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4 Feb 2014

How Social Media Propelled iOS Game Flappy Bird to the Top

Coined as one of the most annoying games ever, the mobile app called Flappy Bird has skyrocketed to the top of the iOS charts virtually overnight. This is a remarkable feat for a game that has been available in the app store for over a year with little movement in the charts prior.

So, what exactly is Flappy Bird and how did they go from the bottom to the top so quickly?

Oh devs … ye of little faith in social media. Behold in Flappy Bird’s presence. Yes, social media aka digital word of mouth elevated Flappy Birds from a relatively unknown and overlooked game to one of the number one ranked apps on the iOS charts. The most impressive part of this story is that the creator of the game Dong Nguyen didn’t use a secret app marketing technique or special promotion to initiate the media frenzy that contributed to the game’s success.

Flappy Bird Meme ImageThe social media buzz for the game was entirely player based via platforms such as Twitter and Vine. The game currently has a 4.0 rating and within the past two months has received a total of 490,117 reviews in iTunes alone. This number is almost half the total of reviews for mega hits like Candy Crush Saga. Unlike its rival predecessor Angry Birds that’s beloved by millions of people from all over the world, this game’s popularity is surprisingly fueled by frustration and discontent, two traits rarely seen in a hit iOS game.

It’s Flappy Bird’s incredibly difficult but simplistic gameplay that makes players want to scream and pull their hair out from their roots and then feel compelled to vent to others about their epic Fail in a tweet, Vine video, or on the iTunes comments section. Majority of the rants posted about the app have been somewhat comical descriptions of the psychological stress that the game has inflicted on its users.

Flappy Bird App Gameplay ImageFlappy Bird is essentially a runner game, which puts a player is in control of an oddly shaped bird which they must guide through various pipe openings by repeatedly tapping on the screen. Although it sounds easy as pie, the game is extremely hard. Players find themselves obsessed with beating their highest score. However the game’s complexity isn’t what’s so astonishing about this game, it’s the way users took to it and through social media made it rise in the charts. It went completely viral without an app marketing campaign or cross promotion of any kind.

The large number of  reviews associated with the game that were posted and comments tweeted, sparked curiosity among others which ultimately lead to massive downloads and even more reviews. The titles players use in their ratings are equally attention grabbing like ‘Our lives will never be the same’ or ‘Painfully addicting.’

The game’s ability to drive players crazy is summarized best in a customer review by user Someone Random 123 which states, “Flappy bird is by far the most annoying game you will ever play in your life. It will make you so angry you will literally scream (I am not kidding you). The game itself is nothing special. It is just a bird that is more or less a falling brick with a vague bird-like appearance. The bird will basically just drop dead right as you are about to reach a new high score. The bird also also defies physics, falling faster than even remotely possible and thus ending the extent of your sanity and happiness. The game is not fun but it is addicting.”

Although app developer, Dong Nguyen accredits his success to pure luck its obvious social media will play a major role in not only app marketing but the mobile game industry as a whole.

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