As it turns out, those 51 previous games, many of which were failures, actually helped hatch the Angry Birds frenzy. Through extensive play-through focus tests, Rovio had drafted something of a checklist that they believed would create the perfect mobile game. Feedback from gamers played an integral role in designing the accessible and addictive gameplay of Angry Birds. And, as Apple’s App Store ballooned to more than 160,000 apps, Rovio knew that the key to differentiating its new title from the thousands of other puzzle games would be in the brand name; they also knew that Apple was picky about which games it would cross-promote. Granted, the name alone stands out. Plus, alphabetically, the title was always positioned near the top of the extensive list of games. Nonetheless, Rovio wasn’t taking any chances, and it enlisted outside help in the form of U.K.-based game publisher Chillingo, which had already helped other new brands shoot to the top of the App Store chart. A savvy move, no doubt, when you consider that the game has been downloaded millions of times on the iPhone alone.
What started as a simple game quickly exploded into an entertainment phenomenon that spread to merchandising, board games, comic books and more (including the aforementioned TV commercials). Today, there’s even a motion picture in development with former Marvel Studios chairman David Maisel on board as a special adviser (see sidebar). Hed said Hollywood’s current infatuation with board games and video games makes it an interesting time to explore Angry Birds. “The challenge is [that you have to] develop the characters and world for a very different kind of storytelling medium,” Hed explains. “It’s key to focus on retaining the original aspects that fans already love, while deepening the narrative and exploring the characters in a way that makes sense on film.”
Rovio will be intricately involved in the development and production of the movie, which isn’t always the case with big-screen game translations. As a warm-up to the feature film, this fall Rovio is also releasing 52 new animated shorts produced by the recently acquired Kombo animation studio, which is based in Finland. But this isn’t new territory for the studio: Rovio has been active with animated shorts since launching Angry Birds and has been viewed more than 500 million times on YouTube.
In addition to a number of popular books, including Bad Piggies’ Egg Recipes, and 200-plus licensing partners who last year alone released more than 1,000 items bearing the colorful characters from the games, Rovio has a presence in the virtual world too. Its newest game, Angry Birds Space, was downloaded 50 million times in its first 35 days, making it the fastest-growing mobile game in the franchise. That franchise, thus far, includes Angry Birds, Angry Birds Seasons and the hit 20th Century Fox movie cross-promotion Angry Birds Rio.
Perhaps the most interesting offshoot of Angry Birds thus far, though, goes to prove that apparently, the birds truly are out to take over the world: The new Angry Birds Land theme park at Särkänniemi Adventure Park in Tampere, Finland. It features 12 rides (including a carousel and a roller coaster), the Mjakka lighthouse, an adventure course, themed food outlets, a gift shop and, of course, plenty of places to play the video game. Gamers can even download exclusive game content at the “Magic Place” inside the park.