The developer of Flappy Bird, Dong Nguyen, has spoke for the first time following the removal of his hit game. He gave an interview to Forbes, and explains his personal reasons for removing the game. According to Nguyen,
Flappy Bird was designed to play in a few minutes when you are relaxed, But it happened to become an addictive product. I think it has become a problem. To solve that problem, it’s best to take down Flappy Bird. It’s gone forever.”
That’s a very noble cause if you take Mr. Nguyen at face value, and it’s tough to figure out his mindset as he lives in a completely different region of the world. He went from unknown to meeting with Vietnam’s deputy prime minister, and his parents didn’t even know of Flappy Bird. He was reportedly making $50,000 per day from Flappy Bird, and that hasn’t changed just from removing the app. That money was straight from ad revenue from within the game, and he’s only stopping new downloads. Any existing owners of the game can continue to play it, and still be served ads, which he is making money from. He said it took him just 2-3 days to make the game, and it will continue to serve him well even if it’s not available for new downloads.
Mr. Nguyen has said the right things in his limited outreach, but you can take his words with a grain of salt. While it’s nice to think Nguyen is fighting the good fight to stop addiction to get people to put down their phones, that’s wishful thinking. We want to see the best in Mr Nguyen because there are so many instances in our society of people doing the opposite of Mr. Nguyen’s perceived not wanting attention, foregoing future revenue, and stopping of an “addictive” product. The addictive nature of Flappy Bird is relative, and if anyone did become addicted to the game they have other priorities to straighten out beyond the removal of Flappy Bird. Also, anyone who becomes so frustrated with any game to toss their phone across the room needs help, as how do they handle failure in the real world?
From our perspective, we believe there’s more to this story than what Mr. Nguyen is willing to admit. We still trust our source that Nintendo put a little pressure on Nguyen even if there were no official claims. The most logical conclusion of the abrupt removal is that if Dong was concerned with legal problems, it was smart to deny any violations, and take the game down before profits became large enough for Nintendo to care. Nintendo has also said the right things in denying any involvement as it’s only bad PR, as many would be angry with Nintendo for removing their favorite game. Also, Reuters claims, “Two friends of Dong said Nintendo had sent him a warning letter. However the Japanese game maker said it was not considering a lawsuit”. A small developer like Nguyen would instantly get out of the way of Nintendo if there was just a warning, so no official claims, or lawsuits would be necessary.
The interview was conducted following a surprise meeting between Nguyen, and Vietnam’s deputy prime minister Vu Duc Dam, which could have been regarding real earnings, and potential income tax. The oddest part of the interview is as follows,
The 29-year-old, who sports a close-cropped haircut, appeared stressed. He smoked several cigarettes over the course of the 45-minute interview, and doodled monkey heads on a pad of paper.
The Flappy Bird story has been filled with twists and turns, and it’s not over just because Dong Nguyen wants it to be. A lot more is going on than “it happened to become an addictive product”.