bird on it. After all, diamonds are relatively common, but there were only so many phones out there with the real, true Flappy Bird on it.

Did you know there is a Flappy Bird MMO? Yes, that’s right, you can play Flappy Bird online alongside hundreds of others, all striving to make it past those deadly pipes one click at a time. Gradually the horde of players whittles away as you progress, until you and one other remain, flapping, desperately trying to hold on to your concentration. A sort of camaraderie forms, like two mountaineers running into each other near the peak of Everest. But, you know, with flappy little birds and pipes.

So, do you have Flappy Bird on your phone? Do you have the privilege of telling your friends “Yeah, I played Flappy Bird before it was cool”? If so, congratulations. You were part of an event that changed mobile gaming, made an obscure Vietnamese developer simultaneously very rich and very depressed, and left all of us flapping for more.


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