Flappy Bird’s sudden burst of popularity was so unexpected that had never seen before in the app world. In fact the trends show a completely different pattern to any previously successful game. The app started off in the iOS App Store and once the developer managed to present the game on Android market, it was already dozens of clones there. The main clone competition though took off after the original game was taken down by the developer. We don’t know if this was due to the accusation of using review bots or the Vietnamese indie developer took it down because it was an addictive product. Whether illegitimate strategies were behind the its climbing up the app store or not, the simply engaging and competitive nature of the game or the word of mouth, kept it on top of both app store rankings until its sudden suicide.
And the martyrdom of the flappy bird was just a start. Search queries in Zedge game channel show a slightly decrease for the term “flappy bird” and a continuous increase for “flappy bird”. the demand for the game is there. So what about the supply? During the last few days more and more flappy wallpapers and ringtones keep climbing to the top of our charts, both on our android and iOS platforms. In fact in the world of applications the meme is not dead and is going on strong, by an increasingly number of transforming clones!
Feeding off of the success of another product and making something similar isn’t a new concept. Despite the vast amount of flappy-related games that receive very low ratings, get ignored, or killed by app stores due to copyright issues, there are scenarios where the success of this game resulted in an onslaught of copy-cats and actually opened up opportunities for developers to create something around the main concept. From the huge diversity of flappy bird’s mutations, quite a few of them are already engaging products. And thus growing.
Before pointing out the successful clones and speculating why, there are a lot of similar yet not very successful twists of the the original concept that we should touch first. Let’s look at them by the help of the data provided by an app analyzer we created at Zedge: Flappy bee is an early clone and catches eyes of the influencers first, but it doesn’t stand out enough to grow. Fatty Bird gets a 100K install without having anything especial and stops growing. Flappy Cat leaves a rainbow behind itself but gets even less attention. The developer of another game seems to project his problem to his mascot, Flappy Turtle: “Where it lacks in originality it makes up with addiction.”. The developer of Flappy Sperm who has uploaded some forty ignored games, each with only few installs, gives the sperm character of its most successful game (which is a 100+ hit for his account) a flappy character and gets a hundred times more installs immediately. Flappy Fins wants to fly like a bird but it’s facing moving pipes and carnivorous plants. Fluffy bird tries to combine flappy with another 1M+ fluffy game but it’s so poor in graphic that like the other mentioned games doesn’t reach more than 50,000 installs. Too not-original, too poor quality, too late, these are recipes one need to follow to come up with a failed clone.
On the surprising side however, there are flappy-apps that survived further in the natural selection of the app ecosystem, and also the selection of the app stores. We can summarize those, in four groups. There’s definitely more if you look for it enough:
1. Games that combine Flappy Bird with other viral memes:
What happens when flappy bird meets one of the Angry Birds? Clumsy Bird is a bird that acts flappy but its story reminds you of the angry birds. Clumsy is at risk because “the bad dragons have stolen its precious eggs”. With more than 10M downloads, Clumsy Bird is by far one of the most successful clone of flappy bird that we have come across. Clumsy bird is not only combining its two preceding hits, but also has a mission. It is not a pointless marathon of tapping on a touchscreen. The player has a mission to help the clumsy to get its eggs back. Meanwhile Clumsy does something else too. Its aggressive monetization allows the user to save the bird for 100$ with a couple of clicks. That money buys the player a 850 gems. One do not have to pay as much though. There are reasonable in-app purchase offers, as cheap as 2$ that make your bird auto-fly like a ghost through obstacles.
Angry and Flappy birds gave birth to another creature too. Clumsy’s sibling is not even a bird. It’s a Flying Pig! The pig is not stealing eggs this time, it’s escaping a butcher with the help of more than 500 thousand users.
Flappy meme has not only interbred with a game meme, there are other successful clones of flappy that have borrowed their winging meme from outside the application world. We found a handful of independent instances of flappy “doge”, the Shiba Inu who doesn’t offer much smarter character than flappy bird but is still as innocent. One doge has reached half a million installs, whille there are flappier doges that did not grow as much, may be due to lack of influencers or being too flappy, such doge!
2. Flappies that are trying to stay away from being flappy:
This is not only for the sake of costumer attention, but due to coping with the fact that both dominant app stores started removing games with “Flappy” word in title. From the 100K+ club Flappy Flying has an explicit claim: “Flappy Bird addicts: This is not flappy bird. Path is very challenging here. Obstacles are moving and very hard to pass through.” The same game studio has tried also a 3D version of the same bird which shows less success. We see another game, as big and growing, Flapping Bird. Nothing really especial about this but its own trick of surviving the test by using an “ing” form everywhere in the title, description or the package name. The same developer has tried other flappy games like Flappy Cube which didn’t get anywhere.
Flupp! another game avoids the curse name in the title even though the the package name still contains flappy. Was it too underwater that Google didn’t catch it reached 1M download? May be not anymore. Anothe Flappy Fish has survived by introducing a shark that can eat it during the struggle. In fact There are already dozens of “flappy” fish and even several “floppy” fish (clones of a clone) swimming around, some of them have already joined the 100K+ club. Our data shows that the flappy games killed by Google have survived in average one week. May be some of these games will be removed too? If they don’t grow to a certain size by then? Or they must convincingly diversify themselves from the original game, by all means possible to adapt the changing environment.
But on the other side of the story, is there any game that were not flappy but were tempted to ride the wave? Yes, this is what we found in the history of our app tool: “Mega Running Team (MRT)” the developer of a game “Angry Zombies vs Running Rico” released its game in 2012 and had 10,000+ downloads with a rating of 4.3. In versioin 1.1.0 of the app, which was released Jan. 15th 2014 the title and the developer name both change. “Flappy Bird vs Running Rico” by “Flappy Running Team of Birds .GEARS Studios”. It increases rapidly to 100K+ with a slightly higher rating. It is now deleted from the market presumably by Google.
3. Games that use different physics or HCI
Ironpants was one of the first games that started by being different enough. It is even harder than the original game as it uses different rules of physics. There’s a different sense of gravity applied to Ironpants. He is heading down but on a straight line. Not the way you expect a falling objects. And you don’t flap the ironpants. You hold your finger rise up the avatar and release it to let it dive down. So the player must keep and release instead of only generating a sequence of taps. It is a much more difficult sensorimotor synchronization task. Moreover, the avatar is faster than flappy. You are not only fighting the gravity but also the speed of the irontpants itself.
4. Other weapons
Nostalgia, irony, exoticism, different twists of the game that we have seen working!
With between 1 and 5 million installs, there is another game that you can’t spot a “flap” anywhere in the product. It is about the adventure of Floppy Bird, the flying floppy disk by dodging obstacles. Everything else from physics to design follows the original pattern. May be the nostalgic feeling of floppy disks itself that goes along with the original retro concept was simply what a successful clone needed to offer? Nostalgia is claimed to be a product’s secret weapon.
Flappy Turd may owe its relative success to making fun of the whole situation. As one of the fans says: “It’s poop with wings flying between pipes in the sky… it doesn’t get any better than that.”
Flappy chicken traveled around the exotic places in the world visiting places like China, Russia, India and Egypt. Her adventure was too tough that at some point she had to change her name. What’s her dream? To be the first Chicken to go around the world. The most interesting thing about this chicken is that in her trip to the emerging BRIC economies, she forgot one: Brazil! Did you forget why Facebook just acquired WhatsApp? We will talk about that one more!
How long will it go on?
The flappy bird, a bird with lips, which was arguably evolved from Piou Piou, inheriting visual characteristics and sound effects from Mario and actions from Helicopter Game is now gone forever. But has the meme died too? Obviously not yet. Will it die soon? We never know. Many memes tend to transform than fade away, and it gets more and more difficult to keep track of them as time goes by in a such a chaotic ecosystem. The existence of the clones are visible now and we can keep track of it and its clones for a while.