Flappy Bird’s Smoke & Mirrors – Is Something Fishy Going On?

Using Bots For App Store Rankings

In the past few years, I have seen people go under the radar and use bots (fake accounts run by computers to artificially create downloads/ranks and reviews). It behaves very strangely and accounts for seeing apps skyrocket to the top of the chart with no real explanation.

Looking at some of the top apps in the store by Dong Nguyen, I hate to say it, but it looks really similar to bot activity.

Of course, I can't prove this and there are strong cases for lots of different potential growth strategies, but I do want to bring this up to engage a discussion and get industry leaders to weigh in with some analysis so that we can find out how this happened.

It's the first time in the app store that I've ever seen this and, if it turns out that it's just a wildly viral game like Gangnam Style, my hat is off to Mr. Nguyen and I wish him the very best of luck and success.

But….things still look weird.

First – these are the apps in question: https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/dong-nguyen/id636374342

Second – check the screenshots below to show his rankings.

Flappy Bird ranking history


Shuriken Block rank history

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. What a miracle it is!!

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.


When you release games in MAY (Shuriken Block) and JUNE (Flappy Birds) that have a non-existant launch, then magically lift off 6 months later, it looks weird. Especially when your other games coincidentally all do so at the exact same time as well.

No cross promotions so the top game isn't directly lifting the other apps. As said in a recent interview, Nguyen claims he did zero promoting of this app and was just really lucky. People just want really simple, stupid apps. Right?

Get real.

Check the Reviews

Here's another nice little tidbit. 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.

Here's a quick snapshot from a 3 minute scroll through Flappy Bird's reviews.


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.

I Smell Something Fishy

I've seen a lot of shady stuff in the app store and this is textbook. For any of you that don't understand how this works, essentially people will create cloak IP addresses and automate hundreds of thousands of Apple ID accounts on virtual devices that download an app millions of times.

Because chart ranking is primarily driven by download volume, the app goes to the top of the charts. Then it enjoys all the organic volume that that chart position gets. The Apple IDs are then programmed to leave a Review of the app (4 or 5 stars) and can create copy using powerful automated programs.

I am very much against this sort of marketing and I hope that this ends up not being true. One saving grace (if he did, in fact use bots) is knowing that he's using AdMob banners and nothing else to monetize, meaning he left about $1M on the table this past week.


What do you think? Is this guy legit? Leave a comment below…

Update: March 11, 2014

Here is a Rolling Stone interview with Dong and he ended up taking the game down. He was making a ton of money, but apparently the pressure was too much for him. That's a new one.


  • Tyler Kessler January 31, 2014

    Carter, nice speedy investigative work on this one! You totally backed up my intuition with rational data. I know we can’t prove it was gamed or not (as of today), but you make one hell of a case for it, and this is why you are the smartest guy in the game.

  • Kevin January 31, 2014

    So glad I’m not the only who thought this looked suspicious, those reviews are….well …. O_0

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas January 31, 2014

    @Tyler – Yeah man, something is up. Hard to do a pull of review data out of an app listing, but it is so whack. I can’t get over the fact that two of them were launched mid 2013 then take off out of nowhere? If there was some reason, you’d think he’d mention it. Also weird that he refuses to interview with VentureBeat or anyone else except Elaine, although Elaine is clearly is best one to be working with 🙂

  • Faith January 31, 2014

    What about all the YouTube, Vines, and Tweets about Flappy Bird? However he did it, the dumb game definitely has an audience whether there are fake downloads and reviews going on or not. Personally, I’d like to dream that this kind of success is still obtainable to a small indie dev like me.

  • Tyler Kessler January 31, 2014

    @Carter So I monitor Twitter searches daily, specifically around appstore reviews, and saw EVERYONE talking about these reviews when I woke up this morning…everyone saying how ridiculous they were. That’s when I first noticed something fishy about flappy.

    I just told Elaine on Facebook to follow up with him ASAP and ask him the hard questions before he reads your article. If she can pull it off, she would have a viral hit, like your post will probably be.

    I can’t believe there are no safe guards internally at Apple to pause reviews once they flood in like that. The most disappointing thing about this story, if it ends up being true, is how this inspirational story about the little indie dev hitting it big was a load of crap.

  • Jesse January 31, 2014

    Yeah Carter this guy is an artist that tried to get my business, when I saw his game jump which my son said all his friends are playing it I shit on myself, it is a horrible game that does nothing for the anyone. I am really pissed. I have been doing this now 3 yrs and I barely make any thing stick so to see this stupid game go this high sucks, and yes he did leave a shit load of money on the table he could have racked up and got out…. and started over under a new id… stupid ass guy

  • Nathan January 31, 2014

    He likely does have a good viral marketing thing going on. Unfortunately, it is probably very black hat. He could be scamming Twitter, YouTube, and Vine as well.

  • Jay January 31, 2014

    Funny. As I’m reading this article, my son says something about playing flappy birds. lol. I said “You really like that game?” He said “Yea, It’s awesome.” ???

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas January 31, 2014

    @Jay – But what about his other games? That’s what kills me – the other two top 10 games. No one plays them, no one talks about them on social networks, no one really likes them. Yet they are top 10? I dont think I know any brand that has that kind of organic cross promotion (he doesnt cross promote in Flappy Birds).

  • Jack January 31, 2014

    Carter, what do you think is happening with another app, top 5- Guess The 90’s? The number of reviews (only in the 400’s) are not lining up with how many downloads it is getting.

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas January 31, 2014

    @Jack – sometimes reviews can lag behind real time download volume. That’s just an Apple thing. Rating volume/velocity is super hard to gauge on a day by day basis since it’s not real time.

  • Ash January 31, 2014

    Carter – YOU NAILED IT! I JUST heard about this app from Elaine’s site and immediately checked out the reviews and they are absolutely not legit! It’s very obvious they’re paid/bots.

  • Rod January 31, 2014

    May be time for Apple to introduce Captcha authentication for reviews.

  • Dan January 31, 2014

    Carter, Trey, Angela – I am a long time fan of yours but you’re missing big time on this one I think. People do actually love this game, and it’s viral. Everybody is talking about it right now, especially kids. As to the cross promotion – there is a huge CROSS PROMOTION. Open the game on the App Store and click on the button “Related” on the right to the “Reviews” button. That’s how two other games got picked up. I downloaded them exactly that way when they were not in the charts. And I do think guys at Apple are clever. They are loosing a lot of money right now, because these games are not monetizing for them and occupy the top spots. They have obviously already checked all the bots stuff, etc. and they would have taken all them down to clear the space for the games that actually make money for them and not for admob.

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas January 31, 2014

    @Dan – I don’t see a Related button, just the Rate. And with the millions of people playing Candy Crush Saga, why aren’t their other titles as popular? Why can’t other top games bring up their partner apps? Is this viral loop just that superior?

    You didn’t address the question about reviews – you think those are all legit, from real people who sat down and wrote those entire paragraphs about how the game made them want to kill themselves?

    And to be honest man, you have WAY too much faith that Apple knows more than hackers do. Bots are alive and well, people use them all the time.

  • Jack January 31, 2014

    Did you see Ironpants? Same exact game. #61 top free.

  • Ash January 31, 2014

    So Carter: This means it’s easy for anyone to do this. What’s there to say that Candy Crush, Clash of Clans, all those big games don’t do this. There’s no way any of us can win. I really don’t think the big guys are doing everything 100% legit either.

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas January 31, 2014

    @Jack – interesting. Obviously a clone of Flappy Bird and was popular right out of the gate. My guess is that it’s riding the success of that design.

  • Justin January 31, 2014

    I’m in the middle on this one. Do a search for “flappy bird reviews” on Twitter, and it’s actually a massive trend for people/kids to write gigantic comments about how the game is ruining their lives. That part is legitimately viral and explains why so many are the same. People plagiarize, and everyone’s trying to have the funniest review.

    But like you mentioned, cross-promotion just doesn’t seem there… and still seems fishy. So I don’t know. It’s a curious one.

  • Ash January 31, 2014

    must have started with twitter bots and then went viral as the app was hitting #1..then people must have started tweeting as well as rating it from the rate button in the app….

  • Dan January 31, 2014

    @Carter the “Related” button is not inside the game itself; it’s on the Flappy Bird page in the App Store – Details – Reviews – Related. That’s how I downloaded the other two games before they got into the charts.

    The funny thing is yes, I do think that reviews are legit. People are just tired of the current App Store — big and small re-skins. Sometimes, you just don’t want to play a complex game, but just want to get a break to “clear” your mind. I know that people don’t usually leave long reviews, in fact, I’ve noticed recently (last year I’d say) that people really leave reviews anymore. I think this is a virality of the game that caused all those long reviews. And the game is kind of love it or hate it game that is causing all this long reviews.

    If you search for Flappy Bird on youtube. You will see that a lot of people are saying exact same things (5 min and longer) about how the game is ruining their live. They are all real teens and kids, not bots. And they all repeat exactly that stuff — that they hate the game, but keep coming back to play, and it’s ruining their lives.

    I know that bots are live, but I do think, if I were a guy at Apple I would investigate the game, since it’s just not making money for Apple (free and no IAPs), and would find the way to take it down and track the boats.

    You’ve taught me a lot on your blog during the last two years, but on this I disagree, since I do really like the game myself. I am just tired of King’s, Zynga’s and all that big re-skinned crap occupying the top charts, and it’s good to see something different. And I do play the game from time to time.

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas January 31, 2014

    @Dan – Fair enough man. I respect your opinion. I obviously have no proof so I guess we’ll see how things shake out.

    @Ash – Yeah. I am not a conspiracy guy but part of me can’t deny that on some level, it would be the most epic move in history if this guy architected an entire viral loop using multiple social networks like this. I really can’t imagine that is what’s happening, but if it is, that is SO gangster.

  • mike January 31, 2014

    I think you nailed it.

    Props to calling this guy out on using cheat tactics and gaming the system to up his ranks in the charts.
    Sometimes the high ranking after a release can occur- because that happened with my game – My Virtual Girlfriend. It was released in March of 2010 but didn’t rank up until Dec of 2010, (8 months or so later) The reason being was because it went through several iterations and the final iteration we had put a significant amount of work into it- and it eventually caught the attention of the press (kotaku, msnbc, discover, etc.) So it can happen late- but The thing that really gives this guy away is that it’s happening across all his apps, which is highly unlikely.

    I’ve had a couple companies solicit me in the past with offers to rank up my games using bots, these companies seem to be originating from Korea. I don’t know why but it seems the bot companies are based out of there. Of course i decline the offers when i get them, but i wanted to mention that they do exist and that they do target indie developers.

  • Kevin February 1, 2014

    Agree with Carter, after searching on twitter a bit ( just search Flappy Bird Review ) there’s a massive, I mean massive trend – infact if he’s actually pulled this off intentionally, then he should go top of the App God Podium – Crazy stuff

  • Ash February 1, 2014

    110% agree with Mike. Theres a lot …and I mean a LOT of shady stuff happening in the App Store and app world. Ive been mentioning fake reviewsand bots for the longest on different blogs but no one was taking my comments serious. Big gaming companies are doing it but theyre doing it “safely” and subtle so they dont get caught. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube..you can easily buy to have bots follow/like you. And theres a lot more shady stuff thats going on which is happening in India, China, Korea to name a few. I know this because Ive had long chats with a “scammer” and saved some of the convo. I pretended to be on his side so I can get all the info and knowledge about this “underworld.” I was going to write about it and even contacted the media to write about it but I decided not to because everyone will start doing it and I think it will cause more damage than any help. Its SO easy to do. Not just bots but other stuff to make it in the App Store and Google Store. I reported it to Apple several times but they dont give a crap about it.

  • Ouriel Ohayon February 1, 2014

    Carter i doubt bots are playing the role you want to attribute them, although there is no proof their were not used at some points.

    It is close to impossible that a bot is used when the growth pattern happens in so many stores over a days (and not in 24h/72h burst mode). the app is basically top 5 in nearly every single of the 50 app stores right now including tier 1 and non tier1 countries. No bot system (known on earth) can organize that at this scale and level of sophistication. If the rank was concentrated on a few stores why not. but here this is far from clear.

    i also took a look at the reviews in non english speaking countries like France and Spain and reviews in most cases seem legit. although a few are weird. This clearly points to a typical viral pattern by word of mouth. The same that was described above..

    Also finally run a search on twitter/tumblr about this game you will find true word of mouth activity happening at scale.

    Bottom line: even if bots were used, their role here was minor and true adoption is going on.

    For those interested here is a simple graphic of the position of the app right now. https://cloudup.com/cEpWikXy1FK


  • MO February 1, 2014

    People are DEFINITELY talking about these games on social media. The sharing per minute is ridonculous. Not claiming to know everything going on, but you certainly cannot say people are not playing the games

    Watch these twitter streams for 10-15 minutes and then tell me I’m wrong


    Seems almost as if noone bothered to look!

  • MO February 1, 2014

    @Jesse – not a fair statement at all… just because you think the game is stupid does not mean it does not resonate with users. Clearly it does resonate because they are playing the shit out of this game!

    You’re saying horrible game, but it’s not always about making something you like. Rather, what does the customer like?

    Apparently the customer likes him some Flap action 🙂

  • Charles February 1, 2014

    Hey Carter.. I think in 99.9999999% of the cases you would be 100% right.. but don’t you think if someone was smart enough to pull this off, he would at least know how to monetize his app better? Just throwing an admob banner is really amateurish. Moreover, if you look at his twitter (https://twitter.com/dongatory), you can follow what he has been writing about.. and it really doesn’t seem like someone who just scammed the store.. Last point is its truly a viral hit.. I live in Thailand and even kids in my daughter’s school are playing it… and so many people are talking about it on Twitter.. I really do think its just a viral crazy similar to Gangnam Style that just is a perfect storm of events that trigger it to become a global craze.. I guess we’ll know the truth in a week or so because if he is up to using bots and fake reviews, apple will surely catch on.

  • Jason February 1, 2014

    Hehe, well youngsters do definitely like it, I’m seeing it on Facebook.

    Botting could definitely be a possibility, I mean I know twitter bots exist that spam using 1000 threads per second, which is a lot! But, I really do think it has been a stroke of luck. It only takes one person to share it on their social network and for it to go viral. Especially if that one person has a strong say in his community.

    Anyway, were targeting the wrong person! What about the people on Gamecenter with 9,999 points! They are the real crooks!

    There’s just no way!

  • Steve Young February 1, 2014

    Carter, great post. I reached out to Dong 2 weeks ago for an interview. He declined because of his English.

    I thought it was a great indie success story, but last night I saw three of his apps in the top 6. Definitely seems fishy.

  • Samuel February 1, 2014

    Hey Carter,

    I honestly think calling this game “sh tty” is pretty harsh. This game is actually kind of addictive and fun to play. My 10 year old nephew and his friends are determined to get that bird through those pipes! Granted the graphics are not the best and it is real simple to play but I think it’s subjective. Maybe it’s the game play that appeals to a certain gamer.

    I did a search on Youtube and there are a lot of people reviewing this game within the past month that are raving about it or complaining that they can’t put it down. I think having people say the game is irritating and annoying on social media is probably fueling some of those downloads. People are naturally curious and want to know what’s so irritating about this game. That was one of the reasons why I downloaded it and I found it to be cool.

    And to your point about getting a surge in downloads in Dec/Jan. Isn’t that around the holiday season where people get new iPhones, iPads and download apps like crazy! Maybe he wanted to wait until the holidays and then set off a social media campaign and contest to drive downloads.

    If he used bots to get downloads and reviews I would like to know how many uninstalls or removals after the initial download he would have gotten because that would likely affect his rank in the app store wouldn’t you think? Would like to know your thoughts on that.

    Also trying to see where you are coming from. Is it that what he did is usually not that obtainable in the app store by indie devs?

  • Sean Nam February 1, 2014

    I don’t want to start a huge argument so I’ll just address the last part of your comment.
    Look at the top 10, 50, even top 100 of the free, paid, grossing charts for games in the iOS AppStore. Most of them are NOT indie devs. They’re huge companies like Zynga, King, Supercell, EA, etc. Minecraft is probably one of the few exceptions.

    The point is it’s hard for everybody to get to the top of the charts but so much more when you don’t have the marketing budget or resources of these huge companies.

  • Jose Castro-Frenzel February 1, 2014

    Definitely there with you, I could see Punch Quest or someone like that do it, but agreed looks like some fishy sh*T.

  • Sam February 1, 2014

    I personally think if this was possible, it wouldn’t have been the first time. The top spots are controlled by the big companies probably doing some similar shady tactics, so how could an Indie developer go above and beyond this – is another issue all together.

    If he did use bots, I’m sure it wouldn’t have been the main cause of his surge – because if it was we would see MANY more situations similar to this one.

    I think a majority of the reviews/downloads are from actual people curious on how this game “sucks” so much that they have to try it. There’s no way bots alone could have done this….the game needs traction itself to do anything. If he did find a way to scam the system, I don’t think he would have been the only guy on the planet to do so…..

    My 2 cents.

  • Mark February 1, 2014

    RIP of app store search algorithm.

  • Samuel February 1, 2014


    I guess maybe my understanding of the app store is limited when it comes to looking at the charts for top free and paid apps and how devs are able to manipulate their way to the top. Instead of hating on this dude I would be more interested in learning what he did as an indie dev to get his app up there so we all can possibly learn and implement a similar strategy into our own app marketing.

  • Muller February 1, 2014

    Carter, a bot DL looks way different. And these apps does not clue in the charts.

  • Markusn February 1, 2014

    Hey Carter,

    I think you are missing some things with your analysis:
    We are at a peak of app store scamming. A lot of things have been tried and are being tried. Bot nets for dl’s and reviews are not new and in fact they are somewhat readily available BUT: only for a boatload of upfront money.
    If you read through Dong’s Twitter stream, the guy seems pretty genuine. And definitely not of the rich kid type.
    So you would have to go all the way and extend your theory to cover that one guy somehow getting his hand on a massive botnet. And then use it to catapult app up the charts that is lousily monetized? It doesn’t add up.
    There is more: Stickiness. You can catapult an app up the free charts. It’s a known number and right now probably somewhere between 15k and 25k. Legal, with advertisement. The illegal ways are not much cheaper. It happens every day. And all those apps, once up, sink like stones within hours. Flappy bird climbed steadily and stuck like glue.
    That again would require massive amounts of $ or his own private Mega-Botnet. Again, for a crappy game with lousy monetization?
    You know where we saw similar download cycles? With the original Temple Run. Took four months to get any type of traction but then the kids latched on, carried it to Nr. 1 and it was there for months. Imangi by that time did all their pushes already to not much effect, then it went truly viral.
    Last, the reviews. It’s a known thing on amazon that reviews in itself can go viral. See Three-Wolves-Moon and Tuscan Milk. Looking at what the kids say on youtube and twitter it seems this is genuine fun for them.
    tl;dr: fishy: yes. but if he did it in any fishy way he has more $ than any of the large, venture backed money reeking behemoths out there. or has a larger private botnet than Anonymous. Or found a way nobody has found before. Future will hopefully tell 🙂

  • Ash February 1, 2014

    So then what about those weird reviews. Who started the weird/angry review contest? Does it say in the app to leave a ridiculous review? Curious to know how that happened.

  • Ash February 1, 2014

    Okay just downloaded the game finally and I’ve got to say, I’m kind of having fun lol. Maybe it’s the hype or the fact that I can’t get more than 3 score! My kids are playing it now and they’re LOVING it. I still think something is weird about the reviews but this game is quite interesting!

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas February 1, 2014

    @Everyone – all great points and I really appreciate everyone’s contribution. I think what I see are that these games all seem to have a crazy viral loop, but that loop is being supported by something beyond just the game. Social media, the press, and potential other shadier systems are at work to keep all three of these game at the top. Remember, this isn’t just about Flappy Birds – it’s about the fact that all 3 are in the top 6 games.

    “Stickiness” is kind of a loose term here – there are TONS of games that have equal or better stickiness than these games. If stickiness was what it’s all about, every game company in the world would be able to push a pretty good game to the top and it would stay there for a while. In fact, Candy Crush has some of the best addiction/retention in the entire app store, yet requires millions of dollars a week just to keep it at the top of the charts.

    Maybe this is the dawn of a new era in app store marketing and virality, I don’t know. This blog post was simply an opinion that the chances of this happening are well beyond 1:1,000,000 and I’ve seen enough sketchy shit to know that most success is created in the app store. There just isn’t a way to get three apps to the top 10 unless you have something no one else does (not just money). I suppose Twitter may be that new thing.

    If yes, I am buying a ton of Twitter stock on Monday 🙂

  • MO February 1, 2014

    The more I investigate the more it seems like a Black Swan moment. It’s not the type of thing that can really be planned. The so-called fishy reviews sound exactly like how teens are talking about this game on Twitter, Youtube, Vine, etc. Do some research everyone.

    I’m with Charles here… this looks like a Gangnam style-esque phenomenon. Might as well enjoy the wave while it’s here.

    And before you call the game sh*tty based on it’s humble appearances, play it a few times, and you will see exactly what it is that is making these teens go crazy and post.

    And for whoever thinks it is impossible to reach the top of the app store without a marketing budget, guess what… my game did exactly that last February

    I topped out at #9 in all games and #14 in all apps. To this day I have theories on why it happened, but I really can’t say definitively. Luck absolutely played a role & it’s not something I could hope to replicate without the stars aligning for me once more.

    My game did not stick in the charts like Dong’s because the replay value and cult following was not there. The game was more complex, but not nearly as good! Again, I would encourage you to search around the web on various social sites and observe how much and how often people are playing the game before you respond to this. Would also be a good idea to play the game and experience the frustration and strong compulsion loop (I was literally ecstatic when I scored 5)

    Hoping to get back to work and stop letting this game ruin my life 🙂


  • MO February 1, 2014

    All in on TWTR! 🙂

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas February 1, 2014

    @Muoyo – Awesome points both on this post and on Facebook. I stand by my comment about how these games suck, but I think it depends on how you define that. If we’re going by “what makes you feel the most anxious when you play” then these games are right on with Snood and other arcade style addictive games. But I also know think that if these games had 3 reviews and were ranked in the top 1000, perception on quality would change. I think that perception is wildly malleable (fine by me), but the quality of games like this is not very high on the 10 star scale.

    I suppose “sh*tty apps” is the wrong term and should replaced by “simple, basic, uncomplicated, easy” apps. But then we’d all be screwed because that would mean everyone who does re-skins would now be making……good apps?

    That can’t be possible 😉

  • abc February 1, 2014

    Carter you know whats really shitty? Your games. Those that you sold through apptopia. Shitty games with shitty graphics with ads popping all the time, even during the shitty game. Its YOU who scammed the apple appstore with tons of low quality games bombarding users with ads. Looks like someone needs to kick some sense into you.

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas February 1, 2014

    @Abc – thanks for your well thought out input. Sounds like you’ve got a good head on your shoulders. Good luck getting to D, e, and f with your name.

  • To February 1, 2014


    i found your site while looking for infos about the game flappy bird which i heard about at jayisgames, a gaming news site. I played the game because of the review on jay’s that stated the game was insanely hard and that is so rare nowaday it’s an immediate call for action among many gamers. My point of view (for what is worth) is that the game is indeed hard and short, the exact kind that you play when you wait for the espresso and show to your friends : hey look, 18 pipes! your turn. Obviously very viral.

    My question is more about your article :

    you say you can automate hundreds of devices to download the game and game the appstore ranking but it (must) cost money and you say that it made no money using admobs? err

    My question is : what monetising strategy would you use if you had a game like that.
    thank you

  • ben February 1, 2014

    I’m with Mo and Charles on this one. I think Dong is legit and his game truly just went viral. Even if bots were involved I think it had minimal effect on the stickiness of the game. I found out about this game when I was out of town and my wife texts me and says Why don’t you make a game like flappy bird…She said her and my 4 year old were playing at night and were laughing and having fun playing it. I come home and my teenagers are playing as well comparing their scores. They are deep in social media and said their friends all play as well..They say they first found out about it from my niece who is a social media junkie. The reviews that are coming in question are consistent with what they see on Instagram and Youtube. Instead of hating on this guys hustle I would be trying to replicate what he did here. I know the power of social media and have been trying to market my games through Instagram with a little success. Don’t hate, congratulate….hahah

  • MO February 1, 2014

    @Ben – Agreed! We are all witnesses of Dong! lol

    @Carter – Agree that this is the same level (or lower) code complexity of alot of reskins out there. Major difference here is the experience of it. Dong has put a lot of care into how the game feels, from how the buttons fly down into the screen to how the pipes expand and make an old-school sound effect, to how the bird takes a crazy dramatic dive when you inevitably die (very quickly). It’s somehow difficult in a way that is still fun for the player, who wants to prove that they can score better than 5 (at least that’s how I feel, lol)

    For the reskins, the focus is generally not on these things, but getting them out the door in significant volume (which makes sense because the strategy is different). Also his decision not to use interstitials ends up being a decent one in a game where you will be dying every 2 seconds. I doubt the game would have spread the way it did with interstitials in there.

    Don’t think this type of success will be easily replicated, but it would be good to figure out if social media can be a boon to other lower-ranked apps.

  • Jason February 1, 2014

    I think his other 2 apps shot up because of flappy bird itself. If you read the reviews, almost everyone who played flappy bird also then tried out the other two apps. Some even noting it is helping them train for specific sporting events (weird lol).

    I think they shot up too because the simplistic feel flappy birds give, and by giving people the impression of quick and easy games you can get use to within seconds, everyone figured why not try his other games and see if they are just as fun/hard/challenging.

    Whereas with the bigger games, I make like one but I then don’t think to download other new big games that I have to learn. Atleast that’s the impression I get.

  • Caesar February 1, 2014

    Well well well. Downloaded the game and played it couple of times…its great! I hid it from my kids. A couple of hours later, suddenly I hear “Awesome!” from my 6 year! I asked what’s “a-w-e-s-o-m-e”…and she said, the new game Flappy Bird! For the last hour, all I have been hearing while watching the football is “AWESOME!”, “FANTASTIC”, “COOL”….!
    Now I am fighting with her to leave the iPad alone and get to bed!

    The point is this is pure cocain!

    For my meagre 2 cents worth research, this game seems legit in its meteoric rise! Carter I recall your keynote speech last November at the AE event: You mentioned that Twitter is set to be the channel of distribution, and clearly twitter has played a huge role is the DL for this game.

  • Phil February 1, 2014

    How should he of been monetizing then?

  • Jason February 2, 2014


    At the very least he should have added a interstitial upon opening the game, and maybe one everytime the game becomes active. He should have included a retry button.

    There should have been a more games & free game button. He could have added a remove ads in-app purchase, and made it so that you can only get rid of the ads for ‘x’ amount of time before you have to buy again.

    He could have provided upgrades like buying shields and/or lifes so you can get further, getting rid of peoples frustration.

    That alone would have made him ALOT 😀

  • Jason February 2, 2014

    RE: I can see the frustration in something like this happening to someone who did everything wrong, had no monetization plans and ultimately did nothing to grow his game and let it sit there for 6 months. From what I started to gather, some popular people with huge social media accounts started speaking about this game and it blew up.

    It’s a shame it doesn’t happen to someone who does everything right and did everything they could to make their game go viral, as opposed to someone who did this for fun without the expectation of it growing so big. Nonetheless, I’m still happy for him, obviously. But there are people who would have deserved it more! =)

  • Phil February 2, 2014


    Don’t you think the interstitial might of actually hurt it’s virality?

  • Jason February 2, 2014

    You never know until you try. In theory you’d think yes, it should. But until you put it into practice you can’t really say yes or no. Especially since figures with strong social accounts were playing the game and that’s why people were downloading and getting hooked anyway. I don’t think they’d mind having to close an Ad if after that during the game they don’t have to see it again.

  • Phil February 2, 2014


    So your theory is certain key influencers mentioned the game, which is what made it take off?

  • Jason February 2, 2014

    Yes phil, one guy who did was:


    He has 21 million subscribers and supposedly the record for most subscribers on youtube? Either way I know there were a few that did, so that helps.

  • SD February 2, 2014

    Carter I think I agree with you somewhat, Even if you read through Elaine’s interview with this this guy, I don’t think he was very descriptive about the whole thing and was trying to not give out whole bunch of information. I am sure someone who is really excited about success of their apps would at least describe in more detail about success.

  • Alex February 2, 2014

    Have you played this game? Your article would hold weight if it was a crap game… but I’m absolutely hooked and I can easily see how many others are hooked too.

    So i reckon it’s legit… i reckon it’s legit because the game is so damn addictive. And I wish this dude the best of luck…

    The only thing i would say is that he should put his ad banners at the bottom of the screen. He’ll get heaps better conversion rate than where it is at the moment, which is at the top of the screen.

  • Alex February 2, 2014

    actually, i second @Jasons comment… @pewdiepie just recently made a youtube video of this game… it got nearly 5m views… i can bet you that most of those viewers would have gone and downloaded it immediately. That many downloads in such a short amount of time would have propelled it up the app store rankings, probably to #1… then once it hit #1 then the app store takes over and it’s pretty much game over for anyone else

  • EG February 2, 2014

    It could be. I have seen clumsier attempts where you’ll see 5-star review after 5-star review being verbatim copies of one another.

  • KP February 2, 2014

    Hey Carter! So, how would you have monitized this game differently? I think this guy left a ton on the table with stupid banner ads, just curious about your thoughts. Thanks,

    Of course he had bots pushing this! Now that its in the media, its has enough to continue a bit of the momentum. But he used bots to get it there. Seen it time and time again.

  • Carter Thomas Carter Thomas February 2, 2014

    @KP – If I were going to monetize this, I would keep it very basic but I would leverage the monster traffic. Meaning, I wouldn’t get cute with in-app purchases or whatever. I’d probably just use a full screen ad and negotiate some monster deal with a top grossing game that converted well. Like $8-10 CPI and give them exclusive real estate. Assuming there are 1M new players a day across all the games (based on Game Center), I’d say that would bring in about $250,000 a day.

    I think in a situation like this you want to keep it really simple so that you don’t get in the way of the speed at which people keep playing.

  • Phil February 2, 2014


    Perhaps but you have to remember that just having a simple addictive game doesn’t automatically propell you up the charts, there are 100s if not 1000s of similar games already on the App store with just as cute graphics that haven’t done as well, so it can’t be the game itself which has got it to where it is, as you and others have said I think it was @pewdiepie that has made this happen, that of course if @pewdiepie did his video before the game was a viral hit, otherwise I don’t know.

  • Phil February 2, 2014


    Exactly part of why the game is addictive is that people restart quickly.

  • kek February 3, 2014

    Flappy Bird is just a stel from my game “piou piou” https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=air.pioupiou&hl=fr

    The guy didn’t invent anything…

  • Shane LK February 3, 2014

    Interesting take, but I believe that this really was a legit viral phenomenon. For example, the negative reviews you cited aren’t really negative reviews IMO. They are a humorous way of explaining the game. The very appeal of the game is that is near IMPOSSIBLE to do well. So it kind of became a meme as a result. That’s why you see reviews like “KILL ME NOW” with 5 stars.

    I came up with my own theory on why this app shot up the charts, and it has more to do with the traditional viral lift-off of internet memes and how social powered the boom: http://www.appbattleground.com/2014/02/02/flappy-bird-dominated-app-stores/

  • Alexander Gotriev February 3, 2014


    maybe you are just hating because he did not monetize his apps with spam like your shitty apps? I guess “shitty apps” is a matter of “opinion” Maybe you should stop hating. Even if he was being shady, what’s it to you? You really put yourself under a bad light. You remind me of the prison snitch.

  • Patrice February 3, 2014

    Oh yes, I remember to have played “piou piou” some years ago!!
    Is it possible it was a Flash version ?

    About ripped of games, our game Dino Rush (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/dino-rush/id396101698?mt=8) had been completly copied by this: http://www.amazon.com/Feelingtouch-Inc-Fruit-Devil-Full/dp/B007TBHAOC (which used to be on Play Store too)

  • Patrice February 3, 2014

    BTW, those who mentionned PewDiePie video as an explanation of the initial boost look at the dates: the video was posted on Youtube on Januray 27th and the charts climbing starts in December last year. Must be something else…

  • Nathan February 4, 2014

    I also noticed what patrice pointed out. I mean it just seems fishy.
    Point 1: The app came out ages ago and didn’t get many downloads till BAM downloads everywhere. Word of mouth couldn’t have caused so many downloads out of nowhere!
    Point 2: The app is a rip off of other apps that came before it which were of MUCH better quality e.g line birds. This app is just a broken jumbled mess of code which confuses me as to how it could be more successful. I could program something better than flappy bird in my SLEEP!
    Point 3: The pewdiepie video could have had NOTHING to do with the amount of downloads. As patrice mentioned the pewdiepie video came out AFTER the downloads started skyrocketing.
    And my final and most defining point in my opinion is.
    The original underground status of the app.
    I mean REALLY, flappy bird was originally so underground on the app store that it would be IMPOSSIBLE for the downloads to spring up so fast via word of mouth. The jump is just too huge for such a small space of time. So huge that its unatural. As an app programmer myself I know from experience that an underground app normally gets just around 5 or so downloads a day. I’ve never really got over 10 downloads a day. No amount of word of mouth could increase the downloads of an underground app like that from 10 downloads a day to 1000 + downloads a day within a few weeks!

    I rest my case. You can protest all you like but you can’t deny the evidence.

  • Nima February 4, 2014

    Here is another signal.

    User rating progression for Flappy Bird on Google Play in the past 12 days:


    As far as I have followed, apps that are going viral improve their user rating too. This one is being more disliked than liked meanwhile it’s gaining popularity on android devices. That usually happens when a game has reached its climax and is becoming outdated. (It lately happened to Candy Crush Saga)

    The top chart is the accumulated user rating and the bottom chart shows the new ratings every day.

    This “rating trajectory” zooms in more on how the mean rating declines over time. Boxes are new releases and circles show that the game goes to the next class of installs (the last circle shows it has gone from 5M+ to 10M+ installs):


    Still consistent, but why new users who just start the game are getting more suspicious than excited as the ball is rolling?

  • Nima February 4, 2014

    Ok, I bring a similar example, another app that shows this weird behavior of growing wild while rating worse:


    Do you know what app this is? The one that brings the fingerprint scanner to your android device, just like iPhone 5S:


    Which is not even a funny prank, it’s a fake scam. Yet it gains more 5 stars than 1 stars every day as it keeps growing. All weird pattern is that it’s rated worse compared to yesterday – while going viral:


    So back to the flappy bird, has it reached it’s climax and is already becoming uncool?

    Or people are slowly finding out that it didn’t deserve the media attention it got (for whatever reason that happened at the first place).

  • Eduardo Rocoha February 4, 2014

    You should check for the reviews on Ironpants. They have the same morbid style, I smeel something very strange…

  • Dario Sangiovanni February 5, 2014

    I must admit that is very strange…
    The release date, zero success immediatly after…and now boom. The possibility exists but it’s really, really low, even if you have luck with blog/video/tweets publishing. By the way this article increases Flappy Bird virality too!
    I suppose the developer spent these months coding the reviews bot but we never know, and probably now he won’t use it for some time.
    The only one who knows it is Apple, they can check each review’s account and see its activities. Don’t know why they still don’t consider the weight of an account when they calculate an app rank. Why a review from a new account must have the same weight of an old and very active one?
    But as you say Carter, we can’t be sure about it. Personally I don’t believe in luck without a quality product, but I believe in algorithm exploits.

  • Neil Wheatley February 5, 2014

    I think you’ve misinterpreted those reviews as ‘negative’. The game is extremely difficult but fair. It’s frustrating but strangely enjoyable. The review texts you screencapped reflect this. They don’t say ‘the game is bad’, they say ‘the game is frustrating but I like it’.

  • Matt February 5, 2014

    Great point Carter! I was curious about your monetization ideas. Do you still like RevMob or would you go with ChartBoost?

    Thank you,

  • Sophie Kovic February 5, 2014

    I agree with what Shane said.

    I believe this is a genuine result of viral behavior in the same vein as the Habasco(?) sugar free gummy bear reviews on amazon. If you haven’t heard about it, google it. It was a case where a terrible product gained incredible fame and popularity due to a huge upswing of “meme” type reviews (the gummies turned out to be massive laxatives!)

    Certain sneezers or influencers caught on to this trend of leaving funny reviews (actually glowing reviews- so much so as to say the game was so addictive/good that it was ruining their life) that it became a true global phenomenon. People trying to out do each other to leave the funniest review.

    I don’t believe bots would create this consistent type of parodic reviews.

    Just my 2 cents.

  • Thomas February 5, 2014

    I have first notice flappy bird a few weeks ago and I notice it rank first in free game… at first I think it is very fishy, it was rank 1000+ on Dec 1 2013… and boom it go all the way to first.
    But then after I check out all the tweets from people and look at some of the review, and play a bit with it… it seems that it is the real deal.
    For all those people who think it is based on algorithm download etc… if this is the case WHY does the developer only has a pathetic banner ads to catch all his success.. if everything is based on some algorithm to generate the download or reviews and it is planned. He should has all the bell and whistle in his app to monetize this huge jump, NO?

    And I see some app developer thinks underground app will never has it’s day… I would said that this is not TRUE…
    I have a non-game app that get less than 50 downloads a day jump to 500 downloads during 2012 X’mas within days… I have no idea why, I didn’t run any promotion at the time (not even a youtube video) but all of the sudden we got a big surge of download during X’Mas.. the app gone from 50 daily download to 1000 daily download by New Year of 2013 in less than 2 weeks!! I was googling all around trying to figure out what happened during the 2 weeks period but I found nothing. I have no promotion , no ads running people just all of the sudden decided to download it!

  • Brian February 5, 2014

    I think the thing a lot of you are missing is the fact that he didn’t just go from dead to success in his ranks and stay there, he went from like rank 1400 (dead) to 750 rank in one day and BACK DOWN to 1400 approx a couple of days later, and happened every week. This cycle seems to have taken place during the same time of the week every time and repeated weekly until the app took the top ranks. Normally if an app is growing virally the curve will be quite smooth not up and down 750 ranks at a time! People just tell more people and the growth accelerates. Something else I heard was that these bot download providers don’t usually operate on weekends because there is a higher number of downloads required to achieve ranks so they prefer midweek promotions.

    There is no denying it, the game has a cult appeal, and that would explain why after each burst cycle it lifted a little higher than the previous burst (for every thousand fake users, you might find one or two real ones who see it in category charts and like it) then finally reaching a point in the charts where it could take care of itself and receive enough visibility to ride the rest of the way.

  • jordan February 5, 2014
  • Doug and.or Dinsdale Piranha February 5, 2014

    I think the developer is just as much in the dark about why as anyone else. The best explanation seems to be that some griefer groups like four chna decided it would be luls to see if they could boost some random game to the top of the chart. Think virtual machines creating thousands of store accounts just to download and rate with some half-sensible comments. The morbid part is what hooks the ‘too-smart’ crowd.

    Then the griefers sit back and capture the LOLs as people wonder how it happened.

  • ForestGeologist February 5, 2014

    I think its also worth mentioning that Flappy Bird isn’t even a that original game. Its basically the (now nearly a decade old) flash game “helicopter” (that you can play at http://www.helicoptergame.net/) with decent “retro”-graphics.
    I still like Flappy Bird, as it is definitely a fun game to play on the bus but Its still unoriginal and yet an another “endless runner” -type of game.

  • Adrian February 5, 2014

    Ok… Before you guys go and put down this dude for using “bots” get some real information. These reviews are all coming from reddit users. The guys nephew posted it on reddit and asked for help to jumpstart his app. Thats why all the reviews are diabolical and ridiculous, its a freakin joke. I mean do you really think bots write santanistic but HILARIOUS reveiws? yes, the grammar is perfect as well as the spelling, thats because reddit users pride themselves on that.


  • Bob 98 February 5, 2014

    I find this game infuriating to be honest and I think that could have just led to people telling their friends and so on – classic word of mouth. I thought Apple stopped bots a while ago?


  • samwize February 6, 2014

    When I first look at the reviews I think he probably paid for the reviewers. These paid reviewers usually write garbage and rate 4 or 5 stars so as to look legit.

    Your observation of the ranking rising and dropping also hinted the use of some tools/help.

  • Sophie Kovic February 6, 2014

    Ok Brian, good point. I guess we would have to say that it’s a mix, probably the bots pushed him up, but the viral reviews kept him there…

  • david February 6, 2014

    are you seriously asking if this guy is legit?

    dude, you’re the biggest scammer (spammer, cloner, greaseball) out there and you ask if someone is legit?

    get real.

  • Dan February 6, 2014

    “It’s a shame it doesn’t happen to someone who does everything right and did everything they could to make their game go viral, as opposed to someone who did this for fun without the expectation of it growing so big.” – Jason

    I’d say it’s completely the opposite; if one TRIES to make something viral, the forced desperation and the virality not being organic means it’s much less deserved than a genuine grassroots viral success. It’s like forced memes, the public can smell desperation and try-hard PR a mile off.

  • Muller February 6, 2014

    @jordan It’s a hoax story of course

  • Olly Whittle February 6, 2014

    @ Carter OR anyone taht can help!!

    On your flappy bird monetization top tip
    Carter said: I’d probably just use a full screen ad and negotiate some monster deal with a top grossing game that converted well. Like $8-10 CPI and give them exclusive real estate.

    So how would I do this? I assume I’d need to be experiencing the high download numbers first for them to be interested? But is it a matter of conatacting a game company directly and arranging a deal or is it done through an ad network like chartboost? How could I execute your tip? Thank you!

  • Kim February 6, 2014

    Nathan> yes it’s a rip off but it’s not “line birds” it’s “piou piou contre les cactus” released in 2011 first as a flash game, then on ios and android (the ios version does not exists anymore)


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  • Nathan February 6, 2014

    <Kim Ah, yes. I saw that game earlier myself. Also I had a go at flappy bird myself and its just a jumbled broken MESS. It seems really fishy. I mean the charts look random and unatural. As an app programmer myself I can say that it takes A LOT of work to get a high amount of downloads on an underground app. It took my app a whole 2 years to reach 1000 downloads so an unatural jump like that of flappy bird just makes me skeptical. REALLY skeptical

  • Tre February 6, 2014

    ‘Life destroying’ means that the game is horribly addictive. It’s a 5-star game, and I hate saying that, because I feel it should be a 1 and yet, it’s dominated me. I must give it the respect it deserves.

  • Jonathan February 7, 2014


    Just because you can write code to solve a “problem” doesn’t mean it’s a “problem” to would-be customers, and that’s assuming there’s the least bit of originality in the app you created: what if you’ve created yet-another-todo-app/task management app where there’s already over 2000 of them in the store? Why should anyone go to yours? Even if you advertise a bit, why yours, versus anyone else’s? If there are enough pre-existing solutions available, perhaps they’ve already soaked up most of the market. Let’s face it: most non-game apps aren’t nearly unique enough that there aren’t many solutions already available in an ecosystem when there are somewhere around a million apps.

    Speaking as a developer as well, I think you’re just bitter and jealous that you’ve not figured out how to get people’s attention and persuaded them to buy YOUR app. the reality is the AppStore is a rather random thing for discovery these days, unless someone does the right PR campaign and gets people to spread it virally, and that’s even if you have a “great” app of any kind: I have no idea what your app (or apps) are like for quality/stability/etc. and what they’ve been rated by users (if at all) as you’ve not stated that.

  • Alex February 7, 2014

    What if this is a viral campaign of AppStore created by Apple?

  • Chris February 7, 2014

    lol, this is so obvious to see he used bots.

    Anyone moderately knowledgeable about IP cloaking and bots can see this is a straight up textbook cheater.

    Obviously loads of people will download it if it hits number 1. That’s how you get the ball rolling, shove to the top and watch everyone download it.

    The game is beyond terrible. How ANYONE can genuinely enjoy it is beyond me. Seriously, way way beyond me. I downloaded it, played it for 5 minutes. Thought, omg… is this for real?

    The coding is horrific to say the least, the controls are terrible, the graphics are hardly worth looking at… and the game play? Difficult? No its not difficult by design, it’s difficult because it’s SO poorly written.

    It’s rare for people to bother to review things, let alone type the masses of text these “people” apparently have. It’s clear as day it’s standard text with %game name here% placed in it.

    Honestly, anyone with an ounce of IT knowledge can see this is a complete joke, but fair play on the lad, he’s done what he wanted to do, and as per usual the media laps it up.

  • Will February 7, 2014

    Obviously the secret to success is people telling other people NOT to play your game. Everybody ALWAYS wants to do exactly what other people tell them not to do, even if they have no actual desire to do it beforehand.

  • Seagull February 7, 2014

    Terrible sub-conclusions based on no supporting data with sensationalist writing.

    You cannot seriously write a blog post about scamming without any evidence to support your point. You literally have nothing. Not a single piece of solid evidence.

    It’s as if you just wrote a sensationalist article to get attention and scam people into wasting their time reading your crap. Oh, wait…

  • Nathan February 7, 2014


    Look, I have a few things to say to you.
    1. The app I made was free and I had no plans of making it paid.
    2. It was an idea that hadn’t been attempted before from what I had seen.
    3. I’m perfectly fine about the fact that my app isn’t popular. I mean, I’m just glad people have downloaded it.
    4. I programmed that app when I was about 13. Bearing that in mind you have to think about how much work I put into making it. Hell I had to buy a new pc just so I could run the windows phone emulator to test the app (I released the app on the windows phone store). I put A LOT of work and care into making it instead of just making a half assed attempt at cloning something really badly and watching it rake in downloads through false advertising. Each download I have feels more satisfying because I know people would have downloaded it because they were interested in the idea of my app and not because it was masking as another app. The guy who made flappy bird on the other hand just blatantly ripped off another already existing app and somehow his one got downloads for some reason. He got downloads through ripping off another app and that is just cheating your way to the top.

    I rest my case.

  • DrClown February 8, 2014

    I only played it because I saw pewdiepie play it, and I didn’t think it could be as hard as he made it look. But it was. After 5 minutes, I deleted it.

  • Alexander February 8, 2014

    The first 24h of the 1.2 version has 24k rating but not a single review. Not very usual, huh? Where are all “my life end”, “satan”, “stupidly addicting” going?

  • Mattie Belle February 8, 2014

    I question your research. As you seem to only highlight a few negative phrases in the reviews. One of them claims that Flappy Bird is literally out to kill them. Another starts off with saying “I hate it” which you highlight, and goes on to say “Actually, I love it…”

    Seriously, you tell us to read the five star reviews. Have YOU read those reviews…?

  • tyler February 9, 2014

    you’re an idiot sorry to tell you

  • rhein February 9, 2014

    I think business is business whatever the marketing sytle is (and is not a criminal) and as long as the player/gamer enjoy the product

  • Vince K February 9, 2014

    Your comment is a simple case of jealousy. In any episodes of life, people can get lucky. Just learn to accept that and be happy with what you have. Stop thinking what other people might or might not do to get whatever they have. I teach that to my 5 years old, and even she understands that. How old are you?

  • Kevin February 9, 2014

    Okay seriously… those commenters who are like “this game is terrible” don’t get the point at all. Flappy Bird doesn’t have good graphics and it’s bad quality? ARE YOU KIDDING. AS IF NO ONE NOTICED THAT. That’s why it’s popular in the first place. Saying that sounds INCREDIBLY pretentious, stuck-up, and ignorant.

    If you’re steaming off because you think you put oh so much effort into your own app, NOBODY CARES if you think your app is Oh So Incredible; it’s not going to go viral just like that. And like what someone wrote above, people can smell attempts to make something “viral” from a mile away and they hate it. It’s a hit or miss thing, and if your app missed, I’m sorry, but that’s no reason to go hating on Dong Nguyen. And if you think he copied some other app… I’m pretty sure that anyone could invent Flappy Bird in their sleep. It’s not exactly original and nobody thinks it is, but that doesn’t mean it’s a ripoff either. How many to-do apps are there in the Play Store, again?

    The only evidence the author has against this app is that it suddenly went viral. Anyone who thinks that’s reason has obviously never heard of how the Internet works. People share inane and stupid things on the internet BECAUSE THEY’RE INANE AND STUPID. Do you not understand that? This is especially the case for teenagers or young adults: I heard about Flappy Bird at my school and now I guarantee there’s not a kid in my school who doesn’t know what it is. (And believe me, these include some of the best high schoolers in the US.) OF COURSE it’s possible for an app to spread virally in just a couple of days. Welcome to the Internet.

    As for the “fake” reviews: I too left a review like that. And so have a couple of people I know. Maybe it’s because of the other reviews, but if you aren’t frustrated that you can’t get a higher score on Flappy Bird, then you’re too busy hating on it to pay attention. It’s not unusual to hate Flappy Bird and the app stores are a nice place to vent one’s anger.

    I’m sorry if I sound really angry what with all the caps (not normally me), but this is really just a bunch of speculation ungrounded in any sort of fact. Maybe you think Flappy Bird did X or Y wrong, but it’s not right to accuse him of faking his reviews or ripping off another app just because of that. In any case, he did manage to make his game addicting enough – intentionally or not – to attract a wide audience. And to all the app developers here, I encourage you to take a step back from being upset at Flappy Bird to think about what lessons you can take from it in building your own apps. Best of luck!

  • Vu February 9, 2014

    what a hack… Carter, just worry about yourself. whether the guy did anything or not, it has no relevance to your life. you sound like the housewives who gossip about the girl next door that they’re jealous about…

  • fu February 9, 2014

    carther, you are stupid. don’t write useless article anymore. the app is not a destructive one but this piece of worthless crap you have written. cheers! 🙂

  • Kevin February 9, 2014

    Here comes a more specific response to @Chris:

    “Anyone moderately knowledgeable about IP cloaking and bots can see this is a straight up textbook cheater.”

    I’d like to know how this involves any knowledge of “IP cloaking and bots” at all. Beyond, of course, the ability to leave fake reviews, but understanding that bots can leave fake reviews doesn’t require any such knowledge, nor does any such knowledge enhance one’s understanding of this situation. Pretending that is does seems disdainful.

    “The coding is horrific to say the least, the controls are terrible, the graphics are hardly worth looking at… ”

    Have you seen the code yourself? The only fault I see is that collision detection is sometimes a bit off and it lags. “Horrific”? Or are you just spewing nonsense? Also, how are the controls terrible?… I mean, WHAT CONTROLS? (rolls eyes) And obviously you’ve never heard of Nintendo? Have you ever wondered if the graphics are pixelated on purpose?

    “and the game play? Difficult? No its not difficult by design, it’s difficult because it’s SO poorly written.”

    LOLOL then go improve the code, I guarantee it’s not going to be any easier to navigate that bird through those pipes.

    “It’s rare for people to bother to review things, let alone type the masses of text these “people” apparently have. It’s clear as day it’s standard text with %game name here% placed in it.”

    I heavily digress. Even the reviews this author highlights include bird-specific references (heh). But seriously, read these reviews: many are rather creative, as is the nature of Internet commentators. (Excluding the many one-word reviews/ratings, of course… but that’s no more unusual)

    “Honestly, anyone with an ounce of IT knowledge can see this is a complete joke, but fair play on the lad, he’s done what he wanted to do, and as per usual the media laps it up.”

    Obviously it’s a joke. That’s why it’s so popular. Congratulations on reaching a conclusion that nobody has questioned the whole time. Not sure what you mean about the media. The media is simply reporting on something that millions of people have downloaded.


    Sorry, I have no life.

  • Jo Tizen February 9, 2014

    whether he used bot or not the outcome is the same his Flappy Bird game is now a smash hit… good for him

  • Cody L. February 9, 2014

    I like your theory. If you look at all the games, they have the sime signature spikes at congruent times. This shit kinda scrares me

  • Vince February 9, 2014

    Lol. This article is funny as sh….oh well.

  • FakeReviews February 9, 2014

    The reviews are fake. I only had to read a couple to notice the same repetitive sentences, over and over again. What a scammer.

  • G-148 February 9, 2014

    Pretty cool how quick some here are quick to attack others with this “eat the rich” mob mentality. Sorry you feel threatened by the success of others.

    But hey, at least you all have some other indie devs out there fearing the idea of success with their games, so good job.

  • VinceB February 9, 2014

    And it’s not the only fishy thing the game is a copycat from this one: http://www.zanorg.com/prodperso/pioupiou.html

    The tweet of the real creator:

    Flappy Bird is the ultimate mobile game ripoff
    There’s a dark side to mobile game development focused completely on cloning popular titles

  • Fomeister February 10, 2014

    I wish I could set a pingback shield against your post…

    And while I should not lower myself to ignorance here being 43 years old, and I never troll having run forums for 24 years, I will make an exception this time which I will most certainly regret as you certainly have more experience at both trolling and being ignorant.

    You need to get over this, remove your post, apologize, archive it, and move on.

    If you do not, I will make it my mission to utterly and totally make you rue the day you published such a slipshod, ill-conceived piece of manufactured malfeasance parading as a blog post.

  • Fadzlan February 10, 2014

    To those that can spot bots (eg. repetitive words) on the reviews, its not conclusive! Even Angry Birds have those too.

    The bots will post a lot of reviews of popular apps. That is one way they pretend to be legit! If a game has reviewers which only review the game(and ONLY THAT game) five stars, I believe Apple would be smart to take those down in no time.

  • Andreas February 10, 2014

    It’s clear that Flappy Bird became popular by fraudulently making it a “bestseller” through bot downloads and people only then started to download it, inspired by those blatantly fake “reviews”.

    I wonder how many people bashing the OP here are paid spammers as well. Obviously, the Flappy Bird author has no problem paying to manipulate opinion.

  • Bob Dole February 10, 2014

    I suspect most of your blog articles are plagiarized. While I have as much supporting data as you do for this article, I can only assume you are plagiarizing other sources. If this is not the case, hats off to you.

  • Steveie Ray Jimi Balmer February 10, 2014

    if he releases a paid for app in the near future he has the backing of this fiasco to generate awareness of his next endeavor, I think that was the plan all along. Who knows.

  • Thomas Currey February 10, 2014

    It seems weird to knock a guy for negative tactics without any proof. This kind of attempt to manipulate peoples opinions about anything online are so rampant that there’s even a bunch of companies where people buy likes on Facebook (see http://www.facebooklikesreviews.com for instance) but that doesn’t seem to be the case with Flappy Bird, or at least it’s not proven. Whether or not he did some marketing is currently uncomfirmed, but what is the reality is that once people were exposed to it, there was something about the game mechanic and design that struck a real chord with people. That’s the lesson that game developers need to take from Flappy Bird – people saw some value in it. It could be because the game was so devilishly hard and has no learning curve (100% difficult from the start) that people were amused. That’s how I think it went viral.

  • oxipital February 10, 2014

    Wow. Just, wow. “THEY ALL USE DA SAME WORDS!!!!!!” How much vocabulary drift can you expect from one person to the next?

  • SunSailor February 10, 2014

    It’s most likely only me watching Breaking Bad at the moment, but MY first thought on the rising and the immediate take down of the game was, that there somebody is doing money laundry, which went out of control. Paranoid me, shouldn’t watch that much TV.

  • doubleT February 11, 2014

    Welcome to the internet. May I suggest a visit to 4chan, reddit and 9gag?
    Every now and then, something becomes a phenomenon and the graphs would look the same.

    Now, I’ll be back in a few minutes, I hope it’s ok to leave my glas of chocolate milk. You’ll have an eye on it, right?

  • Julian February 11, 2014

    The statements made do need to be supported with evidence. Given that most of the code will more than likely be obfuscated, it’s unlikely without re-engineering, that we will know what this app is actually doing both on the client and through the network. There is also the issue of bot activity (including how traction was built up over a relatively short time period), but this does need to be proved with investigative analysis. It’s unlikely one would be able to prove anything unless you had full disclosure from the developer.

  • marshall scott veach February 11, 2014

    Cody is spot on. @oxipital, go read the reviews. they use all the same words and the words are hella strange. cody didn’t even bring up the really weird ones. like how many people reference satan in their review. seriously, before you think he’s being sensationalist, i challenge you to read 10 reviews and see what you think.

    moreover, some other blogger just released some data showing that the reviews for flappy bird are significantly longer than the app store average. in case statistics is fuzzy for you, when you’re dealing with these kinds of numbers, that’s a really strange thing. the chances of it happening “randomly” are incredibly low.

    @julian, you clearly don’t understand how any of this works. why do you think you would need disclosure from the developer in order to investigate automated bot activity?

    it won’t be long before a computational linguist takes a look at these reviews and we’ll know for sure.

  • dave February 12, 2014

    Heh, a lot of these critical posts are also fakes meaning someone posting with an agenda.

    I quite agree that something fishy is going on, had never heard of this game and do not think it is even slightly addictive or life ruining nor is it reasonable to be a drama queen at all about it, when obviously someone with an agenda wants to pretend he can trick us into believing this.

    So many people today lack morals and human decency. You people should be ashamed of trying to cheat and lie.

  • Akshay R. Pawar February 12, 2014

    A random guy creates a original game and suddenly after time he gets hit and then the people who couldn’t achieve that success starts to feel jealous, hate him and then accuse him for different things.

    Now he deleted his ‘Flappy Bird’ game because of the HATERS and the COPY CATS. And most importantly he wasn’t after money and success.

    Admit it people… you are in this industry only for MONEY nothing else and bcos you can’t get to that success you can’t stand some random passionate game maker achieve that.

  • Janmejai February 12, 2014

    Just because some people reviewed in an unusual manner doesn’t means that the developer paid for downloading and used all those useless marketing tactics,It’s proven fact that you can’t achieve anything by doing or spamming stores with paid reviews….and apple is smart enough to take all those apps down which are spamming the store….a person can’t make $50,000 a day by just bot downloads.
    It was his luck that his app was a huge success and i am sure it will not be easy for him also to get the same success in future.