Rumor: Flappy Bird may have been removed from the App Store on Nintendo’s request [Update: Nintendo denies it]

BY Gautam Prabhu

Published 10 Feb 2014


You may have probably heard by now that Dong Nguyen, the developer of Flappy Bird, the unexpected smash hit, that broke records for its atmospheric climb to the top of iOS App Store charts, has removed the game from the App Store.It came as a surprise to many of us as the game was generating an impressive $50,000 each day in advertising revenues, and was downloaded more than 50 million times.

Nguyen had repeatedly said on Twitter that the press was overrating the success of the game, which is something he didn’t want. He also claimed that he was uncomfortable with the attention and success the game has brought him, and wanted some peace. He also tweeted that he was not removing the game for legal issues, as that was one of the possible reasons as the graphics of the game were quite similar to Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros.

But something didn’t sound right, especially since his other two games Super Ball Juggling and Shuriken Block, which are also quite popular are still available in the App Store.

Apple’N’Apps now reports that according to “person familiar with the App Store review process,” the game wasn’t removed voluntarily, as the developer has claimed.

A person familiar with the App Store review process tells Apple’N’Apps that Flappy Bird wasn’t removed voluntarily by Mr. Nguyen, as he claims. It turns out that Nintendo got in touch with Apple regarding the art assets in Flappy Bird claiming that they’re in direct violation of their copyrights. Apple contacted Mr. Nguyen regarding the copyright claim, and that’s why we saw the new updated version with graphic changes to the pipes. Nintendo already decided that they had seen enough, and Apple is the one who pushed Mr. Nguyen to remove Flappy Bird (with 24 hour notice). It’s a sad state of affairs, but you could argue that Flappy Bird was at least partially boosted by the very familiar graphics. In all honesty, the pipe sprites of Flappy Bird aren’t merely replicas, but practically identical down to the shading.

Mr. Nguyen has specifically posted on Twitter that there were no legal ramifications in his decision, but our source says that Nintendo’s copyright was indeed the reason.


The pipe sprites are identical

It does seem like a possible reason as a number of readers have pointed out that the graphics reminded them of Super Mario Bros. It also explains why Nguyen did not remove his other games from the App Store. It is also not clear why he couldn’t make some drastic changes in the graphics instead than just tweaking it, while maintaining the game play mechanics to avoid the copyright issues.


FlappyBird before the Feb 7 update (left), FlappyBird after the Feb 7 update (right)

As Apple ‘N’ Apps points out, it wouldn’t be the first time Nintendo has asked Apple to remove a game from the App Store for copyright infringement. Apple has removed Duck Hunt clone and several Pokemon ripoffs based on Nintendo’s request.

If this is the reason for the removal is indeed true, it also seems like a missed opportunity for Nintendo as they could have taken advantage of the massive popularity of the game to either buy the game from Nguyen or charge a small royalty.

Unfortunately, we can only speculate at this point as we doubt the developer, Apple or Nintendo will tell us the real reason for removing one of the popular game in App Store’s history.


The Wall Street Journal has just reported that Nintendo did not request Apple or the developer to remove the game from the App Store.

In an email to The Wall Street Journal, Nintendo spokesman Yasuhiro Minagawa on Monday reiterated previous company statements that the Japanese videogame giant hasn’t complained at all about Flappy Bird’s similarities to Nintendo’s original “Super Mario Bros.”

“While we usually do not comment on the rumors and speculations, we have already denied the speculation” last week, he said.

[Via Apple ‘N’ Apps]