Flappy Bird - how a simple mobile game got 50M downloads within a few months and started earning its creator $50k/day

Flappy Bird - a simple, but certainly not easy mobile game, where "tapping" is the main thing. Tapping makes a bird rise slightly before quickly falling.

The game asks only that you pilot the bird through narrow passageways between two green, Super Mario-style pipes. A point is awarded for every pipe you pass. But touch anything and the cute bird tumbles beak-first into the ground: game over.

?Strategy, Tools & Numbers

Highlights & Strategy

  1. May 24, 2013 - Flappy Bird's App Store debut

  2. On Oct. 29, 2013, Flappy Bird at 1469 position "Family" category

  3. May - November, the game attracted just 13 reviews

  4. On Nov. 14, Flappy Bird entered the U.S. game charts, coming in at 1368 place - by this time, the game had climbed to 393 in the Family category

  5. November - Flappy Bird managed to earn 20 reviews

  6. On Dec. 3, 2013, Flappy Bird officially entered the overall App Store charts, coming in at 1308 in the U.S. - the game was ranked 74 in Family and 395 in U.S. games.

  7. By Dec. 13, the game had cracked the top 250 for free apps in the U.S., the top 80 for U.S. games, and ranked 14 in Family

  8. In late December and early January, it's plausible Dong Nguyen (creator) probably used some sort of service to download/rate Flappy Bird on the App Store - It worked. Flappy Bird started getting over 20 reviews a day

  9. January 5th, small YouTuber created a video about the game

  10. On January 9th, Flappy Bird hit the milestone of 90 reviews in a single day. It's suggested, less than 10,000 iOS devices had Flappy Bird on them before January 9th

  11. On Jan. 10, Flappy Bird became a top-10 app in the United States.

  12. Flappy Bird download levels swelled on Jan. 13, increasing 136% day-over-day.

  13. January 14/15 more YouTubers create videos about the game

  14. January 17th - 400 reviews a day, and the app became the number-one free app in the U.S. App Store,

  15. On Jan. 22, Nguyen announced that an Android version of the game was available in Google Play.

  16. Within a week, it became the most-download app on Google Play.

  17. On January 24th, over 1,100 total reviews were given.

  18. Jan. 24, Buzzfeed and Kotaku wrote articles about Flappy Bird

  19. Jan. 25, Tweets with the phrase "Flappy Bird" passed the 500,000 a day mark

  20. January 26th - 1,600 reviews/day

  21.  January 27th - Pewdiepie created a video about Flappy Bird - This is a really important day

  22. On January 30th, more than 4,600 reviews/day

  23. On January 31th 5,500 total on the day.

  24. January 31th The Huffington Post, The Telegraph and Mashable wrote about the game

  25. By Feb. 1, Flappy Bird was the number-one free game in 53 countries in the App Store.

  26. Feb 4th, information was released that Nguyen was making $50k/day on ads off of the game

  27. By Feb. 9, Nguyen announced that he "cannot take all the pressure (hate & press) anymore". Flappy Bird was removed from the App Store and Google Play.


1. Learn by playing

The old games' 8-bit style looks brings back memories. At the beginning of the game, the only instruction is to “tap.” Many people tapped once and found that their bird instantly hit the floor. From the very first few seconds of the game, you learn the consequence of doing things or not doing things.

Flappy Bird is a perversely difficult game. For most of the players, it takes multiple times of dying before scoring even a single point. It lets you learn by PLAYING. 

2. Difficulty

Such super-difficult games are called masocore among the videogamers.

Masocore games are characterized by trial-and-error gameplay. Combined with repetition and progression, the intense difficulty of masocore games often produces a feeling of profound accomplishment.

Many players have expressed their simultaneous hatred for and commitment to the game—“I Hate Flappy Bird, But I Can’t Stop Playing It”

3. Humour and irony

From an unheroic name "Flappy Bird", to overall design and “punch to the face” sounds when you die.

4. Simplicity

The simplicity of design and controls. To play, all you have to do is "tap".

The Law of Diffusion of Innovation
Adoption of a new idea, behavior, or product is a process. When promoting innovation to a target population, it is important to understand the characteristics of the target population that will help or hinder the adoption of the innovation.

  • 1. Innovators - These are people who want to be the first to try the innovation.Very little, if anything, needs to be done to appeal to this population.

  • 2. Early Adopters - These are people who represent opinion leaders. They enjoy leadership roles and embrace change opportunities. They do not need the information to convince them to change.

  • 3. Early Majority - They do adopt new ideas before the average person. They typically need to see evidence that the innovation works before they are willing to adopt it. Strategies to appeal to this population include success stories and evidence of the innovation's effectiveness.

  • 4. Late Majority - These people are skeptical of change, and will only adopt an innovation after it has been tried by the majority. Strategies to appeal to this population include information on how many other people have tried the innovation and have adopted it successfully.

  • 5. Laggards - These people are bound by tradition and very conservative. They are very skeptical of change and are the hardest group to bring on board. Strategies to appeal to this population include statistics, fear appeals, and pressure from people in the other adopter groups.

?Last few words

After Flappy Bird was taken down App Store and Google Play people started selling phones with the game installed for outrageous sums on eBay.

One of them started an eBay auction at $650. Within hours, the price has already jumped to $99,900, with 74 bids placed.

Flappy Bird became an instant legend, amassing at least 50M downloads and nearly 16M tweets.

Many developers had tried to copy its success. Almost none of them succeded.

Check Other Viral Case Studies 

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