Maybe the removal has put his own conscience at ease — he has called the game’s now notorious addictiveness unintentional — but, for better or for worse, he’s wrong. Flappy Bird is still flapping away on millions of phones and tablets — in an app that will never be updated.
In his Forbes interview, Nguyen walked back the $50,000/day revenue claim reported last week by The Verge, but he seems sure about one thing: His game ain’t coming back from the dead.
The concept of digital scarcity usually only arises when someone is withholding something from legal online channels because they believe doing so will protect future profits. Your favorite band isn’t on iTunes? Your favorite TV show isn’t on Netflix? That might change, once the right deal is cut.
Interest in Flappy Bird is still accelerating, though, perhaps because Nguyen has sparked an entirely new type of digital scarcity. By removing the app from stores, the developer made the phones that still have his game part of an exclusive club, as well as the object of a few moronic eBay sales. The extant copies are all we get, which is a quaint idea in a world of infinite, indefinite availability.
Copycat developers have of course rushed to fill the void left by the game, but giving them headlines is missing the point. If they can match or even improve on Nguyen’s simple game, they won’t be able to match the cult of Flappy Bird, which persists in social media and arguably thrives in the game’s absence.
Killing the game at its peak has ironically given it an iconic and memorable exit, while nearly all other games — some of which took thousands of people and millions of hours to make — merely fade away.