Angry Birds: In early 2009, Rovio staff began reviewing proposals for potential games. One such proposal came from senior game designer Jaakko Iisalo in the form of a simulated screenshot featuring some angry-looking birds with no visible legs or wings. While the picture gave no clue as to what type of game was being played, the staff liked the characters, and the team elected to design a game around them. In early 2009, physics games, such as Crush the Castle, were popular flash-based web games, so the Rovio team was inspired by these games.
Iisalo and the company’s other developers had already put forward a number of ideas, all of which had been rejected by Rovio’s directors for being either too complicated, too simplistic or too boring.
What would hit the spot? Iisalo knew it had to be something fun, something with a strong central character. Suddenly, an idea began to form in his head. Switching on Photoshop, the designer started sketching a flock of fat, round birds with big yellow beaks, thick eyebrows and intense, slightly crazed expressions on their faces. They had no legs to speak of, but, despite this drawback, were racing manically along the ground towards some sort of castle.
During the development of Angry Birds, the staff realized the birds needed an enemy. At the time, the “swine flu” epidemic was in the news, so the staff made the birds’ enemies pigs. Angry Birds was the studio’s 52nd produced game and on its initial release, the game did not sell many copies. After Angry Birds was a featured app on the UK App Store in February 2010 and quickly reached No.1 there, it reached the No. 1 spot on the paid apps chart in the US App Store in the middle of 2010 and then stayed there for 275 days.
The initial cost to develop Angry Birds was estimated to exceed €100,000, not including costs for the subsequent updates. For the iOS version, Rovio partnered with distributor Chillingo to publish the game to the App Store. Chillingo claimed to have participated in final game polishing, such as adding visible trajectory lines, pinch to zoom, pigs’ grunts, birds’ somersaults on landing. Since then Rovio has self-published almost all of the later ports of the game, with the exception of the PSP version, which was produced under license by Abstraction Games.
The initial iOS version of the game included a single episode entitled “Poached Eggs”, which contained three themed chapters, each with 21 levels. From time to time, Rovio has released free upgrades that include additional content, such as new levels, new in-game objects and even new birds.
As updates have been released, they have been incorporated into the game’s full version offered for download from each platform’s application store. The first update released on February 11, 2010 added a new episode called “Mighty Hoax”, containing two new chapters with 21 levels each. Updates released on April 6, 2010 added the “Golden Eggs” feature, which placed hidden golden eggs throughout the game that would unlock bonus content when found, and a new episode called “Danger Above”, which initially contained a single chapter of 15 levels. Two later updates added two more chapters to “Danger Above”, each with 15 levels. “The Big Setup” episode, released on July 18, 2010, added a new chapter with 15 levels and additional Golden Egg levels. “The Big Setup” was later given two more chapters of 15 levels each.
The game was downloaded more than 3 billion times as of 2015. The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has admitted to a mild addiction, as have a variety of other supposedly busy people, from Dick Cheney to Mad Men actor Jon Hamm. Last year, two brothers, Rodrigo and Gustavo Dauster, competed against each other in a two-month marathon session to see who could score the maximum number of points. (Gustavo is now writing a book entitled Angry Birds Yoga.) Mothers bake Angry Bird cakes and stitch Angry Bird Hallowe’en costumes for their children, and a sketch on an Israeli comedy show, which featured an Arab-Israeli style peace conference between birds and pigs, has been viewed more than four million times on YouTube.
The game’s success has been so huge that since then the developer has branched into multiple businesses with this game’s IP by having merchandises, books and even a full length featured film. In fact, Rovio no longer describes itself as a games developer. It sees itself as a media company focused on “building really strong brands” of which Angry Birds is only the first. The soft toys, phone cases, comics and even the movie are not an after thought. They were part of the plan from the very beginning. Whether the comics and the movie will ever come to pass is a moot point, but you can be sure that Rovio will leave no stone unturned.
That, folks, is the interesting story of the hit slingshot game Angry Birds.