Can we please talk about Flappy Bird’s developer instead of his game? This deserves some attention.
I’m going to base most of what I’m saying here off this article, and probably repeating some chunks of it as well. Flappy Bird currently is all the hype, and people have gone wild over it being taken down by its developer. Most people don’t realize what’s gone on behind the scenes though, and that deserves a good look. Not to mention huge respect to the developer for doing what he did. So let’s dive in.
Dong Nguyen (alias Dongatory) is the sole member of indie gamedev studio .GEARS. He focusses on making small, arcade-like games (for mobile) with cute “retro” graphics. Pretty cool stuff actually. He also made Flap Flap, which was later hastily renamed to Flappy Bird (a name he wasn’t very fond of) due to Flap Flap already being in use by another game. And then… and then. And then Flappy Bird blew up. The game was quick, simple, frustrating and addictive. People posted joke reviews, comments and the likes, and word of mouth caused it to spread like wildfire. Nguyen wasn’t prepared. He had never expected it to blow up like this.
People started hassling him for updates, more features, suggested he made a paid version so he could get rich faster. But he wasn’t really in it for the money. It blew up some more, people started demanding updates, and as with every large fanbase, there were some haters. Sarcasm and jokes can be hard to make out on the internet sometimes, even more so when you’re not a native English speaker. What with the language barrier and unpreparedness, he seemed to have taken most of the negative comments to heart. “Because of Flappy Bird, I have no life!”, to which Nguyen replied, “Because of you, same here!”
And he was serious. At this point Flappy Bird was making roughly $50.000 a day in ad revenue. Most would call it a success. For our developer, however, it ruined his life. All he wanted was to be a simple indie gamedev. He was no adequately prepared to handle such an enormous stream of popularity. He never asked for it, hell, he didn’t even want this. Earlier this month, he made the decision to shut down his app. It has now been removed off all the app stores, but sadly, its popularity will continue to live on for a month or two more.
Oh and by the way, the whole “he got sued by Nintendo thing” is very obviously false. So there’s that.
I hear lots of people giving him shit over this. “But he was making so much money!” “He could’ve at least sold it!” “What an idiot.” They obviously know nothing about the guy, and even then the concept of not everything being about the money is probably foreign to them. Nguyen stated multiple times he was fine in the financial department, and it was pretty obvious he never wanted to squeeze moolah out of his works anyway. It should also be noted that, especially compared to his other games, Flappy Bird is nothing to be proud of. It’s an almost straight-up clone of the classic Helicopter game. It’s super basic and there isn’t anything really special about it, he threw it together in a couple of days. He hates that he’ll probably be associated with Flappy Bird for years to come, despite putting out many other, much better works. Sure it did well on the mobile market, but that’s all.
My deepest respect goes out to Dong Nguyen. He didn’t go full greed-mode. Instead, he got trampled on by the publicity he never even asked for. I wouldn’t call it cyber-bullying per se, but the large amount of negative (or negatively interpretable) comments definitely contributed to his “meltdown”, if I may refer to it as such. He just wants to do what he loves. He just wants to be a simple indie gamedev. And I respect that. It’s a shame things had to go this way.
Also, happy Valentine’s day all.
UPDATE (12-04-2014): Please see here for an interview with Nguyen and his full side of the story. Great read, that guy’s an inspiration to me.