How to make Flappy Bird, #1 app – Interview with game developer Dong Nguyen: Updated

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flappy bird

Over the last 6-12 months, indie developers have been complaining that trying to get to the top of the app store – without the development and marketing budgets of the large game companies – can seem nearly impossible.

Not so – meet Dong Nguyen.

Dong is the developer of a little game called Flappy Bird which is the #1 top free app and #1 top free game in the app store right now.

He’s also the #2 free app & #2 top free game with Super Ball Juggling.

I was chatting to Dong earlier. He has allowed me to share his story here.

Elaine: How long did it take your team to make Flappy Bird?

DONG: I made the game alone so there is no team, and my games are very simple so there is no need for much manpower resources. I like to reuse my artwork from game to game. The bird in Flappy Bird, I actually drew in 2012 to use in a platformer game but the project was cancelled. All the programming took around 2-3 days at best with all the tuning to make the gameplay feel right. In my games, there is no impossible situations that players cannot pass.

Elaine: Is your success due to organic downloads only, or did you use any other methods?

DONG: I didn’t use any promotion methods. All accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram about Flappy Bird are not mine. The popularity could be my luck.

Elaine: Have you any advice for indie devs?

DONG: I myself think western-made mobile games are a little unnecessary complex for massive of players. So please try to make more simple games, learning how players react should help.

Elaine: Why do you love making games?

DONG: I love making games because it is natural to me. The first job I got was a game programmer.

So have you played Flappy Bird and what’s your top score? You can see my dismal attempts below. Download the game here if you haven’t already.

Top 3 ways to die in flappy bird

It’s motivating to see that it is still possible for small indie devs to make games that go to the top of the app store. And this is despite major competition with all the massive game studios resources and advertising budgets.

What do you think. Can indies still really compete with the large game studios? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

UPDATED: I may have stumbled across at least 1 reason for the downloads… check out why Twitter could be the cause here.

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Elaine Heney is the CEO of Chocolate Lab Apps, #1 Bestselling Author of "The App Escape Plan". Elaine has over 300 apps published with over 10 million downloads, 5 online App Development Courses, and mentors international mobile startups.

{ 20 comments… add one }

  1. 1 Tyler Kessler January 31, 2014, 7:49 pm

    Way to go right to the source Elaine and get other solo indie developers inspired! Thank you Dong for keeping it real.

  2. 2 Markus G. January 31, 2014, 7:53 pm

    Hi Elaine — yes it’s addictive, but what about the “rate” button that is front and center….that is part of the good planning too…and quite brilliant – if no-one had rated the game it would have never gone viral like it has…Dong made it super easy to rate the app so more people see more ratings = more downloads, then it feeds on itself and people want to know why so many downloads…so more downloads…etc.
    cheers!

  3. 3 Ash January 31, 2014, 10:28 pm

    hmmmm theres something really fishy about those reviews. yes the rate button is there but go thru all the reviews and read them. theyre paid reviews.

  4. 4 Peter Smith January 31, 2014, 10:29 pm

    If you search Twitter for “Flappy Bird Review” it has become a competition/meme to write the best/funniest Flappy Bird review on the app store. The reviews push the game up the rankings, more see it and so on. The downloads are genuine, the reviews are genuine.

  5. 5 Ash January 31, 2014, 11:08 pm

    the reviews are not real. all bots

  6. 6 Brick February 1, 2014, 5:30 am

    Adding on to what you were saying Markus, I agree that the rate button is a great idea. I can’t tell you how many games that I wanted to rate but I couldn’t even find a button to do so in the game! I know I could have just gone to the App Store, found the app, and rated it, but developers really need to make it as easy as possible to rate their games.

  7. 7 lee February 1, 2014, 8:29 pm

    High score is 60 for me. I get at least 30 every time now. Soo addicting definitley yelled at my phone a bunch of times too which is always nice.

  8. 8 Elaine Heney February 1, 2014, 11:09 pm

    Thanks guys! I’m still failing miserably to get any kind of score on this game :)

  9. 9 kek February 3, 2014, 8:49 am

    The game is just a steal from my game “Piou Piou” https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=air.pioupiou&hl=fr

    The guy didn’t invent anything…

  10. 10 Umer Saleem February 4, 2014, 9:19 pm

    This game is too addictive that i can’t stop playing it. But i’ve managed to get score of 63. :D

  11. 11 Nave February 7, 2014, 6:21 pm

    Funny game , here you can play it online !!

    http://flappybirdapp.blogspot.com

    also there are tips,cheats and hacks

  12. 12 hien February 8, 2014, 5:23 pm

    Excuse me to say this, but you know the game developer is vietnamese, and in my country, there is absolutely no way to create paid reviews or hack the ranking. the game top because people are addicted to it. It make us feel fustrated because it is too simple and hard

  13. 13 DAO NGOC LONG February 9, 2014, 11:39 am

    High score is 13 for me. :D

  14. 14 Petr February 9, 2014, 3:43 pm

    I made quite similar game called 1D Game several years ago – see https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.Perdol.Quazi_1D_Game . My bad luck is, that almost nobody has downloaded it so far:-/

  15. 15 Zakia February 10, 2014, 12:51 am

    Possible reasons why Dong Nguyen pulled his awesome game: http://goo.gl/qNlLmR

  16. 16 french dev February 11, 2014, 1:49 pm

    @kek
    Stop making us french dev look like whining idiots…
    YOU didn’t invent that horizontal scrolling style game at all…
    There was already game like these back in the TI calculators days and even before.
    The graphics ? Dong didn’t copy any of your lame graphics… anybody with a little gaming experience could tell it’s obviously copying super mario graphics.
    And finally, the gameplay, the rules of the game, its difficulty have nothing in common.

    Your game wasn’t interesting, just accept the fact.
    Flappy birds was because of its exagerated difficulty. May be there was in fact some bots to boost the store’s ratings, who knows, but in NO WAY was it plagiarism.

    You’re just pathetic for even starting a rant…
    You’re even more pathetic for stating that you should have been a millionaire…

    Learn some facts about game dev here : http://gandhirules.com/site/blog/gamedev/flappy-bird-isnt-a-copy-precisions/

  17. 17 Steve MacClain February 12, 2014, 4:31 am

    Awesome game, sadly its taken down. Best wishes for next games ;)
    regards,
    http://www.hackreads.com

  18. 18 Ethan Burdine February 14, 2014, 10:38 pm

    High score is 132 no cheats, but it’s really a fun game

  19. 19 James Frost February 17, 2014, 4:40 pm

    Why he removed this game?I heard from one of my friends saying that he got legal notices from nintendo for some elements used in his game similar to Super Mario.Flappy birds clone won’t be able to do the same as it did and I am happy that Google and apple decided to remove this copies from their app stores.
    http://androidflavor.com

  20. 20 Cameron Johnson March 2, 2014, 9:47 pm

    HE WAS STRESSED

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