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What Flappy Bird teaches us about unexpected success

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If you’re the owner of a smartphone or know someone who is, chances are you’ve heard of the game Flappy Bird.

The game – which requires players to navigate a bird through gaps in pipes by tapping on the screen – has been downloaded more than 50 millions times, garnered more than 47,000 reviews on the app store, and was reported by The Verge to be making ad sales revenue of up to $50,000 a day.

However, the sudden success of the game proved too much for its developer Dong Nguyen, who tweeted on Sunday morning that he would be removing the game from all app stores within the day. Via Twitter, he clarified he was not doing so for legal or copyright reasons, but failed to shed anymore light on the sudden change of events.

Image source: Twitter

Image source: Twitter

The announcement has split the world into two camps; on one hand are the addicted gamers who claimed their lives would be over without the app, and on the other, those who are thankful they will get their lives back.

While any other developer would probably be ecstatic to garner the fame Flappy Bird has brought Hanoi-based Nguyen, is his sudden about-face testament that business success is something one needs more time to prepare for?

Over the weeks, Nguyen’s Twitter feed has indicated that the game’s sudden popularity was something he didn’t expect – or want.

Image source: Twitter

Image source: Twitter

He has also claimed to not be an entrepreneur, said the success of the game was nothing short of sheer “luck” and has asked for “peace” from the general public.

Would Flappy Bird, the most downloaded game on Apple’s app store for the past month, still be up for download had Nguyen planned and anticipated its success?

A sudden rise in popularity is undoubtedly increases demand and responsibility. Be it the viral success of a game or an unexpected promotion, the increase in visibility will have an effect on anyone’s personal and professional lives.

While we’re unclear of the motives or reasons behind Nguyen pulling the game of the app stores, we can only assume the sudden international interest proved too much for the 29-year-old developer.

In between bouts of me trying to get past 10 points on Flappy Bird last weekend (a feat that took nearly six hours, thanks to my awful hand-eye coordination), I realised there were a couple of lessons we can take away from Nguyen’s experience.

1. You never know when opportunity will come knocking

It’s always a good idea to be prepared for success – even if you don’t expect it to arrive for another few years. Proving to employees and bosses alike that you’re constantly on your toes and able to react and respond well to unexpected challenges or opportunities, will prove you’re a leader worth backing.

2. We need to learn when to say no

In the case of Nguyen, saying “no” meant pulling on of the most successful games off app stores around the world. While many may call Nyugen’s move foolish, you have to respect the man’s decision to draw the line. I can only imagine the pressure and anxiety he must face in the sudden wake of the game’s success and the desire to retreat.

I’m not saying to jump ship when the going gets though, but knowing when ask for help when you feel overwhelmed can be the difference between the success and failure of your project or organisation.

But while Flappy Bird is no longer available for download, I have a feeling we haven’t seen the last of Nguyen. His latest tweet – “And I still make games” – suggests he won’t be laying low for long.

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Sabrina Zolkifi
Deputy editor
Human Resources Magazine Singapore

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