For Rami Ismail, the co-developer of Ridiculous Fishing, an iOS app where users shoot at fishes with a machine gun, being an overnight success can be a life-changing experience in more ways than one. At a time when more and more indie game developers are making games and hoping to be the next overnight millionaire, those who have done it share that sudden success comes with its own set of issues. The New Yorker’s Simon Parkin tracked down developers who made apps which became overnight hits to find out more about the psychological impact that they face. As it turns out, sudden success is a double-edged sword. Some, like Rami, felt that the money that he’d earned (Ridiculous Fishing earned $100,000 in its first month alone, and hit $1 million in sales within six months) was not entirely deserved, particularly when compared to the 24-year-old’s mother’s seemingly endless working hours at the local government – while he spends his days working from his computer at irregular hours. Somewhere in the back of your head you know that you worked hard, that you sacrificed your stability and you took on the risk of financial ruin for a long while. You did things that other people were not willing or capable of. And that paid off. But, even so, it feels awful. I couldn’t get rid of the image of my mother in her car, driving to work. Others, too, face a similar issue. Take Dong Nguyen, for example. The developer behind the viral app, Flappy Bird, was earning an estimated $50,000 a month from ad revenue of the free game. It ruined his simple life in his native Vietnam: foreign press journalists camped outside his house in the hopes that he’d be open for an interview or two, while rumours persist that the Vietnamese authorities were seeking him for income tax payments soon after it was revealed how much he’d been earning from ad revenue. As a result, Nguyen took down Flappy Bird from both the Apple App Store and Google Play. Making an overnight success comes with its own set of complicated emotions. Sure, you’re suddenly have more money than you can imagine, but the attention from various parties – from family members seeking financial assistance to the pressure of replicating a former success – can be paralysing. Davey Wreden, the creator of another successful app called The Stanley Parable, blogged about the depression that he went through after the game made him an estimated $6.3 million dollars. From the intense attention from parties all over the world, to the crippling pressure to deliver a second successful app, being an overnight success comes with its own fascinating set of psychological issues. These developers made their games out of a love for making games, and the massive amount of money appears to be a side effect that some of them are not equipped to handle.
Indie Game Developers, Overnight Success