Angry Birds fly high around the world

MANILA, Philippines – If you still don’t know what Angry Birds is all about, then by all means do NOT install it on your phone, tablet and computer unless you’re ready to give up hours of your life to this purely addicting video game about birds perfecting their physics-based demolition job against the pigs that stole their precious eggs.

The game is really simple in many ways yet very engaging and could be tricky. The game’s current 200 million plus fans worldwide who have collectively downloaded Angry Birds 300 million times on their devices know exactly that collapsing one pigs’ fortress is not enough. They MUST all go down.

And so it goes that Angry Birds, created by Finnish gaming company Rovio Mobile, has been for sometime now holding the record for being the most downloaded iOS game ever and the number one paid app on iTunes in nearly 70 countries, including the Philippines. It is also the most popular game on Nokia’s Ovi Store and a phenomenon in the Android world, too.

As its fan base grows, so does the game. A little over a week ago, Rovio added a fresh serving of 33 more levels to Angry Birds Seasons, themed after the 3,000-year-old mid-Autumn Chinese Moon Festival. The new stages have the cocky pigs wearing straw hats and hiding behind paper fans against a nighttime Moon Festival background. Hidden in the 33 stages among pagodas, rabbits and lanterns are eight “mooncakes” that will unlock a bonus stage when found.

With the Mooncake Festival edition, fans now get to play seven different Angry Birds Seasons, which include Trick or Treat, Season’s Greedings, Hogs and Kisses, Go Green, Get Lucky, Easter Eggs, and Summer Pignic. Along with the Mooncake Festival release, Rovio also unleashed the game’s baddest bird, the Mighty Eagle, for all seven Seasons as a one-time in-app purchase for $0.99. With the Mighty Eagle, available to players once every hour, skipping a level, unlocking new ones and advancing in the game is as simple as tapping on the eagle’s icon. It’s like a cheat, really, but the Mighty Eagle brings new additional high scores and achievements also.

Industry watchers see the launch of the Moon Festival episode for Angry Birds Seasons as part of Rovio’s expansion plans in China. But the enterprising Chinese are way ahead when it comes to capitalizing on Angry Birds’ stardom. A quick search online reveals a Chinese amusement park already providing an Angry Birds attraction using plush Angry Birds toys, inflatable pig balloons and giant slings. And guess who were so quick to manufacture those Angry Birds plastic toys now being sold at local bazaars around the country?

Today one will find Angry Birds characters emblazoned on just about anything from shirts, hats, bags, shoes, school supplies, nail art, and food. Yes, food.

At this year’s Hong Kong Food Expo, Angry Birds mooncakes were sold with a pair of red Angry Birds cooler bags. It was such a hit that more were being baked and sold for this month’s Mooncake Festival. The Angry Birds-shaped mooncakes cost about two times more than the game itself at $4.90.

Here in the Philippines, the Imperial Palace Waterpark and Spa in Cebu also offers the same Angry Bird style of amusement to its guests, while some pastry chefs are whipping up cakes and muffins designed with the popular birds.

World domination

Now that the Angry Birds have landed in China, they’re scheduled to fly next from Helsinki (they’re Finnish birds, after all) to Singapore.

Finland’s flag-carrier Finnair is kicking off an Angry Birds branded flight this month with a promo called the “Angry Birds Asian Challenge.” The very special flight, which takes off Sept. 20 from Helsinki to Singapore, will allow travelers to play Angry Birds and compete on board using game consoles distributed to passengers and programmed especially for the event. Finnair will also provide a themed Angry Birds service and entertainment on board. Finnair will also operate a fully customized Finnair Airbus A340 for the event.

To be selected to actually fly with the Angry Birds in their first official airline trip, fans have to fill out an application form on the website (https://www.finnair.com/angrybirds), and collect as many Facebook “likes” as they can, with a jury screening the final eight winners. Application deadline is today, Sept. 12, at 9 a.m. Finnish time. Finnair will book the round-trip tickets and cover necessary accommodation costs.

Clearly, the Angry Birds are on their way to world domination. The mooncakes and cupcakes being baked in different parts of the world in their honor are, as it turns out, a prelude to an Angry Birds Cookbook in print and e-book formats. Called the Bad Piggie’s Egg Recipes, the cookbook will be all about egg dishes from salads to sushi.

Picky-eater kids might not devour the egg dishes though like they did with the game, but they might enjoy the Angry Birds textbooks that Rovio is reportedly planning to publish. Early reports said the interactive textbook will teach kids about geometry and spatial reasoning in a playful way.

There are also rumors of an Angry Bird cartoon series or movie in the works; all signs that the Angry Birds are a slingshot away to celebrity status.

The science of Angry Birds

Early this year, Charles Mauro who writes for the Pulse>UX Blog by MauroNewMedia deconstructed the charm and science behind Angry Birds in a long post he called “a cognitive teardown of the user experience.”

According to Mauro, millions of people were captivated by the game due to the carefully thought user interface and design that Rovio used in Angry Birds. In a nutshell, he said Rovio used cleverly managed response time, short-term memory management, mystery, and applied the neuroscience of music and visual design impact to make Angry Birds. The result is a unique user experience that made the stylized wingless birds to fly to great heights of success.

But whether or not the Rovio game developers were aware they were designing Angry Birds on those points that Mario cited seems moot, however, to Angry Birds players who are simply too immersed playing the game.

According to the Nieman Journalism Lab, a journalism foundation at Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts, the total number of hours consumed by Angry Birds players worldwide is roughly 200 million minutes a day, which translates into 1.2 billion hours a year. To compare, all person-hours spent creating and updating Wikipedia totals about 100 million hours over the entire life span of Wikipedia, according to the foundation.

But why is Angry Birds too addictive to play?

Mauro said because it lets players to quickly develop a mental model of the game’s interaction methodology, core strategy and scoring processes. “These little birds are packed with clever behaviors that expand the user’s mental model at just the point when game-level complexity is increased,” he said.

But who is best to study all that player activities than the source itself? Rovio is currently working with Seattle, Washington-based Medio Systems to help them gain insights from Angry Birds players and apply that information to improve the game’s designs and features.

Rovio said Angry Birds’ fans generate 1.4 billion minutes of game play data during the course of any given week. And the numbers are growing exponentially, giving Rovio and Medio enough data to crunch on consumer behavior. Over the span of even just a few months, these data sets grow from dozens of terabytes to many petabytes – unstructured and complex. But they contain a gold mine of information that Rovio said could help them increase Angry Birds’ fans engagement and satisfaction.

Bird feeders

Angry Birds may be seen as an “overnight” success but it took Rovio almost a decade of game development before they hit it right with these birds, no pun intended.

It reportedly cost Rovio 100,000 euros to make Angry Birds which so far gave them an ROI (return on investments) of over 50 million euros in revenues.

Early this year, several venture capital groups gave Rovio its first round of funding worth $42 million. But the birds are hungry for more so that Rovio, according to Bloomberg, is negotiating a funding deal to raise its company value at around $1.2 billion. The investors, Bloomberg speculates, might be News Corp., Walt Disney, Electronic Arts or online giant Zynga, the creator of FarmVille.

Also helping feed the Angry Birds are the millions of people worldwide who didn’t mind paying a few dollars for the game. As it is, Angry Birds is a proud Finnish export with a combined 300 million downloads across all platforms and including both regular and special editions.

The game was first released for Apple’s iOS in December 2009 and from there it “flew” to other touch-screen-based smartphones using other operating systems such as Android and Symbian. Rovio has not made it available in BlackBerry and Samsung’s Bada smartphones yet and on some Android smartphones from HTC, Huawei, Motorola, and Sony Ericsson, among others.

The pricing of the application on each platform varies. Rovio said they based it on the development costs, the number of customers and the policies of each marketplace. The latest Mooncake Festival edition for Apple devices costs $1.99, plus $.99 for those who want to get the Mighty Eagle. It’s free on Android smartphones.

Rovio also recently struck a partnership with Google to make Angry Birds available on Google+ as an ongoing HTML 5 social gaming project. This first foray of Rovio into social gaming benefits the more than 10 million people already on Google+ who can now enjoy Angry Birds as a social experience. Angry Birds is available in high definition in the Chrome Web Store.

Last year, on the first anniversary of its release, an “Angry Birds Day” was reportedly staged by fans from 756 cities worldwide. Expect a repeat this year.

Some blame “media hype” that feeds the phenomenon that is Angry Birds. But who would really repeatedly play a game, no matter what the media says, if it sucks? The birds are angry, the users are happy. End of story.

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