Did Dev Pull Flappy Bird Because He Cheated?

flappychart

The Flappy Bird saga will not die thanks to one question still on the minds of Flappy Bird fans – how did Flappy Bird’s wild success ruin creator Dong Nguyen’s life?

Nguyen removed the game from the App Store and Google Play on Sunday despite making $50,000 a day off it, saying the game is a success, but it also ruins his simple life.

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

— Dong Nguyen (@dongatory) February 8, 2014

Theories are boiling as to how the game ruined Dong’s life. Did Nintendo complain? No. Did he sell it? Nope.

Perhap his pockets are simply running out of room for those fat stacks, but a new theory emerged this morning, maybe Dong Nguyen cheated the App Store with bots.

Taking a look at the rise of Flappy Bird in the App Store rankings, Carter Thomas at BlueCloud solutions says evidence suggests that Nguyen may have used bots to artificially create downloads and reviews, despite Nguyen’s claims that he did zero promotion for the app.

Flappy Birds was released in June, the game didn’t take off until December. Coincidentally, his other game Shuriken Block rose in popularity at the exact same time without any cross promotion from Flappy Birds.

Impressive, right? It looks like in December/January the app gods shined their lights down on Dong Nguyen and said “YES YOU ARE WORTHY” and completely changed Apple’s algorithm to catapult him to the top of the charts. Typically, if I ever saw any rank insanity like this I would assume that there was traffic buying going on. This happens all the time and makes sense. This happens to indie developers as well when they release a game that hits.

Thomas also says the reviews of Flappy Birds points to bot behavior:

Read through the reviews. Check the word count. Do an analysis on how many times the word “glitch” “pipe” “addicting” are used relative to the review length. Also check how many negative reviews give 5 stars. I don’t think there is any app on the app store that has this many consistently morbid reviews that use the same words over and over and are posted in such regularity. If I am wrong, please let me know and we’ll start a petition for Apple to stop approving such life destroying apps.

Lacking solid evidence to prove Nguyen’s folly, Thomas concedes its possible that Flappy Bird is just a wildly viral game like Gangnam Style, but it looks really similar to bot activity. Meanwhile, Business Insider points to this Reddit post from January asking redditors to please help Flappy Bird take off, as well as a YouTube video from PewDiePie that has over 9 million views raving about Flappy Bird.

 

  • ScottCLandis

    I’ve been expecting other people to start seeing the patterns with the reviews. It’s also telling that his apps have more reviews that almost any other app in the store. People don’t write the long reviews for other apps that were appearing for Flappy Bird.

    Based on the fact that Ironpants (which appears to be the same game as Flappy Bird, with a different skin but is from Eduardas Klenauskis) is still in the top five, I’m guessing that Dong Nguyen didn’t work alone on the bot. Ironpants has the same type of reviews, the same language, though fewer five-star negative reviews. To me this seems like someone is doing testing of their bot review system to see if they can get past any Apple safe-guards. As a developer this is a major threat and hopefully Apple will stomp out this kind of behavior quickly.

  • Steven Quan

    To me this seems like someone is doing testing of their bot review system to see if they can get past any Apple safe-guards. As a developer this is a major threat and hopefully Apple will stomp out this kind of behavior quickly.

    I have always been of the mindset that people won’t download a game unless there’s something to it. I’ve downloaded Flappy Bird like many others and there is something addicting about it. You’re probably just jealous that you can’t develop a game just as good.

    You say you’re a developer. Let’s say we took your app, or even apps and put them as number one rank on Apple’s App store. You think they would stay there? Most likely your app would get the negative (as well as positive) reviews they deserve and not stay at the number one spot. Maybe Dong did use bots to promote his app? It takes more than just promotion to make a success story. Microsoft did all the promoting in the world for Windows 8 as well as Surface RT tablet and it didn’t help them any.

About the author

Buster HeinBuster Hein is Cult of Mac's Senior News Editor and lives in Phoenix, Arizona. Twitter: @bst3r.

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