Most PRs Would Like To Have This Problem: ‘Flappy Bird’ Shut Down Because It Got Too Popular

There are lessons here for PRs to learn.

flappy birdWith no promotion and little development, the mobile game “Flappy Bird” became a huge hit, getting downloaded 50 million times and making $50,000 per day in ad revenue. Dong Nguyen, a Vietnam-based developer, says he created the game in two to three days. And he was clearly caught off guard by the success of the game. Having a bit of a meltdown on Twitter, he announced this weekend that he was pulling the game.

“I am sorry ‘Flappy Bird’ users, 22 hours from now, I will take ‘Flappy Bird’ down,” Nguyen tweeted on Saturday. “I cannot take this anymore.”

Being popular is a problem most PRs would like to have. So how can they get this problem too? We have one theory.

Much has been made of the senselessness of “Flappy Bird.” Here’s Slate describing how to play the game:

The entire game consists of tapping the screen repeatedly in order to pilot said bird through the gaps between a series of pipes that look like they were ripped straight from the original Super Mario Bros. Touch one, and the bird drops dead and does a beak-plant. Game over.

Still, the game managed to get under the skin of a lot of players, generating what some called “Flappy Bird rage.”

Then you have the philosophers who have interpreted the meaning behind the “Flappy Bird” phenomena, with some saying it reflected the “pointlessness” of our very existence. Yeesh. No wonder Nguyen couldn’t take it anymore.

Really what it boils down to is simplicity. Slate has an elaborate gaming explanation, but in a few words, its popularity comes down to how quickly you can get hooked. So often, we get so caught up in being clever that we go over-the-top. But if people don’t get it right away, there’s a good chance they’ll give up trying. That goes just as much for a PR campaign, tagline, or message.

Some say part of what may have driven Nguyen off the edge is the fact that he couldn’t scale up to meet the new demand for the game. It was released last May but became something of an overnight success during the winter. A game like “Candy Crush,” according to Timeis created by a global company. Without the manpower (and because he said he “hated” the game), Nguyen decided to pull the plug.  This, too, is a lesson for anyone in marketing. If you’ve got Champagne dreams but Budweiser resources, it’s time to reconsider your strategy.

Nguyen is still making money off of the downloads that continue to generate ad revenue. And the industrious who own a device with the game on it are trying to make thousands of dollars selling it on eBay. By going out on a high note, “Flappy Bird” could one day make a comeback.