Flappy Bird has created a very compelling saga as it rose to the top charts out of obscurity, and became an overnight App Store sensation. It flew high for a couple of weeks, but today developer Dong Nguyen has decided to pull Flappy Bird from the App Store.
I am sorry ‘Flappy Bird’ users, 22 hours from now, I will take ‘Flappy Bird’ down. I cannot take this anymore.
— Dong Nguyen (@dongatory) February 8, 2014
It is not anything related to legal issues. I just cannot keep it anymore. — Dong Nguyen (@dongatory) February 8, 2014
I also don’t sell ‘Flappy Bird’, please don’t ask. — Dong Nguyen (@dongatory) February 8, 2014
Press people are overrating the success of my games. It is something I never want. Please give me peace.
— Dong Nguyen (@dongatory) February 4, 2014
It’s an extremely interesting turn of events, and it begs a number of questions. Why was Flappy Bird removed now, and not earlier? Why are Dong Nguyen’s other two games, Super Ball Juggling and Shuriken Block still on the App Store even with their high charting at #4 and #18 respectively? Why was there a 22 hour notice instead of just taking the app down immediately? Why was the game updated on iOS, and released on Google Play right before it was removed from the App Store? How did the game rise to the top of the charts from nowhere six months after launch? How did a game that borrows assets from Super Mario Bros. survive this long?
A person familiar with the App Store review process tells Apple’N’Apps that Flappy Bird wasn’t removed voluntarily by Mr. Nguyen, as he claims. It turns out that Nintendo got in touch with Apple regarding the art assets in Flappy Bird claiming that they’re in direct violation of their copyrights. Apple contacted Mr. Nguyen regarding the copyright claim, and that’s why we saw the new updated version with graphic changes to the pipes. Nintendo already decided that they had seen enough, and Apple is the one who pushed Mr. Nguyen to remove Flappy Bird (with 24 hour notice). It’s a sad state of affairs, but you could argue that Flappy Bird was at least partially boosted by the very familiar graphics. In all honesty, the pipe sprites of Flappy Bird aren’t merely replicas, but practically identical down to the shading.
Mr. Nguyen has specifically posted on Twitter that there were no legal ramifications in his decision, but our source says that Nintendo’s copyright was indeed the reason. If flappy Bird never gained the popularity it did, then Nintendo would had probably never noticed. We have seen similar cases with Nintendo contacting Apple regarding potential infringement. There was a Duck Hunt clone back in 2009, and a number of blatant Pokemon rip-offs in 2012. The copyright infringement doesn’t have to be blatant either as in the case of Stoneloops of Jurassica, which was removed from the App Store in 2009 at the request of MumboJumbo, the creators of Luxor. Stoneloops only adopted a similar game mechanic to Luxor, but Apple has usually been cautious in these cases to side with the copyright holder. Apple is the arbiter on everything in the App Store, and they continue to act as a mediator in copyright infringement violation cases on the App Store.
Since the issue was only with Flappy Bird, Mr. Nguyen’s other two games are remaining on the App Store for the time being. They’re doing quite successful in their own right, and Mr. Nguyen has brought a lot of attention upon himself by creating the simple game that broke through. The attention may only intensify with the removal of Flappy Bird, but he can always delete his social media accounts, and ignore his e-mail. Hopefully we see something new from him in the future. We may never know how the game gained such astronomical popularity out of nowhere.
If you downloaded Flappy Bird before its removal, then you can still re-download it from the iCloud purchased tab on your iOS device. Like other removed apps, Flappy Bird is simply not available for new downloads on the App Store, but available to those that already have it. You can also sync your file to iTunes just to be safe.
Flappy Bird (Free, Universal / Pulled) has created a much more interesting saga than Candy Crush, and the entire sequence of events will go down in App Store history.