Since 2009 it has been difficult to throw a stone and not hit something branded with Angry Birds. It may have started with a single video game, but it quickly branched into a wide array of consumer products (including toys, clothing, sweets, and bedding). That said, nobody can accuse the Angry Birds developers at Rovio of lacking ambition –they are taking aim at the likes of Disney with plans for an educational playground, feature-length animated movie (due out in 2016), and a spin-off television series. Unfortunately for those plans, Rovio’s operating profit took a 73% loss last year (due in large part to their licensing business).
The original Angry birds title was among the first of its kind –using a slingshot to send birds flying like weapons through levels of physics-based game-play. After quickly becoming number 1, Rovio decided to capitalize on their new-found fame by creating (milking) sequel, after sequel, after sequel, after sequel… until even the most addicted players stopped caring. Sure it was nice to have the extra levels in titles like Angry Birds Seasons and Angry Birds Rio, but eventually there were just too many to keep up with.
It also didn’t help that other game developers were watching Rovio’s early success and learning from their formula at a much higher level, instead of just copying it (though there were a few that tried that as well). Since 2009, the number of apps available has increased dramatically –and just like Angry Birds, many of the most successful titles include colourful graphics and loveable characters (not to mention level-based, addictive play).
Critics of the Angry Birds franchise are not surprised by the decline, with many calling it a one-hit wonder (that just kept repeating itself); others accuse the game of lacking the kind of sophistication that causes players to develop longer-term relationships with it.
When asked, Rovio confirms their disappointment regarding the drop in profits while noting that the upcoming movie should inspire renewed interest in merchandise sales. With the film still a year away, and the mobile world moving at faster and faster speeds (meaning there are exponentially more apps available and ready to compete all the time), that seems like a lot like trying to hit a moving target.
Rovio assures gamers that the company is also striving to build new characters that will be expanded into new games (and of course, new consumer products). What they don’t say, is whether those new games will actually be fresh and different… or more of the same. Rovio also admits to making shifts toward free-to-play games and monetizing using in-game purchases and advertising –which is a wise move, but should likely have been addressed at the height of their popularity and not on the downward slope.
There is little doubt that Angry Birds will always hold a special place in the hearts of early mobile gamers, but in the end… it’s no Super Mario.
Do you still play Angry Birds? Are you still quick to download new versions when they are released?