Flappy Bird is a spectacularly easy game to make, it’s monotonous as hell and it doesn’t provide any mechanics worth looking into as a game designer … and yet, it became EXTREMELY popular. To illustrate this point, let me just mention the fact that the ad-revenue (its only source of income and generally one of the worst ways to earn money) was generating $50.000 dollars each day.
This is the type of popularity that one can only dream of.
One could say that these types of events are dictated by luck … and, frankly, that is the truth. There are many many games that are absolutely brilliant but never achieve any kind of significant spike in popularity due to many reasons outside of the game itself. Then again, the games that do become popular do so for many reasons other than luck. One of those reasons may be a good marketing campaign, but most of the time the single most important reason is game design that caters to the masses in some way shape or form.
So, with that in mind, let’s look at this example and analyze what made this game so popular.
A half-chewed piece of lettuce could tell you that some reasons are:
- It’s Free! (Let’s go viral! Yay!)
- It’s Cute! (Mass market appeal! Yay!)
- It’s polished! (Everything it does, it does well! Even if it is not much)
- It has leaderboards connected to Social Media! (Let’s tap into that sweet sweet feeling of being one-upped by someone in something that doesn’t matter … Yay?)
Oooohhh, such insight!
Alright, as you can tell by my sarcasm I’m not particularly interested in those attributes and I find it hard to believe that anyone would be. After all, those traits are common to 99.9999% (that’s a scientific percentage! you can tell by all the 9s) of all the games released for mobile platforms.
Cutting to the chase, what makes Flappy Bird interesting is that it became popular for two normally conflicting reasons.
- The control scheme is so easy that a 2-year-old could learn it in seconds.
- It’s friggin’ hard.
Yes, this is the novel concept of “Easy to learn, hard to master”. It is quite hard to believe that a game this simple, based on such an old design mantra became so popular. That is until you start thinking about the competition … please try to think of the amount of games you’ve played with absolutely f*cking horrible controls in a mobile device. Then think of the number of games that felt natural in said devices. Arcade games that felt natural, might I add.
Let me state this clearly: In mobile devices, there are almost no games that let the player control the action in a precise and elegant manner. Infinite runners are the only ones that had achieved this level of control and every single one is the same as the next. This is the first infinite runner variation we’ve ever seen (that I’m aware of at least).
Man, we as an industry suck at designing arcade games for mobiles. The only games that ever feel natural take the whole screen as one single giant button. Is this a limitation of the medium or is it the limited imagination of designers (myself not included since I’ve never truly designed mobile games … should I?). It feels like we are wrestling with a new concept, like a 90s website that tries and fails spectacularly at being intuitive.
Also, the creator of Flappy Bird took the game down because he … didn’t want the fame apparently? People were calling bullsh*t, that it was a publicity stunt but he really took the game down. Weird.
Also also, Kotaku said that this game ripped-off mario because it has green pipes </facepalm> Shouldn’t they mention too that it ripped off angry birds because it features a bird? </sarcasm> I’m not linking to that article because f*ck them and their tabloid-like posts </indignation></novelty closing tags>
UPDATE: Ok, everybody was screaming bloody murder because it’s a ripoff of this: http://www.zanorg.com/prodperso/pioupiou.html
Go ahead, play that thing, I’ll be waiting here.
I’ve wasted 15 seconds of my life playing that and all I can say is that it’s no wonder it never became popular: The art is ugly and overcomplicated, the sound effects are horrible, the feeling of gravity and impulse is almost non-existent, it insults you when you lose and when you fly out of the screen the game kills you.
And people argue that flappy bird was a ripoff? What the hell?? Flappy bird took the same concept and mechanics and made them shine. It’s not novel in any way shape or form and there was an apparent CONTROVERSY over this sh*t????
</fed up with this world>