eBay to pull listings of devices installed with Flappy Bird

SINGAPORE - The wildly popular mobile game Flappy Bird may have been pulled off the online shelves, so to speak, but some people here and abroad are trying to profit from its demise.

A Straits Times check found hundreds of listings, including about 20 from Singapore, on eBay as of Wednesday, touting devices like smartphones and tablets already installed with the popular game.

Such listings have mushroomed after Flappy Bird creator Nguyen Ha Dong took down the free game from Apple's AppStore and Google's Android store on Monday.

But at least one major e-commerce website is clamping down on such sales.

eBay has confirmed it will pull all such listings from its site, as devices sold on eBay need to be reset to a fresh slate ("factory settings") and not carry what was downloaded on their phones.

"This is an eBay policy and we will continue to monitor future listings," an eBay spokesman told The Straits Times.

eBay Southeast Asia started to remove the listings on Thursday when users alerted staff to sellers who were cashing in on the Flappy Bird craze by listing their devices at inflated prices.

Indeed, The Straits Times found a listing for an iPhone 5 that is going for an incredible $4.5 million - just because it offers the game.

One seller, engineer Roger Ang, 49, hopes to get $780 for his iPad 2 - much more than the trade-in price of about $100 at second-hand shops. "My son told me that Flappy Bird was just removed. So I'm trying my luck with the iPad 2 on eBay," he said.

A runaway hit similar to Angry Birds and Candy Crush, Flappy Bird had up to 50 million downloads in Google's Android store since its release last May, reported Reuters on Monday.

The seemingly simple game challenges players to tap on the screen and navigate a bird through green pipes.

It has caused quite a flap in the mobile gaming world for its quick rise and now abrupt and mysterious end.

Detractors sceptical of its popularity had accused its Hanoi- based creator of artificially boosting download numbers and ripping off graphics from 1980s game Super Mario Bros.

But Mr Dong said he killed Flappy Bird over concerns that it was "too addictive".

Student Jonathan Lee, 27, who plays Flappy Bird daily on the train, attests to its "stickiness". "It's really addictive. You want to beat your friend's high score."

Indeed, given how fans of the game like to compare scores, some sellers are touting devices that offer not just the game, but also one that comes with a high score achieved by the previous user. As seller Tan H.L. wrote on eBay of his Samsung Galaxy S II phone, it has "slight scruff marks" but also a "high score of 214 - free bragging rights!!!"

Some sellers believe it is hard to stop people from cashing in on Flappy Bird's appeal.

While eBay has frowned on those trying to profit from the pull-out of Flappy Bird, at least two other online forums - STClassifieds and VR-Zone - have no issue with people doing this. As Mr Ang said: "If eBay bans it, people will try other online places."

kashc@sph.com.sg


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