Flappy Bird: A Slap in the Face for Developers

The App Store is full of applications painstakingly designed by developers just hoping to make enough money to recoup the time they put into the app and maybe make enough on top of that to help them pay the bills. Some even more talented developers make apps full time and failure isn't an option for them, they have to produce or they have no income. Enter Dong Nguyen. Dong has several apps near the top of the "free apps" charts in the App Store with and one of those apps is the breakout hit Flappy Bird. The sudden rise to the top of the App Store charts for Flappy Bird coupled with several of his other apps also doing extremely well got many news sources to start speculating about how Dong Nguyen pulled this off. Did he game the system somehow? Maybe his app was just at the right place at the right time. Either way, Dong Nguyen started getting a lot of media attention, both good and bad. He also started making a lot of money off of the ad revenues from Flappy Bird, and when I say a lot I mean somewhere in the area of $50,000 a day.

This past weekend Dong Nguyen was at wits end. I would be too, an app at the top of the App Store charts and a bank account quickly filling up. So Dong decided to call it quits and yank Flappy Bird from the App Store. Forbes had an exclusive interview with Dong Nguyen where Dong was quoted as saying "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.” Dong made good on his promise and pulled Flappy Bird from the App Store on Sunday.

Why do I consider this a "slap to the face" for developers? Because I know there are developers out there busting their $%& to produce the highest quality application they are capable of developing both because they absolutely love what they do and they choose to devote their career to their passion. When somebody like Dong Nguyen comes along and achieves the kind of success other developers can only dream of and then quits it hurts. It's like watching the girl of your dreams, someone you have been pining over for a long time, get swept off her feet and married just to have her new husband cheat on her. It's like the dog that chases the mail truck. If the dog ever actually caught the mail truck the dog would have no clue what to do with the mail truck. Except in this case there are developers that WOULD know what to do, or they would hire someone that did if they were pulling in $50,000 a day.

Once a week I write a short post called the Vincent Award on this blog that highlights someone who "didn't hold anything back" and because of that was able to achieve something extraordinary. Sometimes even when someone pulls out all the stops they still fail and that's ok. Where it's not ok, in my book, is when someone achieves something that thousands of other people are trying to achieve themselves and then turns their back on that success. It truly is a slap in the face to everyone else that pours all they have into that same goal and WOULDN'T just throw it away if they actually achieved their goal. Do you think it would go over well if an athlete at the Olympics won a gold medal in their event and then right in the middle of the awards ceremony stands up and quits the sport forever because they just weren't interested anymore. What kind of message would that send to the athletes that person just beat? The people that have been dreaming of winning gold and sacrificing their time since childhood chasing the Olympic dream. It's disrespectful.

In the case of Dong Nguyen it seems like he didn't really know what his goal was when he released Flappy Bird on the App Store that had advertisements built into the app purely for the purpose of turning a profit. Did Mr. Nguyen not know that the devices he developed Flappy Bird to run on are inherently addictive? If Mr. Nguyen has such a problem with the addictive nature of things he picked the wrong type of application to develop. Has Mr. Nguyen ever been to a video game arcade? The whole video game industry is designed to pull you in so you want to play more and more (or back in the day insert just one more quarter into the slot).

Do I think Dong Nguyen did something shady to earn the top spots in the "Free Apps" section of the App Store? I don't know and honesty it doesn't matter. I'll take that back, it does matter from the perspective that if he did do something outside of the App Store rules then he essentially stole from other developers competing for App Store profits. But from the perspective of this blog post the way Dong Nguyen got to where he ended up doesn't change things. He reached a spot some many other people would love to be in and then swiftly threw it away.

I honestly hope that everything Dong Nguyen said is true and that he really did pull Flappy Bird because he wasn't comfortable with the addictive nature of the game and how it was manifesting itself on people playing the game. It takes a lot of guts to throw that kind of money away on principle alone. Just try to be a little more respectful of others in the developer community that are prepared for the kind of success that Dong Nguyen was able to achieve.

If you don't know what to do if you were to catch a shark don't go deep sea fishing.

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