Is Flappy Bird Creator Dong Nguyen a Marketing Genius?

The app creator grounded his viral game as soon as it became popular. What the what?

Feb 11, 2014 at 6:46AM

Dong Nguyen ruined my weekend.

All it took was a tweet, and a few hours later I looked up from my iPhone, nearly late for a Saturday evening engagement. I lost countless hours on Sunday tapping my screen aiming a bird through Nintendo-esque pipes. Yes, I had succumbed to Flappy Bird.

If I hadn't learned that the app would be pulled from the Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) App Store and Google's (NASDAQ:GOOGL) Play Store, I probably never would have downloaded it. The game is not even that good, but fear of missing out on something has driven me to do more than click a couple buttons.

And it's this fear of missing out, now more than ever in the age of social sharing on Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) and Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), that makes Dong Nguyen, the creator of Flappy Bird, a marketing genius.

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It's Game Over for Flappy Bird. Source: Flappy Bird Screenshot

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You don't have to reinvent the wheel to be a great marketer.

I get emails all the time mentioning 24-hour sales. Disney is famous for putting its classic movies into "The Disney Vault" only to release them for a limited time. Countless advertisements on the Internet promote their product by limiting the number of spots or copies available (or at least saying it's limited). They all rely on the principle of scarcity, which can influence a person to make a hasty purchase without fully considering it.

But Nguyen's genius is that he waited for the popularity of one of his games to reach a critical mass. When he announced that Flappy Bird would be removed from the app store, the game was already the most downloaded in the App Store and on Google Play. The game grew in popularity after fans' frustration with the game led to viral tweets, YouTube videos, and posts of user reviews all around the Internet.

Then the announcement came that he would remove the app, and Twitter and Facebook lit up with his fans commenting and telling friends to get it before it's gone. The time and money spent on this "campaign" was practically nothing.

Nguyen's Twitter followers increased from about 15,000 on Friday to 134,000 today. Downloads of Flappy Bird surely spiked as well, and the game creator's $50,000 in revenue per day probably jumped as well. And just because Flappy Bird was removed from the app store doesn't mean those in-game ads aren't generating Nguyen boatloads of cash.

'And I still make games'
At the time of this writing, those were the last word Nguyen had tweeted. It serves as a reminder that he has other projects that may be worth checking out. Indeed, the success of Flappy Bird sent his other games, Super Ball Juggling and Shuriken Block, soaring up the App Store ranks as well.

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Super Ball Juggling is just as difficult as Flappy Bird. Source: Super Ball Juggling Screenshot

Perhaps those that missed out on Flappy Bird will go out to find his other games. Currently, Super Ball Juggling sits at No. 6 on the list of free iPhone apps, and Shuriken Block is No. 17.

And although Nguyen wants to stay out of the limelight, it's very likely that his next game will receive a ton of media attention.

One tweet
Maybe I'm making too much of this one series of tweets. Regardless, the events of the past weekend show the power of Twitter and Facebook as marketing platforms. Nguyen certainly got lucky by making a game that spawned viral content, but he definitely added fuel to the fire when he announced the shutdown of the app at the height of its popularity.

Nguyen's success is also a testament to the value of Apple's and Google's platforms for gaming companies and developers. No other platform is nearly as widespread as iOS and Android. This kind of viral success and sudden grounding could only be accomplished through smartphones and tablets.

Kudos to Dong Nguyen on capitalizing on his sudden success. I'm waiting for your next frustratingly difficult game. Until then, I'll have to die a few thousand times in Flappy Bird.

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Adam Levy owns shares of Apple and his high score in Flappy Bird is 40. The Motley Fool recommends Apple, Facebook, Google, and Twitter. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Facebook, and Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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