Since I believe Flappy Bird is a Black Swan case, I tried not to give an opinion about the game. What’s more I don’t think I’m qualified to give comments on mobile games since I had never coded a proper game (besides projects for my bachelor).
But an investor recently asked me about Flappy Bird and I felt I had to give an opinion anyhow. Attracting investment is my job, after all.
So here it is, Flappy Bird through the eyes of an investment person.
Is it easy to create a game like Flappy Bird?
No, Dong Nguyen claimed he coded the game singly-handedly in 3 days. But we never got to see the conceptual process behind the games he creates.
Is it easy to create mobile games?
No. It took Rovio close to a decade of resilience before Angry Birds.
Mobile games are very hard to make because
- All gameplay, visual, audio need to be better than good.
- Technical constraint: mobile phone resources cannot afford being wasted by unoptimized code.
- Fragmentation of Android: there are so many models with different screen sizes it is very hard to make games or apps that work on all models.
- The battle to the top of the app store: it is a Big Head, only a few top games attract 95% attention. Marketing to reach the top is costly and uncertain.
Why is Flappy Bird so successful?
Luck, a typical Black Swan case. But besides luck let me give you the best explanation I can think of in one diagram.
Besides, Dong Nguyen already explained his secrets on his Twitter.
What about marketing?
I personally believe Dong Nguyen’s story that no pre-burst marketing was involved. It was all viral via influencers and peer recommendation.
Why aren’t clones successful?
Clones are only successful if they are local clones: local language, local community. All Facebook and Twitter clones are dead except Chinese clones. Mobile games are nothing local.
But why can’t people just play the clones now that Flappy Bird is dead?
I guess I have to blame authenticity and originality. Everyone talks about Flappy Bird, if you play a clone, you may fear being judged.
Secondly, it is hard to replicate every exact detail of the game. Horizontal spacing, vertical spacing, movement, arc, the algorithm of sewer generation, haptic response. One tiny subtle difference and the whole experience is altered. It is just not the same.