It may be five years, and countless follow-ups, since the original Angry Birds catapulted the casual gaming market into the mainstream, but there’s never been a fully fledged sequel: until now.
The game’s developer Rovio has tweeted a teaser image for the game, the aptly titled Angry Birds 2, including a date – 30 July – and the promise that it will be “Bigger. Badder. Birdier”.
30 July is a Thursday – the standard release day for new mobile games – which suggests the game will be launched on that date. Rovio is holding media events in San Francisco and New York that week to unveil the title.
The original Angry Birds was released in 2009, with its popularity spawning a franchise that expanded into toys, sweets, online videos, books, educational initiatives and even real-world playgrounds.
Along the way, there have been a host of other Angry Birds mobile games. Some followed the bird-slinging gameplay of the original, including Angry Birds Rio, Angry Birds Seasons and Angry Birds Stella, as well as two Angry Birds Star Wars games.
There have also been expansions into other gameplay forms: Angry Birds Go! offered kart racing; Angry Birds Transformers was an action game; Angry Birds Epic an RPG adventure; and Angry Birds Fight! and Angry Birds Pop! were match-three puzzle games.
Along the way, however, there have been significant challenges, as Rovio tried to adapt to the growing dominance of “free to play” games on mobile devices, which made their money from in-app purchases of virtual items and currency.
All of Rovio’s recent games have been free-to-play, yet the company has struggled to break into the upper reaches of the app stores to compete with lucrative games like Clash of Clans and Candy Crush Saga.
At the time of writing, for example, Angry Birds Pop! is the only Rovio game in the 200 top-grossing games in Apple’s US App Store iPhone chart – and it’s in 124th place.
Rovio’s financial results reflect its battle to make money in a free-to-play world. The company saw its annual revenues rise from €6.5m in 2010 to €75.6m in 2011, and then €152.2m in 2012. In 2013, they flattened out to €156m, although the company later restated them as €173.5m. Then, in 2014, Rovio’s annual revenues fell to €158.3m.
By comparison, fellow Finnish firm Supercell, which publishes the Clash of Clans, Hay Day and Boom Beach games, reported annual revenues of €1.55bn in 2014 – nearly 10 times Rovio’s.
At the franchise’s peak in late 2012, Angry Birds games were played by more than 263 million monthly active users, but that total fell to 200 million by September 2014. The company has not updated that total since publicly, although it has said that its games were downloaded 600m times in 2014.
In October 2014, Rovio announced plans to lay off 16% of its staff, and admitted that “we have been building our team on assumptions of faster growth than have materialised”. Chief executive Mikael Hed stepped down, and was replaced by former Nokia marketing executive Pekka Rantala.
Angry Birds 2 is a hugely important game for Rovio, then. Not least because the company is continuing to work on the Angry Birds film, which is due for release in 2016.
If the new game is a success, it will build anticipation for the film – as will one of Rovio’s bright spots, the ToonsTV online video network, which launched in March 2013 and reached 4bn views by the end of 2014.
With 200 million active players, €156m of annual revenues and a growing presence in the fast-moving world of online children’s video, Rovio is far from an also-ran in the mobile entertainment space. But Angry Birds 2’s success will be a key pointer to the company’s future trajectory.
This article was written by Stuart Dredge, for theguardian.com on Thursday 16th July 2015 11.42 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010