How much would you pay to play Flappy Bird? That’s a question new fans must ask themselves, now that it’s no longer available for free via app stores. The developer stopped supporting the smartphone game and pulled it from Apple and Google stores over the weekend.
Flappy Bird had been the No. 1 game on the app charts for weeks, seemingly out of nowhere, amassing a huge following for such a simple, yet frustrating, game. Now, the only people who can play are those who downloaded it before this weekend.
Owners of phones that have the game installed are selling their devices on eBay for a premium if they can get it.
One iPad owner wants $60,000 for it. Another wanted $100,000 for an iPhone 5S. Adweek reporter Sam Thielman put his Flappy Bird phone on eBay for $6,000 to test the waters today.
Flappy Bird is a basic smartphone game comprised of a bird that flaps when you tap the screen. Players guide the bird across the landscape, moving up and down to avoid pipes—each pipe cleared is 1 point. Simple enough, if it weren’t so hard, and one touch of a pipe and your game ends.
People are reporting lost weekends entranced by the 8-bit bird and its flapping wings. Its creator Dong Nguyen, in a bizarre tweet Saturday, said he “can’t take it anymore,” and pulled the app. “I’m sorry,” he said.
Fans were devastated, imploring Nguyen on Twitter to keep the game going. Some users even threatened him not to take it down from app stores.
It was unclear what pressure Nguyen was under, but there were some concerns over the game, which drew $50,000 in advertising per day. The pipes in the game looked like the same ones that Mario jumps into in Nintendo games, raising copyright questions.
Also, some app industry commenters questioned how Flappy Bird caught such viral success, wondering if underhanded tricks were used to boost rankings.
Carter Thomas, an iPhone app developer, wrote a blog post that suggested Flappy Bird developers manipulated app store rankings to rise to the top. He said the patterns in Flappy Bird’s ranking history, showing a sharp leap in downloads, resembled bot activity. Thomas said it looked like Nguyen generated phony downloads—a common tactic to gain exposure in the app business.
“If it turns out that it’s just a wildly viral game like Gangnam Style, my hat is off to Mr. Nguyen and I wish him the very best of luck and success,” Thomas wrote. “But ... things still look weird.”