Flappy Bird creator Dong Nguyen may have pulled down his simple but maddening mobile game from the App Store and Google Play on Sunday, but that hasn’t stopped the swelling interest in the success of the seemingly impossible little app – success which, apparently, became too overwhelming for Nguyen to handle. Since then, the game has popped up on a number of places, including torrent sites, phones listed on eBay for $99,999 (I can’t believe those are serious bids), in a statement provided by Nintendo to counter rumors that they’re to blame for the game’s demise (it’s fine Nguyen copied Super Mario’s pipes, really!), and elsewhere.
But the absence of the official version of the Flappy Bird game has also led to the take-off of several would-be competitors and general clones, which are now filling the App Store’s and Google Play’s top charts. (And even the Pebble Appstore, I kid you not.)
In spots #1, 2, 5, and 20 on iTunes are Flappy Bird look-a-likes “Fly Birdie,” “Ironpants,” “Flappy Bee,” and “Flappy Plane,” respectively. And they’re only the ones that have risen to the top of the heap. A search for keyword “Flappy” on the App Store reveals even more developers – 81 in total now, and counting – who are looking to take advantage of the still strong interest in the title. Some of these include other Flappy Bird wannabes like “Flappy Penguin,” for example, while others are simply stuffing unrelated apps with the “flappy” keyword, like several camera apps now appear to be doing.
As with Flappy Bird itself, the charts for the clones show similar impressive growth trends, driven not by bots and paid downloads (though some would disagree) but rather the continuation of the viral growth that is the “Flappy Bird fiasco of 2014.”
Meanwhile, on Google Play, “Ironpants” has climbed to spot No. 11 and is trailed by “Clumsy Bird” at No. 19.
The question now is how long will our Flappy Bird obsession last? Does the app’s rise to the top of the App Store foreshadow a renewed interest in more basic mobile games that anyone can play with a few seconds to spare? That’s something that may only be answered in time, of course, but it’s worth pointing out that Flappy Bird itself may have tapped into a previously under-served demographic: children with smartphones.
When Nguyen spoke to TechCrunch, he had noted that, while he didn’t know how his app had become so popular, it was strong in the children’s demographic. “Most of my players are kids in schools,” he had said.
With ever-younger children getting smartphones that are being added to families’ shared data plans, and as the costs for those plans also come down, it’s possible that Flappy Bird was the first of many apps yet to come that is able to tap into schoolyard word-of-mouth, the way that apps before it have instead set their sights on college campuses.
In the future, will “it’s a hit on all the playgrounds,” be the new “it’s spreading among university students?” I guess we’ll soon find out.