The Attack Of The Flappy Bird Clones Illustrates The Difficulty Developers Have In Sustaining Success On A Smartphone

Mar 4 2014, 8:36pm CST | by

The Attack Of The Flappy Bird Clones Illustrates The Difficulty Developers Have In Sustaining Success On A Smartphone
Photo Credit: Forbes Apple

Some fascinating numbers from Stuart Dredge at The Guardian today – over a twenty four hour period there were 95 ‘Flappy Bird’ inspired apps released for iOS. They may be catching the last remnants of the zeitgeist over Flappy Bird, but any developer with a moderately successful game knows this is not an isolated patch of cloning. Find yourself with a success in a mobile App Store, and you’re going to be flooded with similar apps trying to cash in on your inventiveness.

Apple has already indicated that apps with ‘similar’ names to other popular apps are not going to be cleared into the store, but either their definition of similarity is too precise, or the system in place is far too porous. Scrappy Bird, Flappy Love, and Flappy Bat Adventures are three of the titles that spring out that you would expect to receive a second look and be passed back to the developers with a note saying ‘try again.’

Both Android and Windows Phone have the same issue, but it is even more comical on Windows Phone. Flappy Bird was never officially released for Redmond’s mobile platform, yet many gamers found an app called Flappy Bird, with pixel perfect graphics, identical game play, and the same frustrating emotional return available in the Windows Phone Store not long after Dong Nguyen said a Windows Phone version was being considered.

While clone games (and the majority of the time, it is gaming titles which are rapidly cloned) can have a hugely detrimental effect on the indie developer. Once a good idea gets some traction in the story, the cloners will arrive and the original developer can either engage in a huge game of whack-a-mole and raise concerns with the app stores on each clone that arrives (ninety-five Flappy Birds, a day, is a lot of take-down notices required). And any time spent on the legal route represents time and resources that cannot be spent improving the original game, promoting the title, or working on the next potential success.

It’s impossible to ignore the problem as well. Not only are developers trying to promote their own app and everything that is unique about it, they are also trying to fight against a rising tide of almost identical titles that are taking away space in the app store listings, filling up the first page of results in a search result, and capturing the mind share of gamers browsing the stores.

One-person and smaller studios simply don’t have the resources to deal with this onslaught. Is it time for the app stores to step up and deal with the problem? Flappy Bird has been one of the highest-profile apps of recent times, and if any protection was going to be put in place, surely it would be for this cultural avalanche? While there are reports of some push-back to developers, Dredge has shown that there are hundreds of clones available, and more arriving each day.

If the app stores cannot police themselves with apps that riff unnecessarily on an original idea, what hope do the small indie developers have of holding back the sea of parasitic variants that will descend on their releases, robbing them of originality, search engine traffic, and revenue opportunities?

The Most Egregious Flappy Bird Clones

Source: Forbes Apple

 
 
 

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