Friday, March 14, 2014

Feature Friday #1 - Mr. Flap

Every Friday on our blog I’ll feature a game that’s doing something unique, innovative, and truly noteworthy. This isn’t just an app review; it’s an analytical look at a fresh game from the perspective of someone within the game industry. ~~~ Flappy Bird is dead, right? So why, more than three weeks after the word “Flappy” was banned from the iTunes and Google Play stores, is this game still relevant? Well, because as of March 11th, half of the Top-10 Free apps on the iTunes store were direct Flappy Bird clones, so clearly the craze still has some legs. More importantly, why is this post, which focuses on quality, innovative games, still talking about that flapping bird? The answer to the latter is Mr. Flap, a legitimately fresh take on a painfully stale concept. Mr. Flap was created by 1Button, a three-man indie team from France, and capitalizes on the one-touch, bird flapping action that’s all the rage right now. Here’s what it does differently: you fly around a circular track with a minimalistic art style – an initial contrast to all the other side-scrolling, Mario-esque Flappy games. Despite the simplicity of the art style, the developers threw in some nice touches like seeing the bird’s shadow as it goes around the track, plus the background changes color every five levels.

The circular track creates quite a few challenges in Mr. Flap (staying level while upside down is way harder than you think). The game embraces the masocore appeal of its predecessor and improves on it. Not only is Mr. Flap more difficult than Flappy Bird, it’s also much less repetitive. After a certain point, Flappy Bird becomes mostly a test of “how long can you go without messing up?” (in my case, 274 times), given its static obstacles and limited range of heights. Despite Mr. Flap features similarly limited obstacles, the bars are constantly moving, requiring the user to rely more on reactions than the ability to stave off boredom (consequently, I haven’t gotten more than eight). Finally, and most importantly from the developers’ standpoint, Mr. Flap uses interstitial ads rather than banners. This choice is almost universally preferred by users – one of Flappy Bird’s most ongoing critiques was its use of banner ads during Flapping, obstructing view and disrupting gameplay – and is pound-for-pound much more effective at monetizing than banner ads. Looking at Kiwi’s games for January 2014, the difference is striking. Interstitial ads in three of Kiwi’s games had a click-through rate (CTR) of 3.85% while the CTR for banners was just 0.62%. Admittedly, clicks are meaningless without revenue, but those numbers were just as telling. CPMs (cost per thousand ad impressions) were $1.50 for interstitials and $0.29 for banners, meaning Kiwi earned $1.21 more per thousand full-screen ads compared to banners. When viewed at the scale that Flappy Bird witnessed, banner ads can be successful, but generally interstitials are a better bang for your developer buck. All things considered, Mr. Flap does a phenomenal job of taking an overdone game and improving on it in virtually every way. From the top down, 1Button did a great job designing this casual reboot, and should be commended for it. Let’s hope for more innovation along these lines… or you know, the eradication of all Flappy games entirely. Either way works. ~~~ Mr. Flap is only available on iOS as of this post, [Note: it's now on Android!] and is free to download. If you’re interested in reading more about Flappy Bird, check out Rolling Stone‘s exclusive interview with its developer, Dong Nguyen. Josh Dombro Community Manager

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