A month after the Vietnamese game developer Nguyen Ha Dong pulled the extremely popular but highly addictive Flappy Bird from Google Play and Apple’s App Store, the game has taken China by storm. Flappy Bird was the fastest growing game in China in March, according to data compiled by Wandoujia (or SnapPea), a company that runs a search engine for Android apps.
Wandoujia saw merely a few dozen Flappy Bird downloads before March, when downloads grew to 1.5 million, suggesting the game’s popularity in China surged after Nguyen’s announcement in early February that he would remove the app. Unlike in the United States, where most users get Android apps from a single source–Google Play–Google’s company-run app market is not popular in China for various reasons, resulting in a diversity of app store options within the country, some of which might be offering apps without the permission of developers.
Flappy Bird was initially released in early 2013, but it didn’t take off until early 2014, quickly rising to the top of the charts. The game revolves around guiding an animated bird through green pipes protruding from the top and bottom of the screen. The graphics were criticized as infringing on designs from classic video games, with Super Mario Bros. being the most obvious inspiration.
When Nguyen finally decided to pull the plug on the app, he said it was not because of criticism or copyright claims but because, according to his Twitter feed, the game’s popularity “ruins my simple life” and downloaders were “overusing it.”
Since Flappy Bird was taken down, a plethora of clones quickly cropped up, but Chinese consumers appear to be able to get the real deal.
Unable to easily download the Flappy Bird abroad, many foreign users have moved on. The latest craze overseas is 2048, a game that involves combining blocks in sums of 2 until reaching 2048. Originally developed as a web-based game, a mobile version is now the top free app in Apple’s App Store and the fifth most popular free game on Google Play.
This game, however, is a clone of a game called Threes!, the developers of which bemoaned the fact that a clone had so quickly cannibalized the popularity of their own game, which they say took 14 months to develop. Threes! is currently the third most popular paid game in Google Play and the seventh most popular in Apple’s App Store.
Other quickly-growing games in March included PopStar and PopCandy, both possibly inspired by the popular Candy Crush Saga, which has itself been criticized as a ripoff of CandySwipe.
Below is the full list of March’s top 10 fastest growing games in China, according to Wandoujia.