‘It has ruined my simple life’ - Vietnamese hit game developer pulls plug on Flappy Bird

Dong Nguyen, creator of runaway success Flappy Bird, says the game's success and notoriety has been too much to take

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 February, 2014, 3:55pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 13 February, 2014, 8:32pm

Flappy Bird flaps no more.

The Vietnamese developer behind the smash-hit free game has pulled his creation from online app stores after announcing that its runaway success had ruined his “simple life".

Flappy Bird is a success of mine. But it also ruins my simple life. So now I hate it.
Dong Nguyen

The addictive and notoriously difficult game skyrocketed to popularity after its initial release last May to become the number one downloaded mobile app for both Apple and Android phones.

Despite this success, Flappy Bird's creator, 29-year-old Dong Nguyen, announced on his Twitter February 8 that he would be deleting the game from both the Apple iOS and Google Play stores. 

Currently, the game is unlisted on app stores. A computer version of Flappy Bird still remains online, and users who have already downloaded the game onto their mobile devices can continue to play it.

Nguyen's decision to remove his brainchild from app stores immediately drew ire from particularly rabid fans. Within a matter of hours after his initial announcement, the developer received an onslaught of expletive-filled spam, including numerous death threats.

Programmed by Nguyen in a matter of days, Flappy Bird featured a pixelated bird that had to be piloted past a series of pipes. With a frustratingly high difficulty level and finnicky controls, the game gained international popularity in January through word-of-mouth, largely by fans who harshly criticised it but kept playing in hopes of achieving higher scores.  

Eventually, Flappy Bird became the number one iOS app in more than 100 countries, and in an interview with The Verge, Nguyen revealed that his creation was making him as much as US$50,000 (HK$390,000) in revenue per day from online advertising banners.

Criticism of the game followed its fame, and some analysts speculated that Nguyen had used automated programs - also known as "bots" - to inflate Flappy Bird's app store ranking.

Others accused nguyen of stealing graphical assets, arguing that both the game's titular bird and its green pipes strongly resembled enemy characters and environments from Nintendo's popular Super Mario Bros series. 

Nguyen responded to these criticisms on Twitter by arguing that the game's popularity "could just be luck" and added that while he had been inspired by the graphics of Super Mario Bros, he had not "directly stolen [any]thing."

Nevertheless, the developer also tweeted that the media storm had caused him significant stress.

“Flappy Bird’ is a success of mine. But it also ruins my simple life. So now I hate it,” Nguyen wrote.

In the wake of Flappy Bird's sudden removal from app stores, unverified rumours have swirled that Nguyen may have been legally pressured by Nintendo. 

"All of this is just pure rumour. Some say Nintendo [forced him to take the game down], but I don't believe it," said An Minh Do, editor of technology blog Tech in Asia. "[Withdrawing the game] may be a PR stunt or may be due to legal pressure or maybe he's sick of the press."

Members of the popular internet message board Reddit largely agreed that Flappy Bird's fame had simply been too much for Nguyen to handle. 

"He's an indie [developer] living in Vietnam," wrote one user named "uint" who had previously lived in the country. "Maybe he's comfortable quitting now that he's had a successful product that's earned him more money than 50 per cent of the country makes in a year combined... Or [maybe] its attracted him some very ugly attention from some very bad people and he wants to drop out of the public spotlight."

Another forum member named "sndzag1" wrote that the game's vocal fanbase had likely contributed to its downfall. 

"I'm a game developer, and I can tell you this is extremely common. There are people who sit around on...forums for a disproportionate amount of time, constantly complaining and telling other users how bad [a] game is or how much they dislike it. No constructive criticism, no valuable feedback - they purely exist to whine about things and trash-talk to the game or the developers."

Whatever the reason for Flappy Bird's fall from grace, one thing is certain - for a brief period of time, Vietnam's tiny but dedicated video game development scene received an unprecendeted amount of attention, all from a little game about a bird crashing into pipes.

“[Flappy Bird's] success is inspiring a lot of young Vietnamese programmers who will now want to follow (Nguyen’s) way and provide games to the world,” said Bui Thien Canh, the president of Vietnamese software association Danang.

To play a computer version of Flappy Bird, click here.