7 Lessons from the Flappy Bird fallout

When .GEARS announced that Flappy Bird would be removed from the market, I had a hunch that it wasn’t a solution to any problem, and would result in many unintended consequences. It was a pretty easy call to make.

  1. The attention that Dong Nguyen didn’t want wouldn’t go away. People would switch from talking about how the game was popular to the decision to remove it from the market.
  2. Removing the game from the market wouldn’t remove the game from devices where it was already installed, so (if we believe Nguyen’s stated reason for removing it) the people who were addicted to it would continue to be able to play it.
  3. The game would still generate ad revenue when it was played. So critics who felt the game’s earnings were undeserved wouldn’t be satisfied.
  4. Opportunistic individuals who had the game installed would try to sell their devices at panic prices.
  5. And the evident demand for a game that plays like Flappy Bird, combined with the absence of the official Flappy Bird, would bring a flood of me-too games to the market. It turns out a lot of them are malware vectors.

What can we learn from this?

  1. Small entities who experience phenomenal success are in for a wild ride and probably more problems than they could ever imagine.
  2. Running away from the problem won’t solve the problem, but it will probably create even more problems.
  3. Exiting the market doesn’t un-release a product.
  4. Once a product launches, if it attains “critical inertia”, it will continue to have momentum, even if the vendor stops pushing.
  5. Once the idea of a product is widely known, the sudden removal of the product will create a void that will quickly be filled by others.
  6. Any popular product will automatically generate a satellite industry of leeches who will try to cash in somehow.
  7. Without the vendor’s push steering a product along a particular vector, these external forces can cause the product or brand to break up, fragmenting it in many directions, many of which in hindsight will seem predictable.

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