Flappy Bird’s Success Is Confusing But Taking It Down Makes Perfect Marketing Sense
A good few years ago Nintendo released their brand new Wii console to the world. At the time it didn’t have a large selection of games but offered some real quality titles the likes of Super Mario World and their own Wii Sports and Wii Fit games which used the proprietary technology on offer with the Wii. Left alone, the console would have sold well to families and stay-at-home types who enjoyed the idea of being active without needing to go outside. But Nintendo instead came out and told everyone that stocks for the Wii were severely limited and so if they didn’t rush out and get it as soon as possible, they might miss out.
The Wii’s extreme initial successes were brought about by Nintendo creating an elevated demand for the product, because consumers expected a reduced supply.
By the time you read this, the internet’s latest viral trend, Flappy Bird, will have been removed from mobile marketplaces as announced by creator Dong Nguyen a few days ago. The game, which reached massive successes to the point of earning a cool $50,000 a day in profits was nothing entirely original — in fact as Adam explained in his latest column, it is a direct clone of another title released in 2011 and uses a lot of in-game resources that might raise a few eyebrows over at Nintendo — and yet somehow Nguyen managed to pull it off. Last week if you asked me about Flappy Bird, I’d have had to Google for more information. This week, I know a whole lot more.
And really, this change in my knowledge levels regarding the product came about because of that announcement by Nguyen.
See, Dong Nguyen is not used to being in the spotlight. Thus, when Flappy Bird
gained flight soared beyond expectations took off he was inundated with critical response, be it from fans of the game to detractors who either disliked the creative bankruptcy of such an offering or the sheer audacity of copying so much. And then of course there were those people who simply hated it because it had gained such quick popularity. But I don’t think that Nguyen knew it would gain popularity. Sure there’s a school of belief which holds the theory that Nguyen is a marketing mastermind, but I find that highly doubtful. Here are his most recent tweets:
“I am sorry ‘Flappy Bird’ users, 22 hours from now, I will take ‘Flappy Bird’ down. I cannot take this anymore.”
“It is not anything related to legal issues. I just cannot keep it anymore.”
“I also don’t sell ‘Flappy Bird’, please don’t ask.”
“And I still make games.”
Thing is, even taken down, Flappy Bird will continue to have in-game ads, which means it will continue to earn ad revenue. Meanwhile, the rest of Nguyen’s game offerings are still listed. So what actually has changed now, since it was taken down? Well for one, the man’s Follower count on Twitter has sky-rocketed. So too has the number of downloads on the Android marketplace — hell, even I went ahead and downloaded it just so I have it after it’s gone. Further, the news of it being taken down has led to the very same creation of extreme demand that resulted in the Wii constantly selling out. (Spoiler: It sold out because Nintendo made you think it would.) That is, anyone who hasn’t heard about it is now curious, and those who enjoy it are vehemently supporting it in an attempt to stop it from going away. The net result: Excessive amounts of sudden demand for the product.
I personally don’t think that Nguyen was ready for the massive amount of response garnered after Flappy Bird became a success. Which is an alarmingly frequent thing in indie gaming that I plan on addressing at a future stage in a slightly longer article. No, I think he was just in the right place at the right time and his app idea (or lack thereof) took off, and he was left wondering WTF just happened. In this way, he didn’t ask for success; he only dared to hope for it. Of course, I’m not Nguyen, so I cannot presume to speak for him. I just don’t subscribe to this thought process of him being some marketing mastermind genius person. After all, if he did purposely steal an idea then what stopped Piou Piou from reaching this level of popularity three years ago? Was it the lack of Nintendo-lawsuit-inducing pipes? Or is the inherent issue here, once again, rabid gamers.
Perhaps Nguyen just wants to get out while the going is good; saving himself from future trouble with Nintendo and distancing himself from the outraged gamers of the world, while enjoying the profits his game continues to rake in. Whatever his real motivations, the decision to rage-quit the internet was a stroke of pure marketing genius. Even if, like his initial successes, he only really tripped and fell over it. (This guy should take the Lotto.)
In the meantime, I propose somebody get going with this: