Flappy Bird may not be a very good game, but the story surrounding this mobile curio continues to get stranger and stranger.
Amid accusations of ripped artwork and a swelling tide of rather mixed publicity, the game's Vietnamese developer Dong Nguyen threatened to remove the game from the App Store and Google Play marketplaces. "I cannot take this anymore [sic]," he said, though didn't elaborate on his specific reasons at the time. He subsequently seemingly made good on his threat -- as of the time of writing, Flappy Bird does not show up in iTunes App Store search results, and a link to Google Play from a Google search leads to a broken link. He later stated that the app's removal was not anything to do with legal issues.
Following the game's removal, Nguyen came in for a torrent of abuse across the Internet, much of it from supposed fans on Twitter. He also became the subject of several hoax reports claiming he had committed suicide, which subsequently spread alarmingly quickly across social media due to your average teenage Twitter and Facebook user's inability (or unwillingness) to fact-check before sharing hyperbolic stories.
Flappy Bird's removal has had other effects besides inciting the wrath of illiterate Internet racists and pranksters, however: specifically, it's sparked a torrent of clone apps, many with in-app purchases and some of which you'll see in the iTunes screenshot above, and it's also inspired a number of young "entrepreneurs" to try and create a market for iPhones with Flappy Bird preinstalled on them, some of which are going for frankly unbelievable prices more than likely propped up by shill bidders, bots or fake bidders with no intention on paying up. At the time of writing, for example, one specific 16GB white Sprint iPhone 5 with Flappy Bird preinstalled is at 65 bids and a current price of $90,200 -- a little excessive, perhaps, or maybe we've severely underestimated just how much people really love Flappy Bird?
The Verge reported that Nguyen was supposedly making $50,000 a day from the in-game advertising -- there was no means for these ads to be removed, so all users saw them whenever they played the game. If Game Center leaderboards are to be believed, in excess of 18 million people have been playing Flappy Bird on iOS alone -- add that to the significant number likely playing on Android devices, all of whom were being served ads every time they played, and it's easy to see how the game could have proven to be such a cash cow even without any in-app purchases.
$50,000 a day -- assuming this estimated figure is true -- is a lot of money in the US, but it's worth even more in the developing economy of Nguyen's native Vietnam. While Nguyen has remained quiet since the weekend, particularly on the subject of his reasons for pulling Flappy Bird from mobile app stores, it's possible his new-found success with the game has attracted attention of the kind he'd be keen to avoid. Whether or not that's true, however, he's also been subject to campaigns of abuse from Internet users, so it's not altogether surprising that he appears to be lying low for the moment. His last message on Twitter at the time of writing claims that he is not abandoning making games, but one wouldn't blame him for wanting to take a bit of a break after all this.
"I can call 'Flappy Bird' is a success of mine," tweeted Nguyen. "But it also ruins my simple life. So now I hate it." Whatever your feelings on the game itself, we can hopefully all agree that's not how making something successful should make you feel.