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Flappy Bird creator finds out how brutally hard the app market is

Published Aug 26th, 2014 7:00PM EDT
Flappy Bird Vs. Swing Copters

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Last February, the world was consumed by Flappy Bird mania. The retro-looking, infuriatingly hard mobile game from Vietnam became the top app in 80 countries, generating tens of millions of downloads and a media frenzy that drove its creator to remove the app from iTunes completely. The Flappy Bird genius, Dong Nguyen, claimed the app was too addictive for some consumers and he could no longer sleep because of its gigantic success.

Last week, Mr. Nguyen debuted a new game preceded by massive publicity storm. Swing Copters is even harder than its predecessor and demands absolute concentration and hours of practice — the formula that made Flappy Bird irresistible half a year ago.  But after five days, it’s already clear that the cruelly capricious app market may turn out to be inhospitable to the followup to 2014’s shock blockbuster app.

Despite the massive media hoopla, Swing Copters has not become a No. 1 hit in the U.S. iPhone or iPad charts. By Tuesday morning, it had dipped to the No. 3 position in American iOS charts after briefly popping to No. 2. Even more worryingly, it has already tumbled out of the top 5 in major markets like the U.K., China, Israel and Netherlands. It is about to plunge out of the top 20 in India and Italy. The universal, frantic success of Flappy Birds is not being repeated — on the contrary, the five-day performance of Swing Copters is pointing towards a remarkably fast burnout.

Mr. Nguyen tried to build a monetization feature into the new game as you can turn off the banner ads by paying a $0.99 fee. It now seems like this in-app purchase option is a resounding flop. By this past afternoon, Swing Copters was in the top 500 iPhone revenue chart of only two countries: No. 286 in Uruguay and No. 476 in Latvia. And it’s dropping like a stone in both.

This episode is a great example of just how hard it is for mobile game vendors to retain momentum in the app market for even half a year. You can be the king of the world in February and a 5-day flash in the pan by August. Most companies struggle to achieve even 10% of the download and/or revenue success of a smash app with their followup efforts.

After launching mobile game company SpringToys tragically early in 2000, Tero Kuittinen spent eight years doing equity research at firms including Alliance Capital and Opstock. He is currently an analyst and VP of North American sales at mobile diagnostics and expense management Alekstra, and has contributed to, Forbes and Business 2.0 Magazine in addition to BGR.