Flappy Bird Game Soars In App Rankings, But Too Fast?

Move over, Angry Birds -- a new bird is ruling the roost. The casual game “Flappy Bird” last week (Jan. 27 to Feb. 2) on iOS had more downloads globally than perennial favorites like YouTube, Facebook and Candy Crush Saga.
 
Not even the Facebook’s well-received new 'Paper’ app could knock Flappy Bird off its perch as the top free U.S. iPhone app -- the news reader app rose as high as No. 2 this week, before falling back to No. 7, as of Friday.
 
The ad-supported game, which has the deceptively simple object of flying the bird through a series of pipes by tapping the screen), has gone international as well. As of Wednesday, it was No. 1 on the iPhone top free app chart in 107 countries, in 109 on the iPad chart, and in 19 countries in Google Play, according to new data from app analytics firm Distimo.
 
Flappy Bird’s rapid rise in popularity since late last year isn't without controversy, though. Questions have recently been raised about whether Flappy Bird’s turbo-charged ride up the charts has involved the use of bots, or fake accounts run by computers to artificially boost its rankings.
 
Created by Dong Nguyen of indie studio dotGears Studios in Vietnam and launched in May 2013, the game didn’t get its first substantial burst of downloads until November. By mid-December, it began climbing the U.S. iPhone top overall free chart; since January 17, has been the No. 1 app.
 
It wasn’t until last last month that Flappy Bird began to spread its wings outside North America. Through Jan. 26, those two countries accounted for 97% of its downloads. But just a week later, the game exploded internationally, becoming the No. 1 iPhone app in 53 countries, including the U.K., Brazil and Singapore.
 
In a blog post highlighted by The Telegraph, iPhone developer Carter Thomas suggested Nguyen was gaming the rankings, saying he’d never seen an app suddenly take off just months after its initial release like Flappy Bird. He also pointed out that other games by Nguyen, including Super Ball Juggling and Shuriken Block have seen similar download spikes.
 
Asked by Newsweek about the accusation, Nguyen declined to comment but wrote via Twitter: “It doesn’t matter. Don’t you think? If I did fake it, should Apple let it live for months?” Apple did not respond to a media inquiry on the topic Friday.
 
Flappy Bird’s rise up the Google Play charts has been much faster than the App Store. After launching in the Android storefront on Jan. 24, it hit No. 1 in the U.S. within seven days, and is now tops in 19 countries overall, including Australia, Sweden, the U.K. the Philippines and the Netherlands.

“Staying at the top of the charts for a long period of time is no easy task,” noted Distimo, which didn’t refer to the flap over Flappy Bird’s legitimacy in its blog post Friday. A spokesperson for the company, however, said it didn’t find the game’s late-breaking surge in popularity as suspicious, in part because of social media interaction that can help a game go viral.


Update:
Flappy Bird creator Nguyen on Sunday pulled the app from both the App Store and Google Play after promising to do so via Twitter on Saturday. He suggested he was having trouble dealing with the recent wave of attention the game has brought.

"I can call Flappy Bird is a success of mine," tweeted Nguyen on Saturday. "But it also ruins my simple life. So now I hate it."

He also indicated, however, that removing the game wasn’t a direct result of questions raised about its App Store ranking or any intellectual property dispute. “It is not anything related to legal issues. I just cannot keep it anymore,” he wrote. 

Tags: apps, gaming, mobile
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