Piou Piou: A Lesson in Growth Hacking from the Game That Missed out on $50,000 Per Day Profit Potential

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You have likely never heard of the video game Piou Piou, but anyone interested in marketing software should want to know ALL about it. 

Now, you have most likely heard of the app Flappy Bird. It was HUGE back in 2014 for several months. 

Flappy Bird was launched in May 2013 and became a viral sensation in early 2014. 

At the height of its popularity, Flappy Bird was generating $50,000/day in advertising revenue!

In an interview with Rolling Stone, the creator Dong Nguyen said (through a translator), "I was just making something fun to share with other people...I couldn't predict the success of Flappy Bird.""  

What do you do when you hit it big like this in a game that is little more on the surface than basic physics and a rudimentary drawing of a bird with huge lips?

Well, you remove it from the app store, of course!

That is exactly what Flappy Bird creator Dong Nguyen did. 

Dong Nguyen is an "odd bird" (pun very much intended) to say the least. His view of his sudden success was just as endearing as it was perplexing. 

Nguyen, a self taught coder, was being bombarded by messages. They weren't all super friendly. 

Parents were complaining that the game was consuming their children and Nguyen was to blame. 

Most of us would be ok shoving $100 bills in our ears and ignoring these parents who were obviously transferring blame for their poor parenting skills onto the developer of a fun game, but not Nguyen. He took it personally and became very unhappy in spite of his massive success. 

He wasn't an entrepreneur, he was a developer who loved making and playing video games. A simple man who was fulfilled with simple things in life. We can all appreciate that I'd say.

The late Notorious BIG said it best, "Mo Money, Mo Problems." 

Clearly, the success of Flappy Bird wasn't planned. This is EXACTLY what attracted me to learning more about it.

"How can I emulate the growth of this simple app and make something that generates $50,000/day!" I thought to myself.

Here is what I've learned...

Why Was Flappy Bird a Success and Piou Piou a Failure?

It's fair to call Piou Piou "Floppy Bird," (although that name was taken by one of the dozens of knock offs that came to market after the removal of Flappy Bird).

Piou Piou was actually 2 YEARS OLDER than Flappy Bird!!! It came out in 2011 and Flappy Bird didn't release until 2013.

Was Flappy Bird a Knock off of Piou Piou?

The general concept is nothing short of identical and the graphics are so similar it is hard to believe Nguyen wasn't somehow inspired by the game (although I believe it was a "subconscious influence" caused by him seeing the game briefly at some point and channelling it into his own game rather than an active knock off). After all, Piou Piou wasn't exactly raking in the cash. There were better games to knock off. 

I can wrap my mind around why the game was so endearing. 

It was easy to start and difficult to master.

But since they were the same software, why the f#ck did Flappy Bird dwarf Piou Piou?!?!

The Biggest Difference

Flappy Bird capitalized on the community engagement "growth hack."

Flappy Bird added a simple share button that allowed users to brag about their successes or mourn their failures with their friends.

Why flappy bird went viral

In a study conducted by the NY Times on why we share information, researchers found that 69% of participants said they share information because it makes them feel more involved in the world.

Sharing a fun game is a way of connecting with the world and gives users a "sense of purpose."

Deep shit right there...

Flappy Bird was the perfect storm of satisfying game play and community engagement.


  • Predicting "viral content" is nearly impossible.
  • Encouraging users to share and engage is a proven growth hack (Flappy Bird asked for shares, Piou Piou didn't).
  • Games that are easy to start but difficult to master are appealing to the masses.
  • Human beings are hard-wired to share things they think are interesting.

Do you have more insights into why Piou Piou was a flop and Flappy Bird was a success? Share them in the comments!

Oh, and in the spirit of the "sharing" growth hack, please share this article with marketers you think will find it interesting! 🙂

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