Early this year, a mobile game created by Dong Nguyen of dotGears, an indie game studio based in Vietnam, flapped its way to the top of both the iTunes and Google Play app charts, becoming the most popular free app for both Android and iPhones. Flappy Bird had arrived in a major way.
Renowned for its rudimentary graphic displays, virtually non-existent storyline and, most notably, its extreme difficulty, Flappy Bird proved potently addictive. Its popularity continued to climb until Nguyen abruptly pulled the game from the app store in February (causing this to happen).
Now, Nguyen is back with his first game since Flappy Bird. Called Swing Copters, it will be released on Thursday, according to the gaming review site Touch Arcade. Judging from the game's trailer, it looks like Swing Copters is very similar -- and as difficult to play -- as Flappy Bird (instead of scrolling horizontally in order to navigate a bulgy-eyed yellow bird between green pipes, it appears you need to scroll vertically in order to keep a bulgy-eyed man wearing a propeller-equipped-hat from hitting platforms and hammers.)
While Swing Copters is generating a lot of pre-launch buzz, it has some big shoes to fill.
Flappy Bird, after all, was a bonafide cultural sensation. Originally created in May 2013, the game didn't pick up steam until early this year, netting more than 50 million downloads in a short amount of time and making an estimated $50,000 per day. Everyone and his mother, it seemed, was compulsively obsessed.
But Nguyen crumbled under the sudden and intense public spotlight; in February he announced, via cryptic tweet, that he was removing the game from the app store.
I am sorry 'Flappy Bird' users, 22 hours from now, I will take 'Flappy Bird' down. I cannot take this anymore.— Dong Nguyen (@dongatory) February 8, 2014
A month later, in an interview with Rolling Stone, Nguyen explained his motivations for pulling his blockbuster game: In part, he was exhausted by the public scrutiny and wanted it to end, but his central motivation was the disturbing letters he had received detailing Flappy Bird's addictive powers ("13 kids at my school broke their phones because of your game, and they still play it cause it's addicting like crack," one such letter read).
After Flappy Birds was gone, a host of imitators tried to produce viable clones; all failed to recreate the original's addictive quality. "People can clone the app because it’s simple," Nguyen told Rolling Stone, "but they will never make another Flappy Bird."
On Thursday, we'll get to see if Nguyen himself is able to recreate some of the Flappy Bird magic.