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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

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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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