Three Lessons from Flappy Bird

Jeffrey Hubbard

Category: Strategy


I am fascinated by application gaming. Not only because of the simplicity of the games that manage to create hours and hours of entertainment, but for the economies that they develop. Did you know that the Apple store registered over $10 billion in sales from roughly 3 billion downloads last year? Here’s another fun fact: Flappy Bird, a game that took only a handful of nights to code, quietly became the number one downloaded app for both the iPhone and Android. Interestingly, a game that produced $50,000 dollars a day in revenue for the creator is now no longer available to download.

Already, there are a number of articles that provide insightful commentary about the rise and fall of Flappy Bird—an amazing fact in itself—but my contribution is to examine this phenomenon from our clients’ perspective. Specifically, I’d like to remind us of the lessons we’ve already learned that are reflective in the Flappy Bird experience. I can think of three quick lessons:

  1. Don’t overly complicate the experience for your customers. With Flappy Bird, all a gamer was asked to do was ensure that an animated bird didn’t hit a pipe—pretty simple, right? Simple is good and you can keep something simple by focusing on one or two key objectives. Remember this principle as you think through your strategy for connecting with an audience.
  2. Imitation is still the sincerest form of flattery. A number of developers have copied the Flappy Bird playbook by producing copy-cat games that are topping the charts. Find what works in your industry, then refine and reiterate until it works for your audience. Don’t be afraid to look outside your industry. Remember the insightful example of when Southwest Airlines studied NASCAR to figure out how to onboard passengers and increase their on-time departures.
  3. Develop your vision and get to market. The developer spent a few days working part-time, and Flappy Bird was almost immediately available for download. In my experience with the start-up space and in agency life, the hardest part of a project is deployment, because there’s always something to improve. Let your customers tell you what they want and listen. This will allow you to adapt and create longterm value.

Agree or disagree, leave your thoughts in the comments.

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