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Smartphone surprise success Flappy Bird earns $50K per day

The free smartphone game for iOS and Android that's sucking up all of your spare time is also earning an astounding $50,000 in daily ad revenue.

Screenshots by Nick Statt/CNET

Flappy Bird, the newest and most savagely addicting smartphone game to have taken the mobile market by storm, is earning $50,000 in ad revenue each day, Vietnamese developer Dong Nguyen revealed Wednesday in an interview with The Verge.

While that's nothing compared with the insane $850,000 Candy Crush Saga -- the App Store's longtime leader in the top grossing charts -- earns UK developer King per day, it's certainly nothing to scoff at for a non-freemium game that was uploaded in May 2013, last updated in September, and remained virtually invisible for months. Flappy Bird relies on slightly distracting banner ads at the top and bottom of the screen to earn revenue. Nguyen disclosed that he has no intention of changing up that formula.

"Flappy Bird has reached a state where anything added to the game will ruin it somehow, so I'd like to leave it as is," he said. "I will think about a sequel but I'm not sure about the timeline." And changes to the game would indeed throw off its supremely simplistic design. After all, there's only one mechanic -- tap to fly -- and one uniform and randomly generated obstacle that you must fly through, and never touch or else you lose and must start over, an impulse that is alarmingly hard to deny.

It appears to be exactly that kind of design strategy -- a pixelated art style applied to universally known game mechanics that Nguyen's DotGears Studio has used before -- that has turned a simple, ad-based tapping game inspired by Super Mario Bros. into a phenomenon. "The reason Flappy Bird is so popular is that it happens to be something different from mobile games today, and is a really good game to compete against each other," Nguyen said. "People in the same classroom can play and compete easily because [Flappy Bird] is simple to learn, but you need skill to get a high score."

Other tidbits from Nguyen's rare interview: Flappy Bird has been download upwards of 50 million times and has earned 47,000 reviews on the App Store, many of which are hilarious five-star condemnations of the game's propensity to rip an addiction-fueled black hole in our collective conscious through which all our free time and pointless frustration seem to travel toward.

I've written here about Flappy Bird and its astoundingly genius -- and manipulative -- design, and it sounds like the app has no intention of slowing down its relentless grind to pop culture infamy. Since it secured the No. 1 spot on the App Store and Google Play Store late last month, numerous media outlets have flocked to explain our fascination with failure, mind-numbing difficulty, and titles that push us to the limits of friendly competition in the Facebook-fueled smartphone game score wars: "Why The Heck Is Everyone Playing Flappy Bird?"; "Everyone is playing Flappy Bird and no one knows why"; and "The Squalid Grace of Flappy Bird."

It's not long before we'll have another taste of Nguyen's talents, as the developer said he'll be putting out his simple take on the jetpack endless runner, made popular by games like Jetpack Joyride. Maybe this time we'll all know what we're getting into by downloading a DotGears game. Then again, that's no indication that this will stop it from becoming another fire we can't stop fueling.