Unless you haven’t cracked open the App Store or Play Store in the past couple weeks, you’ve probably noticed the game Flappy Bird sitting at the top of the free games list. If you have a social media account, you’ve probably also seen high score updates from your friends playing this game as well. It’s also probable that you’ve played this game yourself, since the game has been receiving 2 – 3 million downloads daily according to the developer, Dong Ngyuen. This brings up a pretty valid question, and that is, why on earth is a game as simple as Flappy Bird the most popular game on the entire mobile market?
There are some really impressive games available on the mobile market right now, and a lot of them are free to download. I’ve been starting to wonder why it is that so many people would choose to play a game that looks like Super Mario World, but doesn’t even offer 5% of the content of most free games. A few reasons come to mind, I’m not saying these are the only reasons why Flappy Bird is #1 right now, but it’s hard to argue against them being contributors.
It’s Actually Free to Play
First of all, there’s no in-game store, which is super refreshing in the current era of mobile gaming. If there was an in-game store in Flappy Bird, the entire purpose of the game would be destroyed. The game is very difficult, partially because of the way it was designed, but also because you don’t have an annoying pop-up asking you to pay $1.99 to revive where you just died. This provides actual competition between friends, if someone wants to spend a few bucks on a similar game, they can usually get a pretty high score — when they share it with their friends, nobody really cares because it’s pretty obvious they just paid for the score.
I know there’s differing opinions on the whole subject of in-game stores, but I think Flappy Bird is a prime example of how successful a game can be when it’s actually free to play. Plus, it’s not like the developers lose much by using ads instead of in-game shops, whenever you have a game that brings in 10 million downloads in a week, you can profit off of that regardless of if it’s a free game.
Just one more try…
Besides the fact that it’s completely free, that doesn’t change how simple the game is, which still left me wondering why it’s so popular. I’ve noticed that games that follow the format of Flappy Bird, where players are just trying to beat the previous high-score, and the games don’t last very long, usually have players saying to themselves that they’ll “just give it one more shot”. There’s also the factor where you’re trying to beat a friend or family members high score, and eventually you may end up hitting that share button, causing a few of your friends to try beating your high score.
Word of Mouth Beats Advertising
At this point, the game is just advertising itself via Social Media shares, and the developer even stated in an interview he really didn’t do anything to advertise this game. If you can get actual players to tell their friends about a game, that is so much more valuable than paying to have your game advertised, and that is so obvious with Flappy Bird. I’m actually curious to know if advertising would have actually hurt the popularity of Flappy Bird, or if it was properly advertised, would it be getting 20 million downloads a week?
Difficult Games are Refreshing
So many games on the mobile market will hold your hand through the actual gameplay, at least through most of the first few levels. Flappy Bird isn’t that way, the game is ridiculously difficult, and most casual gamers aren’t even going to score 10 points. Some people simply won’t even be able to get a Bronze Medal, and that’s a common statement when a friend tells another friend about this game, which entices them to try the game out and see if they can get that Bronze Medal to shut their friend up.
Difficult games can be a major no-no for casual gamers, but since Flappy Bird is so simple, it appeals to everyone and nobody is going to be too concerned about difficulty until they actually play the game. Even then, it’s still simple, and people think they can get the hang of it with some practice.
One last little thought, Angry Birds was one of the most popular mobile games ever, if not the most popular. Flappy Bird, Angry Birds, clearly there’s some subliminal message involved with birds that causes people to download mobile games.
What are your thoughts on Flappy Bird? Is this game just a passing fad, or will it be around for a while? Post your comments below.