"I cannot take this anymore," declared Dong Nguyen, the Hanoi-based indie game developer responsible for the Internet's latest incarnation of lightning in a bottle, otherwise known as Flappy Bird. The game, which featured an uncanny visual resemblance to Nintendo's Super Mario universe, was pulled from app stores on Sunday. While most speculated that the removal was the due to the threat of a lawsuit by Nintendo, Nguyen said on Twitter that this was not the case.
That said, let's not worry ourselves with who removed what and why. Instead, let's look to the future of Flappy Bird. That's right, I said future. And I'm not talking about the privileged few who still have an installed copy on their phones. I'm talking about another opportunity for lightning in a bottle – an opportunity for one of the most heralded video game brands in history to be relevant again.
If you're still not sure what I'm getting at, let me spell it out for you as plainly as I can: Nintendo needs to buy Flappy Bird immediately. Someone at Nintendo HQ needs to stop what they're doing and write an enormous cheque to Dong Nguyen. Why? Because he's the man who may have just secured Nintendo's mobile gaming future. And boy do they need one.
You may be asking: What mobile gaming future? If you believe reports from as recent as last week, Nintendo is not interested in creating mobile games. For the record, I don't believe that for a second. But even if that was true last week, Nintendo should scrap whatever strategy (or lack thereof) it had for mobile games, and completely start over, with Flappy Bird leading the way. And the firm should make Nguyen a lead developer for mobile gaming while they’re at it, because even if he doesn't realise it, he's a genius.
If you've spent way too much time playing Flappy Bird like I have, you'll know that it is more difficult to master than your tax return. But despite the challenge, its dead simple navigation and nostalgic UI have been the ingredients for a very quick mainstream addiction. However, let's envision a scenario where Nintendo does take my advice and acquires Mr. Flappy. There will undoubtedly be some tweaks needed for making the game ready for primetime, without losing any of the characteristics that made it so popular to begin with.
Let's start with the interface
Flappy Bird harks back to the classic NES days of Super Mario Bros. and Duck Hunt. But while that 8-bit majesty appeals mostly to a gen-x demographic, teens and tweens are probably going to want something a little more polished. To that end, a UI makeover would probably go a long way. I'm not suggesting reinventing the wheel – just make it pretty with updated graphics. You know, Angry Birds pretty. That said, the classic, crude design of the original should still be an option as well, perhaps even as a bonus level.
Next comes gameplay difficulty
While the current, incredibly difficult single level of Flappy Bird has been exceedingly successful in contributing to our collective addictive personalities, it would be smart for Nintendo to make the game more accessible by adding a range of difficulty options. That way, with each level the player feels like their tapping (or flapping) skills are progressing.
There's also an obvious opportunity to give each difficulty level a cute duck name. Beginners are ducklings of course, while master ducks are... erm… well, Nintendo isn't paying me for my advice so I'll save my brilliant ideas for later. That said, I'm sure there's a plethora of game features you can come up with just by pursuing this 15 Fun Facts about Ducks article.
Rip, rip, and rip off some more
Lastly, Picasso famously said that good artists copy but great artists steal. Whether Nintendo had a legal issue or not, the fact remains that Flappy Bird is a work meant to resemble the games of our past. And guess what? It worked! So if Nintendo snatches up Flappy Bird, it should keep tugging at nostalgic sensibilities by developing mobile sequels and spin-offs of its own past creations, going all the way back to 1987 when that first gloriously grey console was revealed to the world. Because you know what? I need Excitebike back in my life and on my phone, and I think you do too.
So Nintendo, your mobile future was just served to you on a platter. What are you going to do about it?