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Internet is for the ‘Flappy Birds’

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POSTED February 19, 2014 12:35 a.m.

It was driving Sawyer slightly crazy.

A 21-year-old adept at XBox gold standards such as Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty was having difficulty raking up a double digit score on his iPhone playing “Flappy Bird.”

He kept slamming the bird into obstacles ending the game.

For those of us whose last flirtation with  electronic gaming was feeding a roll of quarters to play Airwolf back in 1982, “Flappy Bird” up until a few weeks ago was a free gaming app you could download for use on a smartphone.

The creator of “Flappy Bird” – Dong Nguyen of Hanoi – took the wildly popular free gaming app down just as its popularity was soaring.

His reason was simple. It was too addictive. It’s a curious reason though given the fact electronic gaming tends to be addictive for many people.

The free app, by the way, was generating $50,000 a week in advertising. Experts also believe tens of millions of people around the globe were playing “Flappy Bird” with many continuing to do so.

Some believe others would be so desperate to get their hands on “Flappy Bird” that they listed their iPhones with the app already loaded for thousands of dollars each on eBay with one being listed for $134,295.

The real lesson of “Flappy Bird” is for the likes of Zynga, as well as the makers of the Candy Crush Saga who on Tuesday indicated they plan to sell stock. As more and more people become proficient at writing code it is going to be more difficult to make money off the Internet if you are a company whose entire offering is basically virtual in nature.

For all of its bells and whistles, amazon.com, eBay and such deal with physical products. They have taken long established channels of commerce and adapted them to the Internet much the way that some did their business back when motorized delivery vehicles replaced horses as phones came into existence.

Cranking up the phone to have an order boxed and delivered is the forerunner of amazon.com.

It is why the companies tied to the Internet that make money and therefore have a longer shelf life are either those with physical products to sell or else provide hardware essential for the Internet to work.

There is little doubt the world is shifting from personal computers to mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones.

The apps with staying power are the ones that provide access to real services such as online banking, making reservations, price checking, and such. Purely entertainment and social apps are much more fickle and plentiful. 

And while they can build loyal followings, all it takes is for a “Flappy Bird” to come out of left field and capture everyone’s attention for five minutes and fortunes shift.

There are experts who believe that Facebook is on the wane and that it may not even exist in 10 years. While that seems far-fetched, what drives many high-tech firms during the current boom isn’t producing tangible products but devising apps for games and cyber platforms for socializing.

And as long as someone is willing to offer such apps for free on the gamble they can secure enough hits to lure advertising, people like Dong Nguyen will be offering their code writing handiwork for free downloads.

In the end, the shift to smartphones makes big winners out of firms once considered dinosaurs – AT&T and Verizon.

Take away the purchase of consumer goods via the Internet and the acquisition of hardware needed to access the Internet and the No. 1 consumer expenditure involving the World Wide Web is for monthly cell service.

In fact, credit the move to smartphones and the new app culture with helping make AT&T even more profitable than back when they were anchored to land lines and were considered a monopoly.

There are endless “Flappy Birds” out there taking a shot at success. A few will be wildly successful.

But when push comes to shove the Internet investment frenzy is simply a rehash of other speculative eras through the ages, whether it was penny stocks tied to mining or the Dutch speculating about tulips.

And as far as addictive behavior goes, “Flappy Birds” is simply a replacement for Airwolf and countless games that went before with the big exception they didn’t cost anyone money.

 

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at dwyatt@mantecabulletin.com or (209) 249-3519.

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