Opinion: It's a global hit, but Flappy Bird is probably only making $6,000 a day

Banner ads just don't make the money

Opinion: It's a global hit, but Flappy Bird is probably only making $6,000 a day

If there's something more enjoyable than playing Flappy Bird then it's writing about Flappy Bird.

We've used it to discuss everything of geopolitics to the state of the entire industry, but there is another subject it can throw some light on.

But, before we start, we have to correct our initial sentence; "If there's something more enjoyable than Flappy Bird..."

Of course, its success has been predicated on the fact that Flappy Bird is a deeply frustrating game - one in which players (like me) immediately uninstall it, or perversely use that frustration to try to power their high score into double figures.

From that point of view, everything is more enjoyable than Flappy Bird.

Deeper into the wallet

So much for the game's psychology. Show me the money?

As a free game without any in-app purchases, Flappy Bird's only monetisation stream is through the banner ads served through Google Ads - as shown at the bottom of the screen.

These are the worst ways to monetise an app or game, as banner ads are the lowest performing ad unit you can integrate. Even with the giant audience that Flappy Bird has, the amount of cash generated is relatively tiny.

But how tiny?

Talking to industry insiders you start to get an idea.

Back of a cigarette packet

Of course, there are no hard figures in terms of the game's downloads, daily active users, average game sessions etc so we'll have to use some back-of-the-envelope guestimates.

  • 1. Let assume Flappy Bird has been downloaded 100 million times.
  • 2. Everyone who downloaded it is playing it.
  • 3. On average, a player plays five sessions per day.
  • 4. And, again on average, three ads are served per session.

On that basis we have 100 million installs, 100 million players, 500 daily sessions and 1.5 billion ads per day.

But banner ads are pitiful at generating revenue. The revenue for showing 1,000 banner ads (its eCPM) is around 2 cents.

On that basis, Flappy Bird is showing 1.5 billion ads daily at $0.00002 per impression, which gives us a daily total of $30,000.

Certainly not bad for a single developer from Vietnam (who also has two globally top grossing apps). But removing that context and considering the global impact of Flappy Bird, it's not a lot of money compared to the millions per day that top grossing games with IAPs are making.

Rock bottom

But, let's now throw some reality onto this back-of-the-envelope calculation.

100 million downloads is likely too high, and not everyone who downloads the game plays it after day 1.

Tweaking our initial data points changes the end result significantly.

50 million downloads, with 3 sessions a day and 2 ads per session results in revenue of $6,000 per day.

Obviously, that's on a day that all 50 million downloaders play the game. On day 2, say 30 percent have uninstalled the game after high scoring 3 points. On that basis, the game generates $6,000 on day 1 and just $4,000 on day 2, $2,667 on day 3, $1,778 on day 4 etc.

Even assuming downloaders do continue to play it daily, Flappy Bird would have to maintain these usage numbers for over a month (in the best scenario) and 167 days (in the lower case scenario) to generate the magical $1 million.

On that basis, the game needs to be updated with interstitial and video adverts as soon as possible, with in-app purchases arriving soon after to really take advantage of its chart position.

After all, who wouldn't want to spend $0.99 to get a funky hat for their flappy bird?

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at PG.biz which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.