5 Things That Got Flappy Bird 50 Million in Downloads

Did you know that it just took 2 days for Flappy Bird's creator to develop the game that had 50 Million Downloads in the first year itself?

Dong Nguyen

Flappy Bird was created by a Vietnamese first-time developer Dong Nguyen in 2013.

Dong was a game developer from Vietnam, with a modest background in computer science.

He landed an internship at Punch Entertainment, a Vietnamese video game company, and this is when he fell in love with the idea of video gaming.

Flappy BIrd Gameplay Footage
Flappy Bird Intro


  • Dong wanted to create a game that could be played in short bursts.
  • He considered the needs of busy, on-the-go individuals who would crave a simple, yet challenging game.
  • Drawing inspiration from table tennis, he conceived a game that required players to keep a bird character, named Faby, in the air by tapping the screen.
  • It was a conceptually simple yet engaging game, that surprised all Industry gurus with its overnight success.
  • He intentionally kept the game’s minimalist graphics to differentiate from the flashy, over-hyped titles dominating the market.

Initial Success:

  • Flappy Bird’s success was organic, driven primarily by word-of-mouth and social media sharing.
  • Players were drawn to its addictive nature, and the game quickly climbed the charts in both the App Store and Google Play Store.
  • Despite its unpolished appearance, Flappy Bird resonated with millions of players worldwide, becoming a cultural phenomenon virtually overnight.
  • It earned Advertising revenue equivalent to $18 million per year on an annualized basis.
  • The game had 50 million downloads by January 2014 and was trending as the No. 1 free game in app stores in 53 countries.

The Initial Success of Flappy Bird was so phenomenal that once its founder removed the game from app stores, it directly impacted the mobile device cost in the resale market.

HOW? Well, the devices with Flappy Bird already installed in them were selling at a premium on eBay than the ones without it. Case in point:

5 Strategies that took Flappy Bird from Zero to 50 Million Downloads in Just a ear.

  1. Quality Over Quantity: Flappy Bird’s success was not based on flashy graphics or complex mechanics but rather on its addictive gameplay and simple design.
  2. Embrace Authenticity: Nguyen’s reluctance to conform to industry norms and his willingness to take risks set Flappy Bird apart from the competition.
  3. Know When to Say No: Despite the financial incentives, Nguyen ultimately prioritized his values and the well-being of players over profit.
  4. Community Engagement: Flappy Bird’s success was fueled by its dedicated fanbase. - Building and nurturing a community around a product can help sustain momentum and drive growth.

But as with all successful things, Flappy Bird was stuck in a ton of controversies and allegations.

Then In a move, that shocked the entire industry, Nguyen made the impulsive decision to remove Flappy Bird from app stores in February 2014.

This kind of decision at the height of its success was unprecedented by any game developer at the time.

4 Challenges that made it difficult for Flappy Bird to Sustain

  1. Overwhelming Pressure: - The sudden and unprecedented success of Flappy Bird subjected Nguyen to intense pressure from both the media and players, impacting his mental health and well-being.
  2. Ethical Concerns: - He was concerned about the addictive nature of Flappy Bird and the negative impact it was having on players’ lives.
  3. Plagiarism Accusations: - Flappy Bird faced accusations of plagiarism, with some critics claiming similarities to other games like Mario.
  4. Desire for Control: - As an independent developer, Nguyen valued creative control and autonomy over his work. but the overnight success of the game didn't allow that.


  1. A revised version of the game, called Flappy Bird Family was released exclusively on Amazon Fire TV in August 2014.
  2. Flappy Bird popularized the “endless runner” genre, inspiring countless imitations and spin-offs.
  3. Even after years of its discontinuation, Flappy Bird continues to hold a nostalgic appeal for many players, and hence a lot of merchandise for the game is still available on eBay.
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