Sometimes Success Can Become Too Much To Handle: Why Flappy Bird Is No More

by Aaron Kaufman

When self-described “passionate indie game maker” Dong Nguyen unexpectedly announced on Saturday that he would pull his wildly popular mobile game, Flappy Bird, from the market in 22 hours, reactions to the news spanned the emotional spectrum.

Blindsided by the idea that a man could walk away from a mobile game that topped the download charts in both the Apple and Android app stores, the public responded with disappointment, confusion, skepticism and, in a few cases, murderous rage.

An especially irate Flappy fan tweeted, “F**k you assh*le, I'll f**king kill you if I have to. Put back Flappy Bird on the market or I'm afraid I'll have to meet you.”

Nicole McCarthy refuses to live in a world without Flappy Bird:

“If you delete flappy bird I will literally kill myself. It's my drug and I am so addicted!! PLEASE DO NOT DO THIS TO MEEE PLEASEE,” she wrote.

While disappointment reigned, a confused public struggled to understand Nguyen’s motives for pulling his game, despite the fact that he was reportedly making $50,000 a day in advertising revenue from the app that was downloaded more than 50 million times.

“Imagine if Zuckerberg walked away from Facebook just because it was hard,” read a tweet from Dale LaVine. “I guess @dongatory didn't like making $50,000 a day from ads in Flappy Bird. You sir, must be under the influence of drugs. Idiot,” said MikesiOSHelp.

For his part, Nguyen did little to clarify the reasons for his decision to take down the app, simply tweeting, “I cannot take this anymore.”

He followed that message with another, equally vague statement saying, “I can call 'Flappy Bird' is a success of mine. But it also ruins my simple life. So now I hate it.”

Yesterday, Forbes published an interview with Nguyen in which he explained his rationale behind killing the game.

“Flappy Bird was designed to play in a few minutes when you are relaxed,” said Nguyen in his first interview since taking down app. “But it happened to become an addictive product. I think it has become a problem. To solve that problem, it’s best to take down Flappy Bird. It’s gone forever.”

The interviewers noted that Nguyen appeared stressed, chain smoking cigarettes throughout the interview while doodling “monkey heads on a pad of paper.”

He spoke of his struggle embracing fame, the guilt he felt for creating such an addictive game and the sleep he’s lost as a result, indicating that his “life has not been as comfortable as (it) was before” the game’s rise to prominence.

While Nguyen cites altruistic reasons for exterminating Flappy Bird, numerous outlets speculate that the Vietnamese developer actually pulled the game to avoid a lawsuit from Nintendo for using design elements that too closely resembled the iconic green pipes in its Super Mario series.

That theory was quickly shot down when Nintendo spokesman Yasuhiro Minagawa told The Wall Street Journal that “while we usually do not comment on the rumors and speculations, we have already denied the speculation.”

It is tough to imagine that a game developer would kill the world’s most popular mobile game because people were playing it too much. Rather, it’s more likely that the reclusive app designer simply couldn’t handle the pressure that comes with notoriety.

Last week, I wrote an article discussing the psychological toll fame takes on an individual, resulting in isolation, paranoia, depression and rage.

In the piece, I noted that the consequences of such status became too much for "Game of Thrones" star Jack Gleeson to handle, compelling him to announce his plans to retire from acting at the age of 21. Those who don't properly prepare for notoriety risk being crushed by it.

It would seem that Nguyen is a victim of that fate. He released the game with the expectation that it would do moderately well and was subsequently overwhelmed when it became a blockbuster hit.

The Flappy Bird saga is a lesson to prospective entrepreneurs to prepare for both failure and fortune before embarking on a business venture.

Photo credit: Flappy Bird