It was only the other day that I first heard of the video game "Flappy Bird," thanks to my 12-year-old son Grant and his slavish devotion to his new iPod.
This morning, thanks to a story in The Verge, I learned something almost unbelievable about this game: It is reportedly generating $50,000 in advertising revenue - per day - according to the game's developer. From that story:
The enigmatic and oppressively difficult mobile game Flappy Bird has turned into quite the cash cow for Vietnamese developer Dong Nguyen. In an interview with The Verge, Nguyen revealed that the game, which has been sitting atop the App Store and Google Play Store charts for nearly a month, is earning on average $50,000 a day from in-app ads.
If you're only now hearing of Flappy Bird, the game goes as follows: you tap the screen to propel a tiny, pixelated bird upwards. If you hit any of the green pipes in your way as you fly towards some unknowable, unreachable finish line, the game is over. The goal is simply to accumulate the highest score possible. The catch? You'll very likely spend an hour even reaching a score of five. The app has been downloaded 50 million times, and has accumulated over 47,000 reviews in the App Store - as many as apps like Evernote and Gmail. Mobile games studios generally spend months coding up deliberately addictive and viral titles, but Nguyen did it by spending a few nights coding when he got home from work.
But is that $50,000-a-day claim credible? Over the course of your standard 365-day year that would mean a revenue stream of $18 million and change. I know less about video game economics than I do "Flappy Bird," yet I find that figure difficult to swallow uncorroborated, even accepting the 50 million downloads.