Feb 9 2014, 5:40pm CST | by Forbes
And so it came to pass that the prophet was correct. 2014′s first true viral hit in Flappy Bird is no longer available in the iOS or Android app stores . Dong Nguyen said it would be removed, and twenty four later that is exactly what has happened .
There’s going to be a lot of discussion over the phenomenon of Flappy Bird over the next few weeks as developers look to replicate the success, analysts try to work out what exactly happened to catapult a one year old game to the top of the charts, and fans of the feathered flyer wonder what happened that forced Flappy Bird to leave the stores.
What is clear is that Flappy Bird has earned a lot of money. It’s the ‘lightning in a bottle’ that comes along, delights the world, creates an indie hero, and captures countless more developers who believe they have the next bird. The chances are they don’t, and they will scurry away with a hundred dollars or so of display ad revenue after hours of work and promotion.
That’s why Flappy Bird is so important to Google’s display ad business on mobile, and that’s why I think Mountain View is the real winner in the world of Flappy Bird.
Google does not disclose revenue share for AdSense on mobile – publishers earn a 68% share on content and 51% share on search, so it would be safe to assume that the mobile share is in the same vicinity. It would be fair to say that Google has earned almost as many revenue dollars from Flappy Bird as Nguyen has. In the long-term the truth is that Google has earned far more than those dollars.
Flappy Bird already has countless imitators in the mobile app stores of every platform. They follow the formula that Nguyen has adopted for the game, and many of them lift the same text for their directory listing. Almost to a bird, they have display ads running. While these clone apps will not hit a million dollars of revenue (and they’ll struggle to get even tens of thousands), Google will be taking a slice from the top of every single developer.
If you aggregate the clone apps together, they might reach the same income levels as the original, which is a nice little earner.
Even more importantly to Google’s advertising business, Flappy Bird has built up the myth that a lone developer with a space for an ad banner can become rich and never have to work a day’s work again if that’s what they want to do. The truth will be far harsher for these bedroom coders.
The story of Flappy Bird ends with thousands of developers releasing applications that are quick to consume, easy to play, and use in-game advertising as their revenue stream. It doesn’t matter to Google if one of them makes it big, what matters is that Google has even more inventory for their mobile advertising business. Every once in a while there will be a breakout financial hit, and the hype cycle will draw in another wave of apps and games on Android and iOS, all using Mobile AdSense.
While the dreamers continue to develop, Google will aggregate all their efforts, slice their percentage off the top of all the struggling apps, and take the increased ad revenue from the larger ad inventory to the bank.
Flappy Bird may be gone, but let the profiteering begin.
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