NativeX Voices: This blog post is part of the NativeX Voices series, a set of blog posts that present the gaming experiences of NativeX employees from the perspective of a gamer.
All sequels are doomed to be held to higher standards and scrutiny. This will prove to be the case for Dong Nguyen’s latest addition to the App Store, Swing Copters, which is the highly-anticipated follow up to his runaway hit, Flappy Bird. Earlier this this year, Flappy Bird became an overnight phenomenon after nearly eight months on the App Store, pegging the Top Free charts and maintaining the top position over multi-billion dollar titles like Candy Crush and Clash of Clans. Getting into the Top Free charts on the App Store, which now contains over 1.2 million apps, is a daunting accomplishment that typically requires either the support of a marquee brand, huge user acquisition budgets or in many cases, a combination of the two.
A Brief History of Flappy Bird (for those who need a refresh)
In the case of Flappy Bird, neither was remotely the case (although some disagree). The man behind the game, Dong Nguyen is a humble developer from Ho Chi Minh City, who develops games out of a passion for the art and who has no aspirations for fame or exorbitant wealth. This was made evident by Nguyen’s choice to use a basic banner ad in Flappy Bird when much more lucrative ad formats and placements could have been used. Even then analysts figured that Nguyen was likely reaping in $20,000 – $50,000 per day in ad revenues. Another indicator of Nguyen’s humble beliefs was when he abruptly pulled the game from the iTunes store after garnering unwanted publicity and raising concerns of causing harm to addicted gamers whose time would be better spent on healthier activities such as homework or exercise.
Much has been written on the unique gameplay of Flappy Bird (see our review) which spawned a new genre of tap-based games and dozens, if not hundreds of cheap knock-offs. What made the game so successful could be boiled down to a combination of difficulty, competitiveness, and cute 8-bit graphics.
Thoughts on Swing Copters
On the surface, Swing Copters possesses the same core traits. As with Flappy Bird, players are required to tap their fingers on the screen to propel the character through a series of obstacles, with the core difference being that this time you are propelled vertically rather than horizontally. The same cute Mario-style 8-bit style graphics are used but this time the perilous pipes have been replaced with swinging hammers and the cute “flappy bird” has been swapped for with a bean-shaped character wearing a green propeller cap on his head. Lastly, the game presents your final score once you have inevitably piloted the bean into one of the deadly hammers, thereby encouraging you to brag about your new high score to your friends.
In sharing the core elements with his original hit, combined with the notoriety that Nguyen had established for himself, why shouldn’t Swing Copters be a hit? It’s my prediction that this game will not do as well for a few reasons:
The Gameplay – First and foremost it’s too f@E#%* hard! On my first attempt, I hit a swinging hammer in a split second. I laughed this off on my first go, because this was exactly the same experience that I had on my first attempt with Flappy Bird. The game is meant to be hard and it would take a few if not a few dozen attempts in order to break a score of even 5 points. So naturally I thought this would be the same issue with Swing Copters and all I needed to do was try a few more times to get a score of at least 5. After at least a dozen failed attempts I still couldn’t break a score of 1. No matter what approach I take, I couldn’t seem to get any bearings on what the tapping actually accomplishes. I quickly enlisted the help of my coworkers at NativeX who are also avid gamers and who know Flappy Bird just as well as anyone else. No one could do much better. After an hour had passed one of our engineers got a score of 3 and professed that he figured it out, although he couldn’t replicate his success.
If you want to have a successful game you have to find the right balance of fun and difficulty. Flappy Bird achieved this balance marvelously, from the first immediate death to learning how to get a better score through painstakingly getting a feel for those flappy wings. If you can get a score of at least 5 then there’s hope to do better, because you are making progress. There’s simply no feeling like that with this game, and the result could very well be a steep and perilous drop in retention. Swing Copters has already received the highly coveted feature from iTunes which has been known to provide a tidal wave of organic users. My fear is that Swing Copters is in jeopardy of losing most of them within the first 5 minutes of gameplay.
The Name – Two other reasons why this game will face an uphill battle are the name of the game and the central character. Simply put, Swing Copters isn’t a very catchy name. In writing this review, I had to find the app on my iPhone to remember the name on multiple occasions.
The Characters – Lastly, the beanlike character, although cute and 8-bit, is obscure and simply will not be as memorable as the infamous Flappy Bird.
I wonder if Nguyen knew all this when coding Swing Copters. Could it be that somewhere deep inside he’s trying to prevent a relapse of the unwanted fame and detriment to young gamers? We may never know his true intentions behind Swing Copters, but one thing that is certain is that keeping the momentum of his last game will be a challenge.
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