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Half a Billion Angry Birds Downloads? THESE ARE THE GOOD OLD DAYS
by William Volk on 11/02/11 11:45:00 am   Expert Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Some history here.

To be honest, I got lucky in 1980.  I'm in graduate school in Maryland, I see a notice for a job play-testing games (Dec. '79 to be exact) and I end up at Avalon Hill testing their first games for the Apple II and TRS-80.  By the summer of '80 I have my first title working.  Avalon Hill publishes it and the two that follow.  By the 1990's I'm at Activision working on the Return to Zork etc. etc. Easy-peasy as we used to say back then.

Over the years and decades that followed the game industry grew up.  With that maturity the game business became harder to break into.  While oldsters like myself got started in QA, Support or even Shipping ... it's become a heck of a lot harder to break into the business.  I had a part time gig a few years ago teaching game design at a "Art Academy" and students are paying tens of thousands of $$$ for a shot at a job as a "level artist" working with large teams of other artists at major game companies.

Consider the number of NES titles ever published.  Maybe 700 or so ever released in the USA.  Look at the current PC and console markets ... just a few titles each year are profitable.

Then there's mobile.  Prior to 2008 you had to "get on deck" with an operator to even reach some players.  Operators didn't want to deal with independent publishers for the most part.  When I hear folks griping about Apple's 30% take, I remind them of the almost 50% cut these operators took and the "net forever" terms to get paid.  Not to mention the $thousands$ it cost to get a title approved.  Yes, there were some pockets of opportunity ... the best being NTT DoCoMo in Japan in the early 2000 decade.  A clear indicator that a open app store could create a surge of development activity.

Enter the Apple App Store.  $100 fee to sign up and that's it.  You could see the potential right from the get-go with initial hits like iShoot, but hey ... there was a lot of garbage too.  I mean how many fart apps do we really need?

But you know what?  Players figured it out.  Great titles achieved success. 

When Angry Birds showed up (development cost rumored to be $140k) my first thought when I watched the cinematic and played the first few levels was:

"This is going to be the next 'Mario.'

And it is.  Rovio had done about 50 titles prior to Birds and this was their first big hit.

So now there's a path as 'easy-peasy' as my lucky break in 1980.   And hundreds of thousands of developers are trying to create the next "Angry Birds."  And "Angry Birds" is no fluke.  Look at the beauty and just sheer fun of "Tiny Wings" ... the social fun of "Words with Friends".

Seriously, it hasn't been this good for a very long time. 

These are truly very good days for gaming.

 


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Comments


Harry Fields
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Angry Birds is fun, but it's a one-trick pony. Calling it the next "Mario" may be a bit premature until you see whether they can update the gameplay while retaining the brand identity.

Pedro Figueira
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I believe the difference between turning a game such as Angry Birds from a "one-trick pony" to a friggin' jack of all trades like Mario is just a matter of creativity, trial and error.

If you think about it, Mario came alongside a swarm of platformers, such as Angry Birds with physics games. Mario's strenght as a character brand / mascot is pretty much what made his logevity possible and the same goes for our feathered buddies.

I can immagine Angry Birds spin-offs, Rovio caught the public's affection with their game. keeping the series alive as a brand is only a matter of releasing quality products with frequency.

William Volk
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I saw the presentation by Rovio at Casual Connect. I think they GET IT about their IP. Time will tell.



BUT it's certainly the most successful 'character' game since Mario and Sonic.

Prash Nelson-Smythe
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Something to bear in mind about Mario vs Angry Birds: I suspect Mario made a lot more money. People were willing to pay full price for a copy. People bought consoles to play Mario. On the other hand Angry Birds is very cheap or free (on Android).



It's a great game series though, and I have three stars on all levels released on Android. But I'm not sure I would've given it a chance if I had to pay for it...

Noah Falstein
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Mario debuted in Donkey Kong, which was successful but nowhere near as successful as Angry Birds. It will take a few years to do a fair comparison.

Harry Fields
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I dunno... I just don't see it. Angry Birds platformers. Angry Birds sports games. Angry Birds karting games. Their sole appeal is the touchpad-unique gameplay that is simple to pick up for 5 minutes while you're on the crapper. Most games starring Mario (not just including Mario) require a much different level of commitment to play. People will pay 50$ for that Mario game (as Prash points out). If Angry Birds priced itself at the level of say, a normal XBLA game (10-15$), would it have been anywhere near as successful? Not likely.

William Volk
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Players pay $50 for a Mario game because that is what the market bears for games on that platform.



Would a "digitally distributed" Mario cost $50 on a platform where the average game price was $2?



(It might be interesting to see what the retail cost was for the version of Super Mario Bros n released for the Nintendo Family Computer Disk System).


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