On this week’s Core Intuition, we talked a lot about Flappy Bird (and also Threes, and a few other things). One of the points I tried to make is that some of the negativity pointed toward the developer was totally uncalled for. Marco Arment says it well in his post on this topic:
“Flappy Bird’s success was hilarious, but it also appears to be completely earned. I’ve read the posts suggesting he cheated at the ranks or reviews, but I haven’t seen any that supported those claims enough.”
As I read Marco’s full post, and re-listened to what Daniel and I said on the podcast, I do wonder if developer Dong Nguyen had been so overwhelmed by the success that the line blurred for him between the death threats and the joke “this ruined my life” app reviews. You’d have to have a pretty thick skin to not let it get to you, even if I hope that most users had a good sense of humor about the whole thing. It’s true that the game is crazy addicting, but unlike some games — the worst of which are driven by consumable in-app purchases, gimmickly rigged to get users to feed money into the game — Flappy Bird is addicting in kind of the best way, because it’s something we’re all playing and can laugh about together.
And Nguyen cares about more than just money. He’s demonstrated an empathy for customers that seems to be lacking in many corners of the App Store. Where some developers said he was leaving money on the table by not having more ads, and other developers were quick to rush in with rip-offs of his app, Ngugen wasn’t afraid to admit it was out of control and pull the app from the store. Do you think any of the other developers who renamed their app to include the word “flappy” would have pulled their app? Not a chance.
I hope Nguyen can bounce back from this and ship more games. With so much attention now, it’ll be fascinating to see what they look like. Or if he’s stashed away some of that $50k/day and wants to just chill out for a while, that’s fine too.