How Social Media Formed the Flappy Bird Craze

social media and the flappy bird craze

Flappy Bird is, or rather was, a simple game for mobile phone platforms in which you controlled a small pixel style bird through a series of pipes by tapping the screen to make it flap. How it grew is nothing short of a social media phenomenon...

The game was created by an independent developer, Dong Nguyen, who used Twitter to talk about development and ultimate release of the game.  The game was taken down from all app stores by the developer in mysterious fashion. Here we have a look how it became so popular and how social media had such a big part to play.

Development and Social Media

It all started out on Twitter. Dong Nguyen posted little snippet updates through the social media platform in the early stages of the game development including this one:

These tweets gained relatively little response and notice. At the time he was a small, unknown developer making games for mobile platforms. In the middle of last year on the 24th May, he tweeted that he’d just had approval from the App Store to release Flappy bird onto the iPhone platform. Again, this went pretty unnoticed until a few people started playing the game and posting tweets and vines venting frustration in comical fashion at how hard the game was.

A combination of top comical reviews and social media posts started attracting the attention of others who wanted to see just how frustrating the game actually is. Within a few months the game grew huge in popularity, reaching the dizzying heights of the top 250 free list of the app store. More and more people started posting about the game via social media, which produced even more awareness for the game. Then in January 2014, it reached the top 10, and ultimately number 1 in the free game category of the app store. When you think about the fact there are over 1 million apps in the app store, it’s quite an amazing achievement: especially when it’s only form of marketing was through users of social media.

To this day, it's creator insists that he used absolutely no form of paid marketing, but just simply tweeted that it was available in the app store along with a few other updates in development and his own personal high score. Once the game had reached its height, other media outlets started taking notice. Websites like Mashable, Kotaku, The Huffington Post and even the BBC News website started reporting on the game. The official app store twitter feed even gave the game its nod of approval by tweeting this:

It was this popularity and the apparent constant requests for interviews that lead Dong Nguyen to take the app off all app stores saying that the game had “ruined his simple life”.

Once this decision had been spread across Twitter and other social media, it soon became apparent how popular the game had actually got. The game was downloaded 10 million times in the 20 hours after the announcement and trends such as #saveflappybird started appearing on Twitter. The campaign to save the game was sadly unanswered and the game is still not available to download, although it still works on phones that downloaded it before its deletion.

Literally hundreds of games very similar to it have popped up and are available, but there's something about that little pixelated bird that warmed and enraged our hearts.

It's quite an amazing little tale of how social media can explode and create frenzy even for the simplest of things.

By content assistant - Sean Haydock

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