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Flappy Bird to return in August as multiplayer game, creator says

The dormant smartphone gaming phenomenon is making a triumphant return as a multiplayer title, creator Dong Nguyen confirms.

Flappy Bird
Screenshot by Nick Statt / CNET

To those who dare not speak the name Flappy Bird for fear of rousing spectres of smartphone addiction and compulsory thumb twitches, look away now.

Because the mobile gaming phenomenon -- gone from mobile app stores since February 9 -- is on its way back, and this time with multiplayer.

Creator Dong Nguyen, the one-man team behind Vietnamese game developer DotGears Studios, told CNBC on Wednesday that the game will be making a return, potentially this August, in an updated version in which players will be able to compete with others in real time to flap the infamous haunter of our collective score-obsessed dreams.

The Flappy Bird fiasco began unfolding earlier this year, when the months-old smartphone game published by an unknown developer last year mysteriously began gaining traction on iOS and Android devices. By early February, it had topped both platforms' free charts and was overwhelming players and mainstream media outlets alike, growing into a steam-rolling sensation capable of reducing the popularity upswing of titles like Angry Birds into a mind-boggling two-week time span.

Nguyen, a self-described humble lover of retro games and classic Mario art, became an overnight celebrity, which included being subject to all the vile side effects of the anonymous online mobs of Twitter and article comment sections. Endlessly hounded by players who felt he was not grateful for his newfound wealth and had built success off stealing from Nintendo, Nguyen's online presence became a repository for death threats and accusations.

So despite reports that he was earning around $50,000 a day from the free app's in-game banner ads -- and presumably more so when the game hit peak popularity weeks later -- Nguyen yanked the title from the iOS App Store and Google Play store with a day's notice, saying it had ruined the serenity of his simple life.

The app lay dormant in the three months since, becoming a poster child for seemingly mindless games that offer surprisingly casual, well-built, and addictive mechanics, but not before spawning countless clones, a term for games that cheaply repackage a game's core concept. In the wake of Flappy Bird's immediate exit, a new clone was popping up every 24 minutes, including popular remakes featuring pop culture staples like Miley Cyrus and Fall Out Boy.

Nguyen, in a wide-ranging interview with Rolling Stone in March, explained his reasoning behind the decision, claiming that he saw firsthand how Flappy Bird was negatively affecting players' lives and turned his own life upside down. Describing his state of mind as more adjusted since he pulled the app, Nguyen had moved out of his parents' house, quit his day job, and was back to designing games after a brief hiatus. He dropped hints then of bringing Flappy Bird back, and now appears to be following through.

Nguyen did say that the new version of Flappy Bird will be less addictive this time around to avoid the pitfalls he felt its original incarnation presented players who dove too deep into the mindless tapping title. Though exactly how competing with others to traverse the game's pixelated green pipes won't whip up yet another uncontrollable mobile gaming craze is unclear.