A lot of people do want those things, which is why "Call of Duty" and "Grand Theft Auto" make billions of dollars every sequel.
"The indie community believes that what people really want is experimental games with heart and a unique visual sensibility. And puzzle platformers. And roguelikes."
Some people do want those things, which is why these genres have dedicated followings.
At the risk of sounding glib: Flappy Bird's success doesn't prove or disprove anything about the gaming industry. It certainly isn't some sort of paradigm shift, and it's hardly an indication that "no one knows what the audience wants."
To put it more directly: there is no "the audience," in some monolithic and homogenous sense of the word. There are audiences. When an outlier comes around every now and then, offering novel gameplay and a unique sensibility, that's awesome. But it doesn't mean everyone else is somehow wrong. The only ones who will get it wrong, in this case, will be the legions of publishers rushing Flappy Bird clones to market in the hopes of catching some of its halo effect. (Upon last app store search, it seemed there are already many dozens of these in the market.)
And similarly with Zynga/facebook games- I don't think it's necessarily their opinion that they are making the "right" game, it's just that they are making the game most likely to draw in people from social networks and keep them.
Obviously, if developers in AAA or indie sector knew that this kind of huge success could be had with a game like this, they would have made it. But it's humbling to consider that no matter how long people make games, nobody knows the formula for the making next big hit. I don't think he's trying to say that AAA or indie developers are dumb.
Indie developers would love to make this type of game, but the fact is that even with the monumental success the game has had from a download perspective (50MM downloads), it's still only making $50K/day. That's like winning the lottery. Most indie devs are going to make games that get downloaded fewer than 1 million times, which, for a title like this, isn't going to make more than 1-2 employee salaries (let alone the up-front cost of building the game for the first X months for free).
But nobody knew.
So I don't see the value in saying that nobody knew. In the same way saying someone didn't know next weeks lottery numbers doesn't make them incompetent or the person who won the lottery a genius (or have some special insight).
I'm just saying that art is pretty mysterious and despite the fact that people have been making video games for quite a while now, no one knows the formula for the next big hit and somehow the next hit always finds new and old ways to surprise us. But just my $0.02 ^_^
"Flappy Bird is proof that no one knows what the audience wants..."
...in order to fully maximize revenue per employee.
Flappy Bird tells you nothing about what the 'People' want. Today they want a single button physics game, tomorrow they want hardcore shooters. Some people want RPGs, others want micropayment sandboxes.
They problem is that everyone is trying to copy the dumb luck of developers who happen upon the right mix of categories at the right moment in time. Once flappy bird is copied 100x times and becomes an expected mechanic it will no longer be what the people want.
The point of the story is not that people want Flappy Bird -- it's that despite numerous predictions and formulas used in the industry to determine which projects get funded, nobody was talking about doing a game like Flappy Bird. Prior to its success, it would have been dismissed out of hand to spend resources on a title like that. The author is making the point that predicting what people want is not formulaic, it appears to be quite random.
But there's loads of games quite a lot like it already - it's basically a very simple version of something like Jetpack Joyride with a subtly different input mechanism (repeated tap instead of holding down to fly). That's a game so common that there's even a tutorial (http://www.raywenderlich.com/9050/how-to-make-a-game-like-je...) on how to write your own version. There's a fair chance that the author of Flappy Bird used this as the source for the game.
I've no idea what actually made Flappy Bird successful, but whatever it was it's certainly not any huge gameplay innovation that others had failed to spot.
- Jetpack Joyride is way easier. I think something "unique" about Flappy Bird is how difficult it is.
- It's extremely easy to start a new round in Flappy Bird (and it happens quite often). Die on the first pipe? Tap again to jump right back in. You don't even need to hit a button, it's pretty much tap anywhere on the screen.
- Sharing high scores with friends is way easier. "I got a 22 the other day." is way easier than saying "I got 108,000".
- The high scores are more meaningful to other players because they will know exactly how Player1 got that score. The 108,000 in Jetpack Joyride is ambiguous because the score is a function of distance, coins, kills, etc. Remember back in the day, hearing about some dude's cousin that made it to level 55, and how seemingly impossible that was?
Somehow, something about this game has grabbed people's interest, but it's not some brilliant gameplay innovation that the rest of the gaming world had overlooked.
It's bizarre that the game has been out since May 2013, didn't do very well, and then suddenly went viral 8 months later. It'd be fascinating to see what exactly kicked it off.
Several quintillion dollars later from the sales of his book "I think you'll find the plural of anecdote is actually my 12 figure bank account", he retires.
Malcolm Gladwell: Choice, happiness and spaghetti sauce http://www.ted.com/talks/malcolm_gladwell_on_spaghetti_sauce...
Also it's a total Black Swan event and should be treated as such.
Sadly, the original site that hosted it just has a "Java Applet" placeholder there now: http://www.liquidcode.org/worm.html
It had a very good balance between difficulty and frustration. Or in other words, I wasted a lot of time on it.
There's probably an uncanny game design valley here. Abstract ideas that look stupid can be fun, as you iterate and add "polish" there comes a point when your polished game is just dumb and no-one will play it, so you need to add more game mechanics to it to give it more depth.
The main site is now spam, so don't visit it, but archive caught the original and most of the diary pages, which are an interesting read.
I can recall a few others with similar play style - Star paws and Zaxxon come to mind.
Before Flappy Bird I was pretty into Clash of Clans and another similar build-and-wait-and-repeat game. I realized that there is no true progress in those games, and all you have to do to "win" is play more than the other guy.
Flappy Bird is exactly the opposite of Clash of Clans. Clash is all about incremental progress - do One More Thing and you'll get 1% more resources to do That Other One More Thing. Over and over. You inch towards a goal that's not there.
In Flappy Bird, you can't make progress. Every time you click start it might as well be the first time you opened the app. No power ups, no In App Purchases, no levels, just you and those pipes. I get 50 and 5 equally often. Something in my brain rebelled when I played Flappy Bird and made me delete Clash and my other slow-build games. I just want to play something that's over quickly, highly interactive, and uses actual skill.
I'm sure after a few weeks of Flapping i'll be as sick of it as I was of Clash, but I think it's worth nothing that FB is the exact opposite of all of the most popular games out there right now and I think that hits a subconscious note with some people like me.
1) Social Competition
I deleted Flappy Bird almost immediately after downloading it with the thought: "Seen it. Seen it done better." So, there is some level of social interaction that keeps people engaged with it if there are other people around also playing Flappy Bird.
2) Microtransaction fatigue
The success of Flappy Bird may actually be more of a reaction against all the microtransaction garbage than anything else. Flappy Bird REALLY stuck out for not having microtransactions. I was absolutely gobsmacked when I opened it, could play it, and didn't get hounded. That's pretty powerful.
It isn't on my list of games I've loved, but it was fun, in a completely infuriating way.
It's better than other games my kids typically play, ice-cream manufacturing/construction type games
It looks and feels like those previous helicopter games where you hold to accelerate up. But it's very different, in that, you top to give the bird a sudden impulse. This is much harder to control with precision.
That's where it's addictive nature comes from... It's deceptive as in "oh I know how to play this kind of game, I can do this!" but in reality it's way more difficult that you estimate it to be.
Edit: Actually, it's a combination of many schemes. There's a gravity suit that inverts gravity. There's jumping from the ground, which is impulse-based. But the generic jetpack flying is acceleration-while-holding-based. Bottom line, I would not say it's "exactly the same idea" as flappy bird at all.
Free vs $3.99.
It doesn't really need 1000 words.
Flappy Bird is sort of notable because it's probably the simplest "hit" game we've seen in recent memory. It's the sort of thing that appeals to people who aren't even casual gamers, people who wouldn't engage with something like the original Plants vs. Zombies.
The success spawned hundreds of imitations, and in about a year the craze had died.
The only surprising things here are, in my mind: A) that the full cycle has gone so quickly, and B) that the author of the article doesn't remember (or acknowledge) a fairly recent past.
"When you release games in MAY (Shuriken Block) and JUNE (Flappy Birds) that have a non-existant launch, then magically lift off 6 months later, it looks weird. Especially when your other games coincidentally all do so at the exact same time as well."
For a similar example, look at PSY (Korean rapper/pop artist). He had an entire career and was completely anonymous to western audiences, even though he was very talented. Yet he eventually was recognized. He wasn't a brand new artist - rather an almost retired one who released a satirical song that went viral...
Other than that, it has some winning elements: it's difficult but not impossible. You can play it for 30 seconds or 30 minutes. It is simple. It has a goal you can endlessly pursue. It tickles the nostalgia of all those who grew up on games that this game "borrows" the visuals from.
Not to mention that it probably has horrific monetization and despite its high download titles it likely has poor revenues. Fine for a small development team, but terrible compared to industry norms.
Ads never monetize close to the revenue that you can make from IAP - a typical ad installation will make between $0.005 and $0.01 per daily active user, whereas a decently monetizing free to play title can make between $0.03 and $0.20. Smaller userbase titles like card battlers can make upwards of $0.50.
Again, fine for one guy, but I wouldn't call this a raging success of a title and something that free-to-play game studios will use as a framework, by any means. If it takes 50 million installs to make $50K/day, that's a really bad thing.
Totally fine? I would rate it quite a bit higher, especially in Vietnam, with a GDP per capita of $1755 per year (http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.PCAP.CD)
Instant gratification in this case is instantly trying again.
Seriously, someone should just make this game: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=is12anYx2Qs ...it's meaningless. Don't bother with a story, or points, or anything. Just a Title screen that says "Disks in Funnels!" with a big start button. Then the game goes forever, maybe it starts to speed up or something. Sell it for 99 cents; you'll be a millionaire.
And to be clear, if I had made your original comment earnestly, and received the GPs reply, I am not at all certain that I wouldn't take it just the way you did. I'm just pointing out that it needn't be taken that way.
What kind of conclusion is this? It's a 2-d side-scrolling game with basic sinking/gravity dynamics. There are only a few ways to make a game with those rules.
(1) use a flying object/animal
(2) put the level underwater (eg Super Mario Brothers, 1985)
(3) make the game entirely abstract.
except Larry Bird vs Doctor J by EA. That one wasn't so good.
This sold well in a certain market for many reasons that are hard to predict and study.
Flappy bird is not displacing revenue from AAA studios and AAA studios still shouldn't be concerned what the next flappy bird is. They're too busy researching, analyzing, and developing the next multi-hundred-million-dollar videogame franchise that fits into the markets they understand.
Just because some game gets a lot of attention, doesn't mean that it's signalling a paradigm shift or that everyone else has it wrong.
I love that "the people" can immediately jump back through several generations of graphics or locked in gameplay tropes and still have fun. Jonnathanson's right, there's not a single audience out there, but it's good to see lots of people, whatever portion of the gaming population they are, getting some enjoyment from a lo fi experience and making a successful dev along the way.
Why is that exciting to me?
Because I lived through shooters killing adventure games.
And while I love a lot of shooters, and there's been an adventure game renaissance, it took a long time, and that was kind of a tragedy.
But this isn't just about adventure games, there just needs to be space for lots of genres to thrive. And tech limitations (currently on phones/tablets, then on everything) sometimes seem to help this along in a weird way, people pursuing lots of different ideas to package the most fun in a really constrained environment, without just jumping into a 3d environment because an engine is available for licensing.
Bad adventure games are really bad, true. Pixel hunting and verb guessing and odd sequences...
So really I mourn the death of good writing in games, especially comedy. Adventure games aren't the only source of good writing though, nor were all adventure games well written.
But there is still a dichotomy, because you cant have an adventure game without at least trying to write a story, but an FPS can just be quake.
It's not easy to define fun nor to quantify and it plus it is extremely fragile in the face of money people and managers. Fun takes design, accidents and a lot of iteration.
And that's the hitch.
The controls in the Potty Racers version were poor, to give it a compliment. Getting things in any game exactly "right" is what makes one game better than another. Lots of physics games before Angry Birds, none got the physics exactly right.
I'm sure some of your remember Doodle Jump. There was a game before that, that was the exact same type. Same controls, same type of character. But the controls, and what was expected of the character were both off, so no huge hit.
In the game industry, we'll continue to learn this rule over and over as long as accountants tell us what is a good game and what isn't.
The game is tough. It does remind me of iCopter that was a jailbreak game back for the original iPhone before there was an App Store. It's not nearly as complex, but in some ways more enjoyable once you figure out the ridiculously difficult way in which you have to navigate since the pace is slower and maybe more soothing in motion? (prob not...)
I think this games appeal is all looks.
Regardless, I think there's an untapped market of people who want decent mobile games that don't have predatory schemes for monetization.
That doesn't mean making many games is a bad idea. Rovio had made several dozen games before Angry Birds went viral. Halfbrick spent years barely scraping by before Fruit Ninja became a huge hit. Zynga of course had published many games before Farmville. NimbleBit were doing a game every two months for 3 years before Tiny Tower.
The difference is that each (or at least most) of the games in these companies was developed with the belief that is was a game worthy of being made. To paraphrase Picasso, luck must catch you hard at work.
As for the untapped market, I don't know. There's lots of excellent non-predatory games of any type imaginable in the $1-$4 bracket for anyone who doesn't mind paying for quality. The mass F2P market seems more tailored towards people who don't want to pay, therefore predatory tactics are the only thing that can 'coerce' money out of them.
Also, this is basically a download and delete app. Are there any stats on that?
 candy crush, sudoku, dots, words with friends, even angry birds is a strategy more so than a skill and could be called a puzzle
Otherwise, you suck and we hate you.
The payoff's the same, but you're wasting resources you could have used to make more attempts.
Plus, you suck, and we hate you, so you'll have to deal with it.
Except we didn't have all the media around internet, we didn't have all those famous websites that talked about buzz, hype, memes...
I can make it past 1 pine. :(
I don't know how this game became so popular. Did Justin Bieber tweet about it?
You laugh (not wrongly), but mind you that if MSFT pulls that off it would be a remarkable improvement from their track record from a year ago when they got Draw Something and Words with Friends months after they had ceased to matter (which in turn was still an improvement over a year before that when they just didn't get the games at all).
Of course, how much further they can improve this "WP game arrival latency" and how much it really matters remain open questions...
Yes, VVVVVV taught me that.
Flappy bird also hits a similar spot, it's a game that's quick, each game lasts < 1 minute so you can play right up to the minute your train pulls into the station, and it has the anticipation of defeat in a similar manner.
Flappy bird is just incredibly awful. It's like QWOP, but much simpler.
There's nothing wrong with playing a game that others find interesting. Just like there's nothing wrong with reading HN because others find it interesting. :)