Without question, Angry Birds is one of the most addictive and fun games to ever appear on the iTunes App Store. Back in December, the app was even responsible for what was unquestionably a serious gaming addiction. But while millions of fans spend countless hours trying to slingshot able bodied birds into an assortment of structures in an attempt to kill cartoon pigs, the story behind Angry Birds, or at least the company that developed it, is not as well known.
Angry Birds was developed by Rovio, and though the name may not have been familiar to iOS users until recently, the company has been around since 2003, mostly doing work-for-hire projects in the mobile space. Angry Birds, believe it or not, was actually the 52nd title developed by Rovio and was the result of countless hours put in by a team of 12 developers and designers who finished the project in 8 months, according to Rovio CEO (or Mighty Eagle) Peter Vesterbacka.
Since the app store first debuted, popular games have come and gone, and titles that quickly attracted attention disappeared just as quickly (iFart anyone?) Angry Birds, however, has exhibited an unusual amount of staying power, in part because, let’s face it, it’s addicting and fun as hell to play. But Vesterbacka also explained that the company has made a point to give users free updates with new levels and new birds. They’ve also been careful not to get greedy with in-app purchases. Thus far, the company has only offered one in-app purchase, a Mighty Eagle character for $0.99 that lets users skip ahead a level.
To date, Angry Birds has netted over 75 million downloads, both paid and free, and with huge success on both Apple’s iOS platform and Google’s Android platform, the company is looking to expand the game’s reach to the PC and Mac as well.
Up until last week, one mobile platform that conspicuously did not house Angry Birds was Windows Phone 7. Back at Mobile World Congress, Vesterbacka explained why the company wasn’t entirely gung-ho on the platform.
“We don’t have a version out for Microsoft because we really haven’t seen that as a relevant platform yet. Maybe the Nokia partnership changes that, but it remains to be seen. And I think that it’s gonna be very very interesting times 6-12 months to see if Nokia can pull it of.. i think it’s gonna be pretty tough, but best of luck.”
Last week though, Rovio officially announced that its popular title will be available for Windows Phone devices beginning this Spring.
In any event, Vesterbacka wasn’t shy in thanking Apple for his company’s success while speaking at the 2011 Game Developers Conference held in San Francisco last week.
“We really have Apple to thank, not just for helping to promote Angry Birds, but for creating the App Store to begin with. We got away from this carrier-dominated Soviet model. Other people decided on our behalf what was a good game and what was a bad game.”
“[Under the old system] I would have had to go to carrier and say, ‘We have this game where you have to slingshot birds at these green pigs.’” Vesterbacka continued. “They’d say ‘It’s not a poker game, we’re not interested.’”
Vesterbacka has previously credited Apple with giving developers the ability to monetize mobile games in a tangible way. ”We really look at the platforms that have the biggest reach and also have good monetization,” he explained, “so Apple of course really leads the pack there and they created the whole industry if you will because they really made it work.”
Vesterbecka went on to say that creating a great game isn’t enough and that one really has to take careful steps to market a product correctly. Rovio, for example, actively engages with customers and has pushed the Angry Birds brand out into new directions, such as a line of stuffed animals of Angry Birds characters. To date, the company has sold more than 2 million of them.
As for what to expect in the future, Vesterbecka said Rovio has plans to release new Angry Birds games later this Summer along with a St. Patricks day version of the popular game sometime soon as well. And believe it or not, but Rovio is also working on a full-length movie. Angry Birds in movie form seems all kinds of weird, but hell, they’re aiming high and we can’t fault them for that.