Mobile gaming is a crap shoot, as Flappy Bird’s success demonstrates

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Flappy Bird soared to the top of the download charts for Android and iOS devices, and both mainstream media outlets and tech enthusiasts are tripping over themselves to praise the game. CNN documented the game’s “maddening pull,” the Huffington Post praised it as earnest and impervious, and Macworld goes so far as to wonder whether it’s the best game ever made for iOS devices. While some of that smacks of hyperbole, the fact that Flappy Bird generates $50,000 a day in ad revenue proves those writers are onto something.

But I think Jon Russell at The Next Web goes one step too far with the claim that Flappy Bird’s success validates the global plans for success of Asia’s messaging giants. Game developers can clearly learn a few lessons here, as many writers have pointed out: Coupling pick-up-and-play simplicity with a high degree of difficulty is often a winning strategy, infinite loops can be addictive, and the Mario-esque obstacles lend a nice retro touch.

At its heart, though, Flappy Bird is just a tweaked version of Tiny Wings or any other tap-to-fly title, with maybe the added element of some rustic charm. No one could have predicted its runaway success, and even its developer seems surprised at the viral marketing that has largely fueled that success. Which is why I completely agree with Charles Pratt, who writes that Flappy Bird proves that no one really knows what consumers want in a casual mobile game.