Case Study–What Flappy Bird Tell Us


While angry bird has been much-loved figure, a bird that makes every one pissed off created a buzz recently. By now, the notorious game has become one of the viral success stories just like its predecessors such as temple run, fruit ninja and dump ways to die, to name but a few. Although its already been removed by creator Dong Nguyen, the legend is still continuing by its parodies and Ebay (see below).


one of the copycats


installed flappy bird game added value of devices

So who is flappy bird?


The three stages of the addictive “Flappy Bird” smartphone game: hope, adrenaline and grief.

Created in the span of two to three days by Vietnamese developer Dong Nguyen, Flappy Bird is a side-scrolling mobile game featuring 2D retro style graphics. The objective is to direct a flying bird, which moves continuously to the right, between each oncoming set of pipes without colliding with them, which otherwise ends the game. The bird briefly flaps upward each time the player taps the screen, and the player is scored on the number of pipe sets the bird successfully passes through. Flappy Bird was originally released on May 24, 2013 with support for the iPhone 5.  In January 2014, it topped the Free Apps chart in the US and Chinese App Stores, and later on that month topped the same section of the UK App Store where it was touted as “the new Angry Birds.” It ended January as the most downloaded App on the App Store. Nguyen was raking in $50,000 (£30,000) a day from the pop-up ads that appeared during gameplay.

Why is it so addicted?


the growth of ranking

By now, most of critics still think flappy bird’s success was by incidental. Of course I can’t tell whether that’s true or not, but at least I can analyse why it makes people addicted. Here are 3 reasons I came up with:

  1. Conflict between simple & difficult. It easy to play, and it looks easy to get plenty of points like temple run or fruit ninja, but actually its insanely difficult, most of people spend a lot of times just in order to get out of 0. It is frustrating, but most of play don’t believe they are too dump to play this seemingly-simple game, so they try it again and again,
  2. Stockholm syndrome. People kept playing it, and they grew increasingly pissed off that I couldn’t score even 5 points, it is never ever seen from other games, so they hooked.
  3. You’re never going to beat it. People have naturally come to expect a learning curve that eases them into video games. Flappy Bird, which looks like an easy casual game, instead of having a learning curve, just drops you head first into a learning wall. For normal games, you can improve your skill by practice, but this theory is doesn’t work here.

a chart demonstrate “how to play” flappy bird

How did it go viral?

A good game makes players addicted, but the reason flappy bird standing out of others is, its not only make players crazy, but also created word of mouth. Only a few marketers dare to create a campaign or product, which let people hates a lot, but everyone hate flappy bird.

As I mentioned, people experience frustration from this game, so they just want to know whether their friends is as dump as they are, so they get their friends to download the game to see if they are fail as he got. One of the ways people have been trying to figure out if the game is hard or if it is them is by tweeting about it on twitter and posting videos on Vine. Since social media is a One to Many form of communication, this has lead to millions of people hearing about the game extremely quickly.

So I’d like to say that the success of flappy bird was a good lesson for marketers, it offers a new angle for strategy making—-think opposite.

The game had been removed from online stores last Sunday by its Vietnamese creator. Although he claims this was because the fame of game ruin his life, I think he is a marketing genius. He stopped this game at peak time to make a limited edition, and then he tells us he is still making games. As a matter of fact, Dong Nguyen have been uploaded three new games to App store. Will they succeed? We shall see soon after.


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