This is my response to the article on Gamasutra called “Let’s face it – we don’t get it”
I don’t ascribe to the idea that this was “lightning in a bottle”. There are a number of factors at play here.
First is how it got as high as it did in the first place, i.e with no marketing campaign. All I’ll say about that is go look at the spikes in downloads it got over a period of time and make your own mind up about how that happened.
For me the more interesting issue relates to how such a simple game did so well even after it was in the top 10 iOS charts. Flappy Bird no doubt does what it does very well, it’s very simple and addictive. But so what? there are 1000s (now probably 10000s) similar games like that on the App store.
The reason FB did as well as it did once it got into the top charts is because it became a meme, created largely by popular YT’s mentioning it and also I think some mentions early on, on Reddit.
Ok so that’s why it stayed where it did for a while. Then the question becomes, even though it had a lot of promotion from various sources, and it’s a nice simple, addictive game, why on earth were people playing it over the other countless similar games? or the countless better (yes “better” is subjective but you know what I mean) games available?
And the answer to that comes down to some harsh realities of developing games for the App store. The first one being that people download what they see from other sources, people heard about FB from many different channels, from friends etc, or to put this more succinctly, people play what’s put in front of them.
And that leads me onto my final point which is the games part of the App store itself which frankly is becoming a bit of a mess. Apple want quality games on their store. As developers we want to make quality games and we want to be rightly awarded for doing so. This unfortunately is not the situation with the App store. Yes some good games get featured by Apple and that’s a good thing, but when games such as FB and it’s countless clones do so well something must be wrong somewhere.
Apple might argue that it’s not their job to curate, that’s down to the market/players to decide what they want to play and of course that’s true, but equally whatever algorithm Apple is using to decide who goes where in the charts, it seems to be rewarding the wrong kinds of games, and when I say wrong, I mean it rewards games regardless of quality, that just happen to be put in front of the majority of the App stores users.
I’m a fan of Apple I admit (as a developer and user), but I do think there needs to be some splintering of the charts on the App store, which are more directly linked to players previous gaming choices, basically making the App store more like Netflix, with more tailor made charts. That would probably help negate the huge (and unfair) viral effects that some games can get by sheer flukey luck.