What Happened To Flappy Bird? Here’s Why The Addictive Mobile Game Was Deleted

Executive Summary:

Flappy Bird is a mobile game in which you tap the screen to make a pixelated bird fly and avoid obstacles.

Flappy Bird was deleted because its creator, Dong Nguyen, was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of interview requests and hateful sentiment he received. The original game was taken down on February 9th, 2014.

What Is Flappy Bird?

Flappy Bird is a mobile game in which you tap the screen to make a pixelated bird fly and avoid obstacles.

The bird moves automatically to the right and stays above ground through taps on the screen. If it hits the ground or one of the pipe obstacles, the game is over.

For every ten pipes you pass, you will be rewarded with a medal. These include:

  • Bronze for 10 pipes
  • Silver for 20 pipes
  • Gold for 30 pipes
  • Platinum for 40 pipes

The gameplay itself is easy to learn but extremely hard to master. Normally, novice users would already lose within the first 10 pipes or so.

Future versions of the game also allowed you to share your high scores with friends and even simultaneously with them.

Flappy Bird was available for Android and iOS devices. Later on, its developer also released a version for Amazon’s Fire TV Box.

The developer of Flappy Bird suddenly removed the game from all app stores after tens of millions of downloads. How that came to be, who actually developed the game, and the reasons for its deletion will be covered in the next few chapters.

What Happened To Flappy Bird?

Flappy Bird was developed and launched in May 2013 by Vietnamese developer Dong Nguyen vis-à-vis his gaming studio dotGEARS.

Nguyen grew up in Van Phuc, a village outside of Hanoi. Despite the fact that his father owned a hardware store and his mother worked for the government, money wasn’t abundant.

Eventually, though, his parents were able to purchase a knock-off Nintendo device, which was very typical in a country like Vietnam (and other developing nations).

He’d spend hours upon hours playing Super Mario Bros and later, once he was able to afford a computer, moved to Counter-Strike.

Early on, he also taught himself how to program. By age 16, he coded up his own chess game. Three years later, he placed in the top 20 of a programming competition, all while pursuing a computer science degree at a local university in Hanoi.

The competition ultimately earned him an internship at Punch Entertainment, one of Hanoi’s only gaming studios. He eventually entered the workforce where he would program location devices for taxis while spending his evenings on various coding projects.

In April 2013, he released his first-ever project dubbed Shuriken Block, which featured many of the same (game) design choices that made Flappy Bird such an overarching success.

Without much deliberation, he began work on his second game: Flappy Bird. A year prior, he had drawn a pixelated bird that mimicked a Nintendo fish dubbed Cheep Cheeps.

The game mechanics, much like his other games, were inspired by a sport. Nguyen liked to draw from real-life experiences. Sports, in particular, follow the same philosophy of something that is easy to learn and difficult to master. In the case of Flappy Bird, the game was inspired by the habit he developed of attempting to bounce a ping pong ball on a paddle for as long as he could.

In just one weekend, he coded up the first version of the game, which he then released on May 24th, 2013 for Apple’s iPhone. Apart from going on Twitter and posting a screenshot, he didn’t really do much else to promote his new game.

When Flappy Bird was originally released, it was extremely easy to play. Nguyen, therefore, decided to narrow down the distance between the pipes both horizontally and vertically. Unfortunately, in the beginning, his game was a total flop.

The first signs of life came in early November, six months after its initial release. Somebody had written the game’s first-ever review. It read: “Fuck Flappy Bird.”

However, the next month, things all of the sudden began to accelerate. Download numbers in December spiked by 2500 percent, catapulting the game to the top 10 of the free app charts in some countries. Simultaneously, dotGEARS other two games, namely Shuriken Block and Super Ball Juggling, also entered top 10 territory.

Days later, on January 17th, 2014, Flappy Bird became the world’s most popular free app on iOS. To kick off the new year, Nguyen also released an Android version of the game on January 24th. A week after its Android release, it was already topping the Google Play Store charts.

Fans of the game began posting funny reviews such as: “My family doesn’t dare enter. My brother hasn’t taken a shower in a month.” This further added to the game’s appeal and became synonymous with the comical frustration many felt playing it.  

Another reason for the game’s success was that the gameplay cycle was so short that users were able to try it over and over again. Consequently, you’d want to then share that experience with others. Lastly, the 8-bit characters also made many feel nostalgic about the games they played growing up.

Others had accused Nguyen of buying installs from bot farms despite the fact that there was virtually no evidence for that apart from the game’s rapid ascend.

The worldwide success of Flappy Bird also led to an exponential increase in interest regarding Nguyen’s persona. Both national and international news outlets were bombarding him with interview requests.

Not long after, The Verge published an article, stating that Nguyen was making around $50,000 a day from in-app ads. Nguyen’s face began to appear on Vietnamese newspapers and even on TV, much to the surprise of his parents who didn’t really understand what he was doing for a living anyways.

Just days after that article, Nguyen decided he couldn’t take it anymore. On February 8th, 2014, he posted this on his Twitter account:

Sure enough, a day later, Flappy Bird was gone.  Over the next few days, rumors began running rampant, stating that Nguyen had taken his life or that he took the game down because Nintendo was prepping a lawsuit, both of which were wrong.

Simultaneously, competitors were doing their best to fill the void. Within hours of Flappy Bird’s takedown, similar-looking games like Ironpants, Flappy Bee, or Fly Birdie had risen to the top of the charts. Some of those Android games were also including malware, which would shoot up a user’s phone bill.

However, Flappy Bird remained installed on devices, which also meant that Nguyen continued to generate substantial income. Flappy Bird was downloaded over 50 million times just before the removal. Moreover, some devices with the game on were auctioning off for close to $100,000 on eBay (although the marketplace later took those auctions down).

A few weeks after the shutdown, a company dubbed Ultimate Arcade Inc. claimed that it had secured the naming rights to ‘flappy’ and began threatening everyone who would upload a similarly named game with litigation.

Over the next few months, nothing much really happened. Then, on August 1st, the game suddenly returned as Flappy Birds Family – on Amazon’s Fire TV box. The mechanic of the game changed slightly with the bird being controlled by the Fire TV controller.

Additionally, the game also included a two-player mode that pitted them against each other (thus the Family name). Interestingly enough, the new Flappy Bird version also didn’t contain ads, which prompted many to speculate that Amazon had secured exclusive rights to the game for some nice chump change. Flappy Bird remains available and playable on the Amazon Fire TV to this date.

Why Was Flappy Bird Deleted?

Flappy Bird was deleted because its creator, Dong Nguyen, was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of interview requests and hateful sentiment he received.

As previously stated, interest in his persona started to greatly increase when The Verge posted an article, claiming that he was generating $50,000 in daily revenue from his game.

Not long after, Nguyen would be bombarded with requests from various national and international news outlets, all requesting him to do interviews.

Local paparazzi in his hometown of Hanoi even began following him around, which eventually prompted Nguyen to hide in his parents’ house.

On top of that, online harassment began to mount as well. He received countless messages from furious parents, teachers, and frustrated players. Examples included parents not being able to talk to their children anymore or people losing their jobs because they played the game during working hours.

He even asked his Twitter following to kindly refrain from constantly contacting him:

Nguyen was also able to personally relate as he himself failed tests in high school because he played too much Counter-Strike.

In an interview with Forbes, two days after taking the game down, Nguyen doubled down on his fear of people becoming too addicted to the game.

“Flappy Bird was designed to play in a few minutes when you are relaxed,” he stated. “But it happened to become an addictive product. I think it has become a problem. To solve that problem, it’s best to take down Flappy Bird. It’s gone forever.”

Another speculation that arose was that Nintendo had prepped to file a lawsuit against Nguyen, accusing him of copying and pasting Nintendo sprites into his game. This even prompted Kotaku to publish a story that claimed that Nguyen was making $50,000 a day off of ripped art.

This also led to another wave of abuse comments, which prompted Kotaku to eventually withdraw the piece and publicly apologize to Nguyen. Nintendo later came out and publicly announced that it didn’t see any violation of its trademark and never planned to file a lawsuit.

Nonetheless, the damage was already done at that point and ultimately led to the deletion of the app.  

What Happened To The Creator Of Flappy Bird?

Dong Nguyen, the creator of Flappy Bird, remains based in his hometown of Hanoi, Vietnam. Over the coming years, Nguyen had released two more games and did some speaking at gaming conferences.

Just days after the release of Flappy Birds Family, Nguyen released his fourth game dubbed Swing Copters. The game adopted many of the same difficulties and game mechanics as its famous predecessor.

A year later, in December 2015, he released Swing Copter 2, the game’s follow-up. However, both games never really took off and were ultimately pulled off of the App and Google Play Store.

In January, he tried his luck again with the release of Ninja Spinki Challenges. The game, at the time of writing, has amassed over 4,000 reviews on Google’s Play Store.

Despite the lackluster success of his subsequent games, Nguyen is more than well off. In a 2019 interview with VN Express, he said the following: “Back when I was a student, I calculated that once I had $1.1 million I would retire, but now I have multiple times that amount but I still cannot retire.

Interestingly enough, Nguyen entered the news cycle again in 2021 when social media users began sharing an image that claimed he had predicted the coronavirus back in 2014.

The screenshotted tweet read:

“In 2020 a deadly virus will ravage the globe. This is your punishment.”

As you would assume, the screenshot ended up being nothing but a fake that, once again, gave Nguyen the attention he tries to avoid at all cost.  

Hi folks, Viktor checking in! Years of experience in various tech-related roles have led me to start this blog, which I hope provides you with as much enjoyment to read as I have writing the content.