Noah J Nelson on Monday, Mar. 17th
Last week Flappy Bird developer Dong Nguyen emerged from a self-imposed media seclusion in the pages of Rolling Stone. He had become practically invisible after pulling his game from the Apple App Store for being “too addictive.”
In Rolling Stone the developer, one of the few rockstars of the game development world thanks to the sudden success of Flappy Bird, signaled that he might be willing to put the game back on sale.
If Christopher J. Langbein, CEO of Mobile Media Partners, is right that’s not ever going to happen.
According to Langbein when Nguyen pulled the game he deleted it entirely. Which means he has no ability to create an update to the game which has been downloaded millions of times. If Nguyen had wanted to take back the game at some point there was another path.
“If you have an app and want to take it down temporarily all you need to do is change the release date,” said Langbein. “You can change it to a date in the future–like 2016–and as soon as you’re ready to put it back in the market you change the release date back to the current date or tomorrow or whenever you want to release it.”
Instead Langbein’s company is the owner of the Flappy Bird name on the App Store now. For Mobile Media Partners this came down to some lucky timing. They were uploading a game of their own–the Flappy Bird riff Crashy Bird–just hours after Nguyen pulled the original.
“We had been toying with different names, and obviously that game had just been deleted, so I told one of the engineers to see if Flappy Bird was available. So he keyed in Flappy Bird and it was available. So we registered it.”
Mobile Media Partners has yet to do anything with the name. Langbein says that the company tried to reach out to Nguyen to no avail.
“It was our understanding, from all the media we’ve read and the people that we have mutual connections with, he was trying to seek some kind of privacy. We thought he was maybe seeking some sort of anonymity and that he’d be open to working with us in some capacity and keeping a low profile.”
All that changed when the Rolling Stone profile came out.
Now Mobile Media Partners has an eye towards using the name to create its own version of “Flappy Bird 2.0,” sighting “tremendous opportunity there that was not explored.”
Langbein speaks of in-app purchases and different levels, of pushing the game in ways that “Candy Crush did with the Bejeweled mechanic.”
Of course, there’s still the matter of whether or not Nguyen actually wants his game back. That could color public perception of a non-Nguyen Flappy Bird, but Langbein says that Nguyen wouldn’t be able to go back into the App Store with his own Flappy Bird. He sites the iTunes Connect Developer Guide, which spells out the limitation in a big call out:
Important: If you delete your app, you can’t restore it. The SKU or app name can’t be reused in the same organization. If you’ve uploaded a binary or set up this app for the iAd App Network, your Bundle ID can’t be reused.
So if we are to see a Flappy Bird on the iPhone in the coming months it will probably be the product of Mobile Media Partners. The tweaks to the formula that they’ve already put into their own Crashy Bird could reignite the deep debate in the game community over the roll of in-app purchases have in games, and whether they detract from an experience.
All this because of one dumb bird that can barely fly.