How to Monetize Flappy Bird with In-App Purchase

As the news about Flappy Bird going down hit the news vine the first thought I had was “what a shame”. The guy clearly hit aFlappy Bird with IAP was monetized with capitalizing on the energy economy, in other words, game time limits. homerun so why stop the fun now? On the other hand, the game is not good enough to stay popular for a long time and maybe the best thing for him is to quit while still at the top. Surely, this will allow him to stay iconic forever and keep many people with the thought of “What if…”. So with that thought, I want to suggest my version of “what if”. What if Flappy Bird would have added In App Purchase as it’s monetization model. Here is how I would have done it.


Energy Economy – Limiting Play Time

Simple enough – add a life counter. Start off with 12 lives, allow people to play for 12 turns and than wait 10 minutes for every new life, so full replenishment cycle is 2 hours. Off course, users can buy lives with an In-App Purchase, earn/win lives by watching video ads and ask their friends for additional lives.

Giving the popularity, adding a limit to the amount of time you can play would have left people wanting more and creating habits around waiting for life to replenish would can boost retention. The social element requires a critical mass in terms of distribution but the game already reached that point.


Save Me at the End of the Session

Save me is a popular choice with endless runners. The user gets invested in the game and as he made good progress in session, he doesn’t want to come back to the starting point. The risk here is that users will be able to ‘buy their way’ into high scores. No one wants to reach a score of 21 only to discover that his friend paid his way through to that score.

What I would do is implement a pop up when the bird crashes into the pipe and ask the user to “save me” or “start over”. In order to avoid the pay to win problem, I would create an increasing scale for the price of the Save Me so that using it in a session the first time will cost $1, the second time $2, the third time $4 and the fourth time $8. If you are a good player and died accidentally, you can ‘cheat’ and keep playing but if you are a bad player, cheating becomes too expensive.


Bird Customization

Games with an avatar has a natural way to In-App Purchase monetization – by selling customizations. It’s easy to imagine a few options to customize the bird look and give it some personality. 10%-15% of In-App Purchase revenue can come from that.


More Bird Options

I would add more birds with different powers and sell them as direct purchases for $1-$5 each. One of the things that makes this game really special is that it’s really hard to master. Adding more birds is a great way to monetize via In-App Purchase but the risk is that the new special powers will make it too easy. The solution is that the new birds will not be better than the existing one. They would each have one additional capability that is very hard to master. Here are the three birds I would add:

  • Upside down bird – sliding down flips this bird upside down and flips the basic control so that the birds gravitates up and the tapping pulls it down.
  • Rocket bird – This bird can leap directly to the right in a straight line when there are two consecutive holes at the same height. The control can only be activated once the bird is free falling so it’s very tricky to master.
  • Speedy bird – Allows the user to control the pace of the bird moving forward by tilting the device left and right. Doing so while tapping to keep the bird in the air can be quite challenging.
So back to the “what if” question we started with. If Flappy Bird would have added the IAP Monetization suggestions discussed here, it could have reached an LTV of $0.5. With 100 million downloads that’s about $50M in revenues. It’s well beyond what Dong is making now but then again, $50,000 per day is not too bad for an Indie developer from Vietnam.

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