3 lessons to learn from Flappy Bird’s success

You’re probably tired of reading about Flappy Bird, right? Nobody blames you. The game became the #1 free app on the iOS App Store with 50 million downloads. Dong Nguyen, the developer, reportedly earned $50,000 per day through banner ads. In fact, it was so popular that the developer got apparently overwhelmed and removed it from the App Store.

The situation is specially interesting given that there isn’t any big game corporation behind; it’s just an indie developer that created a simple and addictive game. These are the 3 key lessons we can learn from it.

The magic formula to monetize your app: keep users engaged

Apple spent time improving iOS to include better monetization mechanisms for developers: in-app purchases, promotions, iAd, etc. There are also other ad platforms that can be used to include videos, banners… you name it.

Flappy Bird just displays little banners. So how did Nguyen earn so much money? Were people clicking like crazy on his ads? No, much simpler than that… they had a reason to keep coming back. And this is actually the magic formula: keep users engaged.

Emotions are a train for success

The game is dumb simple, it doesn’t have complex or rich scenarios and it relies on a very basic principle: tap the screen to make the bird flap its way in between pipes. Nothing revolutionary or specially interesting. And people like that.

But more importantly, is it fun? not really! Why do people keep playing then? because they are frustrated, they are angry. It’s incredibly easy to fail and since it takes no time to start a new game, it’s easier to try again. Guess what else do they see every now and then while they are playing? Ads.

Going viral is critical

Even though Flappy Bird first appeared in the App Store last May, it became viral only a couple of weeks ago. It’s unclear why or what changed, not even Nguyen knows. What’s clear is that people started talking, writing, tweeting, video-blogging and searching about it:

In a more-crowded-than-ever App Store it’s really difficult to shine. An app can stand out for several reasons: it has a marketing juggernaut that throws millions at promoting it, it is a great idea and has a wonderful design or it simply connects with people and becomes a viral sensation. It looks like Flappy Bird falls in that third category.

Now, why would someone pull a $50,000-per-day app out of the Store? Some people believe this is all a genius strategy to become even more popular, but in an interview published today by Forbes he repeated that he took the game down because it was an addictive product. For those of you wondering, Nintendo didn’t have any complain about Flappy Bird despite the undeniable similarities between their intellectual properties:

I believe in the 29-years-old developer. I originally thought he went as crazy as some of his followers and decided to exile with the near $700,000 he piled up, but after reading his last interview, it really looks like he just wants his simple life back. By the way, the 50 million downloads of Flappy Bird still work perfectly, which means that he’ll keep getting a great deal in ad revenue while he takes a break from all the drama. That sounds to me like a great problem to have.

Images via Flappy Bird, Nintendo and Google Trends

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