Rolling Stone is running a feature on Flappy Bird’s creator, Dong Nguyen. Contributor David Kushner actually flew to Hanoi to interview the elusive game developer, and got the skinny on how the hit game came to be. In the article, we learn how Nguyen did not expect the game to be such a success, and attributed his pulling the game out of Google Play and the iTunes App Store to his need to regain his privacy and regain his focus on building games.
Apart from the background story on Flappy Bird, Nguyen has shared that he actually has a few other games up his sleeve, and might release new titles soon. All of these games share the same so-called maso-core appeal, which means they are designed to have simple interfaces, but very difficult gameplay (hence being masochistic). What’s perhaps more promising is the thought that Nguyen might soon also launch a sequel to Flappy Bird.
What’s so special about Flappy Bird?
The game’s appeal comes from its overly-simplified user interface. In the interview, Nguyen says he envisioned the game to be accessible to all demographics. You don’t have to be a hardcore gamer in your 20s in order to enjoy the game. Nguyen has imagined players to be folks standing up on the train with one hand holding the railing straps and the other tapping away on the screen. Even kids and senior citizens can play the game.
But looks can be deceiving. Even with a simple interface, it’s difficult to rack up points — the smallest mistake can send the Bird crashing onto pipes and dying. There are no second chances. No “continue” button. No up-up, down-down, left-right, left-right, B-A, select-start cheats. The entire user experience relies on the user tapping on the screen (and pulling on his or her hair afterwards when Bird crashes).
Here’s where millions of users find the game’s appeal. It’s simple, yet challenging.
But of course, it’s no longer available on Google Play nor the App Store. Users who were able to install the game prior to its being pulled out are fortunate. For the rest, there are always alternative install methods, such as side-loading via APK. For iOS users, jailbroken devices can have the game installed via .IPA, although users will need to find an app repository catering to bootlegged games. Some enterprising users have even auctioned their devices on eBay for thousands of dollars, with Flappy Bird installed.
Flappy Bird on other platforms
Since the meteoric rise of Flappy Bird on mobile devices, there have been several copies. There is reportedly one Flappy Bird knockoff that comes out every 24 hours. Google and Apple have even have to put a ban on apps and games that contain “Flappy” in the title as these are obviously riding on the Flappy Bird craze.
The game has even been ported on the PC — a Flash-based version of Flappy Bird is available on Jojo.net, for example. The web-based game has the same gameplay elements as the original mobile game, being ported from the Android app. It’s simple enough — pressing the spacebar or clicking the mouse button substitute for tapping on-screen. Of course, there’s also the same hair-pulling frustration that players get when Bird crashes.
Platform thinking: Android wins again
When will the bird craze end? If there’s anything good that has come out of this trend, I would think it’s that mobile platforms are fast becoming the preferred platform for distributing games and content. With Jojo, for example, the site carries a handful of Android (and iOS) titles like Angry Birds. How soon until Android apps become the gold standard for development on both mobile and desktop?
Right now, talk of the town is that Dong Nguyen is thinking of releasing three games that feature other characters (a cowboy-themed shooter, a vertical platform game and an action chess game) but with the basic premise: simple UI, but challenging gameplay. Pretty soon, we might find ourselves getting addicted to tapping on our screens. Or in the case of Flash or PC ports, tapping on the spacebar or mouse button.