The Rise and Fall of Flappy Bird

Filippo, via Flickr

What is your favorite app? Ryan Geertsma and Liz Waid look at the game Flappy Bird. It became very popular, and then it disappeared!


Voice 1 

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Ryan Geertsma.

Voice 2 

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1

On February 8, 2014, an app game was very very popular. In fact, it was the most popular app game in more than 50 countries. The game was called “Flappy Bird”. Anyone with a smartphone could download Flappy Bird and play it. The man who made the game is Nguyen Ha Dong. In an interview with the news website The Verge he said that he was making over $50,000 US dollars every day from his game. However, only one day later, on February 9, Nguyen removed Flappy Bird from the app store. People could no longer buy this app. Why would Nguyen remove such a popular game, even while he was making so much money? Today’s Spotlight is on the rise and fall of Flappy Bird.

Voice 2 

Flappy Bird is a very simple game to play. All you have to do is hit, or tap, your finger very gently on the screen of your smartphone. As you tap the screen, a small bird moves up and forward on the screen. But as it flies forward, the bird must fly through spaces between sets of green pipes. If the bird hits any of the green pipes, the game is over. The goal is to go through as many sets of green pipes as possible. The bird flies quickly. The space between the pipes is small. But every time you avoid a set of pipes, you earn a point. There is no end or finish line for the bird to reach. It just continues flying forward until you hit a green pipe. The game sounds simple, but it is extremely difficult.

Voice 1 

The creator of Flappy Bird, Nguyen Ha Dong, is from Hanoi, Vietnam. He is 29 years old. Nguyen has been making games for four years. He has built other app games too. But none have been as popular as Flappy Bird. Nguyen mostly makes the games after he comes home from working at his job. He makes them because he enjoys doing it. Nguyen created Flappy Bird in only a few days. He explained to the website Chocolate Lab Apps how he put the game together.

Voice 3 

“I made the game alone so there is no team. And my games are very simple so there is no need for more people. I like to reuse my artwork from game to game. I actually drew the bird in Flappy Bird in 2012 to use in a different game. But the project was cancelled. All the programming took around two to three days with all of the details. That is how long it took to make the game play feel right. In my games, there are no impossible situations that players cannot pass.”

Voice 2 

On May 24, 2013, Nguyen released Flappy Bird in the App store. People could download the game to their smartphones. So what happened? Nothing. During the next few months, a few people downloaded the game. A few wrote their opinions of the game in the App store as a review.

Voice 1 

But in November of 2013, more and more people discovered the game. They shared it with their friends on Twitter. And by January 10, 2014, Flappy Bird became a top ten app. It was one of the ten most popular games in the United States and other countries. Every day more and more people downloaded Flappy Bird. They shared their high scores and their opinions about the game on Twitter and Facebook. It became more and more popular every day.

Voice 2 

Game developers may work for years to have this kind of success. Some people accused Nguyen of paying money to increase his game’s popularity. They accused him of buying false app reviews saying the game was very good. Nguyen claimed on Twitter:

Voice 3 

“It is hard to believe, I understand. But I have no resources to do anything more than uploading the game.”

Voice 1 

Many people wondered why this extremely simple game was so popular. People who played the game wrote reviews about it at the app store. They said that the game was addicting. When they played they wanted to play more and more. It was difficult to get a high score, but very easy to play. So a person could play many games very quickly - and waste a lot of time. Many of the reviews described how people could not stop playing the game.

Voice 2 

Using Twitter, many people started communicating with Nguyen. Some said nice things. But other people threatened him. The pressure of all of this became too much for Nguyen to deal with. He was overwhelmed. He wrote on Twitter:

Voice 3

“I can call Flappy Bird a success of mine. But it also ruins my simple life. So now I hate it.”

Voice 1 

So on February 9, 2014, Nguyen announced on Twitter that he was going to remove Flappy Bird from the app store. He simply wrote:

Voice 3 

“I am sorry Flappy Bird users. 22 hours from now, I will take Flappy Bird down. I cannot take this anymore. It is not because of legal issues. I just cannot keep it anymore. I also do not sell Flappy Bird, so please do not ask.”

Voice 1 

He also added:

Voice 3 

“And I still make games.”

Voice 2 

After Nguyen tweeted this information, people did not know if he was serious about removing the app. Some people thought it was just a way to make more money. However, just as Nguyen promised, he removed the game from the app store. People who had already downloaded the game could still play it. But no one else could get it. Over 50 million people had downloaded Flappy Bird. And over 16 million had talked about it on Twitter. But now it was gone.

Voice 1 

A few days later, Nguyen told Forbes Magazine why he removed Flappy Bird from the app store. He said:

Voice 3 

“Flappy Bird was designed to play in a few minutes when you are relaxed. But it happened to become an addictive product. I think it has become a problem. To solve that problem, it is best to remove Flappy Bird. It is gone forever.”

Voice 2 

What do you think? What happened to Nguyen Ha Dong? Did he make the right decision? Have you played Flappy Bird? What did you think about the game? Were you addicted to it? Tell us what you think. You can leave your comments on our website. Or find us on Facebook - just search for Spotlight Radio.

Voice 1 

The writer of this program was Liz Waid. The producer was Mark Drenth. The voices you heard were from the United States. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at This program is called, ‘The Rise and Fall of Flappy Bird’.

Voice 2 

We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.


Did you ever play Flappy Bird? Did you like it? Do you play any other app games?


Green Kale's avatar
Green Kale
said on April 27, 2014

Probably, I think Nguyen did make a right decision. More and more people become addicted, more and more risk that threaten his life. People using bad words to describe about this game when they can’t get high score. On the other hand, this is just a form of entertainment and I can say for sure that Nguyen never expected the result from this game. He is a quiet person, since his own game has ruined and messed up his life, taking the game down is a good decision for both of him and players. I have played Flappy Bird, I love the challenge of this game, keep my patience. It doesn’t make me addicted at all. Feeling bored when you can’t get high score, so quit it. Try next time. It’s so simple.

Avatar Spotlight
said on April 29, 2014

i do not like a quite game. but i sometimes play simple game to relax.

Avatar Spotlight
said on April 29, 2014

Everything just individually. Who likes-let him play, who does not let-delete that game from your device. The developer of the game here is to blame.

Avatar Spotlight
said on May 04, 2014

A good decision from Nguyen Ha Dong, who created this game. I had played Flappy-Bird game, it took me a lot of time to get more score, sometimes I felt headache because of this game, that mean I play it, in the begining only for relaxing but afterward I was attractive by this game. The best thing for me at this time is stop. Stop this game on app. store is a not bad idea for players.

Avatar Spotlight
Jimmy Roberto Espinoza Mercado
said on May 04, 2014

To be or not to be addicted player is an issue that has to do with each one’s personality. Each person must search time for meeting her or his daily demands; such the job, the studies, the gaols, caring for the children and also to have fun, if one wants. Ludic activities such as games keep us from the worries and make us feel relaxed, they are amusing. There have been always games but the world continues to progress. The clue is spand the time in a suitable and helpful way. If Nguyen’s decision made him feel better, well! Although I think that there were no another reasons to take “Flappy bird” down. It was a successful game and its users increased every day more and this caused envy in many people. Thank you very much!

Avatar Spotlight
said on September 14, 2015

He’s an excellent, but he is not enough skill and spirit against pressure of well-known. Hope he has a new breakthrough in information technology. Be proud of being Vietnamese.

Avatar Spotlight
Đỗ Văn Hoàn
said on September 15, 2015

I had played this game. It’s very interesting. Ị hope the game developer, nguyen ha dong, will make more good games

HyHn Lvane's avatar
HyHn Lvane
said on September 23, 2015

I have, but I hate because it is difficult for me :(

Avatar Spotlight
Nguyễn Minh Thiên Thanh
said on September 26, 2015

I’ve played this game :)
I feel it interesinteresting game ^^
Ps: His first name is Dong, not Nguyen. In Vietnam,the name follows : Family name- Middle name- First name

Liz Waid's avatar
Liz Waid
said on September 28, 2015

Thanks for your comment Nguyễn Minh Thiên Thanh!

We used Nguyen’s whole name in the beginning of the script. But in all Spotlight programs, our policy is to call people by their last name after using their whole name. This is a particular writing style that we follow.

I hope this is helpful!

Avatar Spotlight
Carmen Adriana
said on January 24, 2017

What do you think?
It is incredible how a simple game became famous sooner. On the other hand the social media helped to increase its popularity. Apparently it was easy to play however it was not. 

What happened to Nguyen Ha Dong?
I think he prefers enjoying his own games. Maybe being in calm is better than getting money . Its hard to realized that in his case the
Did he make the right decision?
No. I think he did wrong. If I were him I would sell it rather than disappear and I would have created many of them and now I would be in Forbes magazine and enjoying not working anymore.

Have you played Flappy Bird?
No, I have never played flappy bird but I used to play Mario bross when I was a kid, it was similar to it. The scenaries are almost the same and the way you play is quite the same. The two differences are the characters and the levels. 
What did you think about the game?
In my opinion it seems to be a simple and funny game but addicted,  in spite of the creator designed the game for playing as a hobby It became a problem because most people slight at him .  As the result of that he decided to take away from the app store the game. 

Were you addicted to it?
No because I don’t have time to be stucked in a game , I am pretty busy from 7 to 8 , I like spending time with my family rather than downloading app even if they are interesting games

Avatar Spotlight
said on January 27, 2017

I did play this game. I felt like angry everytime I lost and I never got a high score. However, I always respect the person who created it. Nguyen Ha Dong made a right decision. SOme people felt jealous with the popularity of Flappy Bird or the result Nguyen got after the game, so they wrote bad reviews to threaten him. I don’t like them.

Avatar Spotlight
My English Class
said on March 31, 2017

I’m not a game player myself, so I had no idea what Flappy Bird was all about, but my students all knew it! Everybody had comments to make about their highest score (very low, usually) and about how frustrating the game was.

Avatar Spotlight
Tran Dinh Hop
said on April 11, 2017

To Liz Waid
Thank for your Spotlight. I like reading an listening English via this website. I’m a beginner who want to learn English. I’m Vietnamese and 42 years old.
However, I think, Spotlight may be uniform how to call and use Vietnamese’s name:
1. In The Rise and Fall of Flappy Bird:  You call Nguyen The Dong first, after, you call his name is Nguyen (We used Nguyen’s whole name in the beginning of the script. But in all Spotlight programs, our policy is to call people by their last name after using their whole name. This is a particular writing style that we follow - your comment on Sep, 28,2015)
2. In Improving Life in Rural Vietnam: You call Nguyen The Dong, Nguyen Thi Huong first, after, you call his/her name is Dong, Huong.
In Vietnam culture, we always call everyone by first name or by middle name + first name. For example, you should call me: Hop or Dinh Hop.