The Flappy Bird phenomenon shows no signs of slowing down, despite the fact that the original title was yanked out of the App Store by creator Dong Nguyen, whose newfound fame apparently became too overwhelming. But though “Flappy Bird” itself may be gone, the App Store’s top charts today are filled with clones that mimic the addicting, frustrating game that became this year’s viral hit.
However, that may not be the case for long. Word has it that both Apple and Google are now rejecting games that have the word “flappy” in their title.
According to Vancouver-based game designer Ken Carpenter of Mind Juice Media, Apple rejected an app of his called “Flappy Dragon” from the App Store. Apple told him “we found your app name attempts to leverage a popular app,” says Carpenter.
Apple told him the app was in violation of the following section of the App Store Review Guidelines:
22.2: Apps that contain false, fraudulent or misleading representations will be rejected
We found that your app, and/or its metadata, contains content that could be misleading to users, which is not in compliance with the App Store Review Guidelines.
We found your app name attempts to leverage a popular app.
Clearly, the only app “Flappy Dragon” would be leveraging is “Flappy Bird” – which, to be clear, is technically no longer present in the App Store.
This is just not my fucking week: Rejected. “We found your app name attempts to leverage a popular app.” Which app? FB doesn’t exist!?!?!
— Ken Carpenter (@MindJuiceMedia) February 15, 2014
Carpenter isn’t the only game developer affected by the policy shift, it seems. A tweet from Kuyi Mobile indicates that a small handful of developers attempting to launch their own “Flappy” clones have also been rejected for the same reason:
— Kuyi Mobile (@kuyimobile) February 15, 2014
This is somewhat odd, given that there are already several similarly named games on the market, including “Flappy Bee,” “Flappy Plane,” “Flappy Super Hero,” “Flappy Flyer,” and even “Flappy Bird Flyer,” Carpenter points out. Plus, there are clones that don’t include “Flappy” in the title, like “Splashy Fish” and “Ironpants” – #1 and #2 in the App Store’s top charts, at present. Meanwhile, others that include “Flappy,” but don’t lead with it, are also doing well: spot #3 is “City Bird – Flappy Flyer” and #7 is “Fly Birdie – Flappy Bird Flyer.”
In other words, the App Store’s top charts are being absolutely decimated by “Flappy Bird” clones. And users are still eating them up en masse.
But perhaps enough is enough? Apple may not want the App Store to be overrun with these spinoffs, especially because their proliferation is likely causing consumer confusion. The “Flappy Bird” craze reached mainstream media, which means everyday users who may not following each turning point in this ongoing saga are just hitting up the App Store and searching for a download.
Unfortunately, if Apple was trying to prevent these “Flappy Birds” clones from taking over the top ranks in the App Store, they’re too late. Now the new rejections have the potential of being seen as unfair since there are those whose “Flappy” knockoffs are still live and well-ranked…and raking in plenty of extra cash, too. The fair thing to do is force everyone to rename their “flappy” games, and/or pull “flappy” from their keywords. (Update: That may be the case! See below.)
Also of note, around the same time that developers were discussing the “Flappy” rejections on Twitter, movement in Apple’s Top Charts ground to a halt. Below is a chart that shows the average number of changes in the iOS Top Charts provided by MobileDevHQ. You can see it fell of a cliff, meaning the Top Charts were effectively “frozen” as of 2/14.
The charts soon returned to normal, which MobileDevHQ says makes it seem more like a transient error on Apple’s end, as opposed to an algorithm change.
Google Rejects “Flappy,” Too
Apple isn’t alone in deciding to bounce the “Flappy Bird” clones from the app store, however. Both Kuyi Mobile and Happy Mage Games stated that Google is also rejecting app submissions that use “Flappy” in the title.
Says Carpenter, “Yeah, I was rejected from Google Play, too.”
“The first time I assumed it was because I included a phrase about ‘Flappy Dragon’ being the best flapping game to play now that ‘Flappy Bird’ is dead. My app was originally published with no issue and was online and searchable for a few hours,” Carpenter explains.
Shortly afterwards, Google removed it from search, but it was still visible through its direct link. Around 24 hours later, he received a suspension notice. “There was no ‘Fair Warning’ email, which Google claims to send before taking such actions. I checked and rechecked my spam folder to be sure. They just arbitrarily removed the app with no warning,” says Carpenter. “The message they sent me simply referenced the ‘spam’ provision of the Google Play terms and did not specifically call out what my transgression was,” he adds.
After removing the competitor’s app name in the description, Carpenter resubmitted the game. After a few hours, it, too, disappeared from search.
We reached out to Apple and Google for comment, but given that it’s the weekend (and Apple doesn’t typically respond to inquires about App Store policy changes), there may not be an update on this post with the companies’ immediate response.
Update, 2/19/14: Another developer reached out to say that his app was accepted with “Flappy” in the title after this article’s publication, but the app was never listed on ranked in any country. This fits with what we’re also hearing now: that these were not blanket rejections across the board, but were more nuanced in their nature.