Image Credits: The-Bambookazee
PopStudy is a segment where I provide you interesting insights and facts about the people and content that are prevalent in people's lives and have a widespread effect on the global community.
I'm pretty sure Angry Birds are to the Internet generation (born from the early or mid 1990s to the present) what Tetris is to my mum and dad (Gen Xers); given the amount of modern entertainment choices that we have now as compared to the relatively paltry number of handheld games in the past (Gameboy only had 5 games during its launch), the global pervasiveness of these furious digital avians in our lives is a remarkable accomplishment in brand building by Finnish company Rovio Mobile.
- Downloaded a total of over 600m times (Dec 2011)
- 30m daily active players and 130m monthly active players (October 2011)
- Shifting 1m toys and 1m t-shirts a month (Sep 2011)
- New audiences in India, in Africa and all the emerging markets... add another 400 million together
- Rovio had rejected a $2.25bn acquisition offer from social games publisher Zynga (Nov 2011)"
Angry Birds smashes half a billion downloads!
In light of the newly launched Angry Birds Space, I thought this might be a great time to discuss how this simple mobile game has managed to cement their place in popculture history; we'll also take a look at how Angry Birds has grown beyond the smartphone and made its way into the real world and our lives - all these in the span of 2 short years.
"Which came first, the Angry Bird or the Egg?"
"Inspired primarily by a sketch of stylized wingless birds, the game [Angry Birds] was first developed for Apple's iOS in December 2009."
The Angry Bird game started life as a simulated screenshot featuring some angry-looking ball shaped birds during a brainstorming session for potential games by the programmers at Rovio. Prior to Angry Birds, the boutique studio in Espoo, Finland, had already created 51 games in 6 years - but none of them were hits and the company was facing a very real threat of bankruptcy.
When senior game designer Jaakko Iisalo first proposed the idea, the staff had no clue as to how the game would be played, but the team liked the characters a lot, so much so that they decided to design a game around the birds.
“This image (featuring the bird characters for the very first time) is part of a game pitch made by Game Designer Jaakko Iisalo. Although the game concept went through numerous changes, the prominently-browed avians remained.”
As the development team got to work on the concept, they realized that the birds needed an enemy - and it just so happened that in the same period of time, the 'swine flu' epidemic was making headlines worldwide - and it gave the developers the idea of featuring sickly green pigs as the game's antagonists.
Why is the Game so Successful?
Some of the most common responses given by people who play Angry Birds are that it's addictive, simple to learn, and that they can just pick it up and play it in short bursts. The key component to the game's success is no doubt in its design - its playability and engaging nature has garnered it some really powerful celebrity and media endorsements - pop star Justin Bieber tweeted that he's unable to put the game down, and popular variety show Saturday Night Live spoofed Angry Birds in one of its episodes. The game also has many fan made videos, some of them produced by very prominent Youtube personalities like Corridor Digital -
In my opinion, I feel that another big reason why Angry Birds is so successful can be attributed to the fact that it's a game that keeps on giving. Rovio is an incredibly generous company - their original Angry Birds game only launched with 63 levels and after more than 2 years, the studio is still actively adding new stages to the game - to date, there's 300 levels (or more) - all of these were given as free updates to players.
Obviously, their unselfish approach to building a fan base is paying off because I've never once seen the Angry Birds game leave top 20 in the App Store and for every bundle of stages they give for free, Rovio's keeping their game on your phone and their brand on the top of your mind - this translates into great merchandising opportunities - which they've been quick to capitalize on - selling plush toys, shirts, co-branded games etc - marketing win.
Beyond the Game
"We haven't seen ourselves as a games company for a long time," said Vesterbacka. "We've now sold over 10 million plush toys, so a million a month, and we also have other products: board games, card games, and we've recently launched our first book." - http://www.guardian.co.uk/
Pay a visit to AngryBirds.com and you'd see their 'Games' tab nested amongst 4 other categories of merchandise - you can buy plush toys, figurines, apparels, books and many assorted accessories - the decision by Rovio to move their brand beyond a smartphone app has allowed Angry Birds to be ubiquitous - it seems to me that their 99 cents game serves as both a source of income and a great form of publicity and advertising for the spherical fowls - this might also be a reason why Rovio isn't eager to cash in on its fans by charging more money for new stages in its games.
The prevalence of Angry Birds is evident from the many fan videos on Youtube - people have created simple things like Angry Birds cake, to designing entire marketing campaigns revolving around these cultural icons. Probably one of the more spectacular examples would be T-Mobile's online advertising campaign in Barcelona -
Another endearing video made in tribute to the irritable wildlife would be the viral clip 'Playable Angry Birds birthday cake', uploaded by British gadget website ElectricPig.
Angry Bird Space
The release of Rovio's latest game, Angry Birds Space, was actually the catalyst to my writing of this article - upon receiving news of its availability in the App Store, I immediately downloaded the app. Many people around the world did exactly the same shortly after the game's launch at midnight on the 22nd of March - it quickly topped the App Store charts in US, China and Japan - fans were paying 99 cents for the iPhone app and up to five dollars for the game on mac computers - very lucrative indeed.
If there were ever characters in a game that's approaching the iconic status of Mario and Mickey Mouse, I have a really good feeling that Angry Birds might be in strong running to be (while some of you may argue that it already is) a permanent fixture in the world of iconic brands and mainstream pop culture. Their Finnish developers have revealed their intention to break Angry Birds out of its current genre and to explore other forms of presenting their characters to fans.
"You can expect to see other Angry Birds games, just like Mario... When Mario drives a car, it becomes Mario Kart. When he goes to space, it becomes Super Mario Galaxy... Our birds will do things and go places, and they will go to unexpected places. And some of those places will turn out to be games." - Rovio's marketing chief Peter Vesterbacka
Just the other day as I was making my way back home, I caught sight of a pink Volkswagen with Hello Kitty decorations all over it and I thought to myself, surely this must be a good indicator that a brand has transcended both functional needs and entertainment purposes to become something we feel strongly and emotionally attached to - well you had to, especially if you're willing to drive around in feline patterned fuchsia to proclaim your affection for a brand. If only the fans did the same for Angry Birds...
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