Features

Ten Years at the Top - An in-depth chronicle of Angry Birds' history

|
iOS + Android + Java ...
| Angry Birds
Ten Years at the Top - An in-depth chronicle of Angry Birds' history

Ten years of feather flinging

Left Arrow
0/6
Right Arrow

Angry Birds is 10, and that's something that everybody reading this should be celebrating - here's why.

There are very few things in the games industry, especially the mobile games industry, which can claim to have ten years of history under their belt. There's even fewer who can claim that they've been releasing a game a year during that time.

I mean, some series have been relaunched from scratch during that time. Even if we get down to the annual franchises, things like the Fifa, Football Manager, WWE, these are franchises born out of systems which persist until now; the faces and line-ups change, but new features are added in at a crawl. A new match type might make its way into the newest iteration of 19-year-old WWE; Legends, Journey and FUT added different ways to view the same gameplay of 26-year-old FIFA, and we can finally define intricate board expectations in the 14-year old (brand) Football Manager.

yt
Subscribe to Pocket Gamer on

Angry Birds has had over 25 releases in its ten years, including 18 main-series entries. Sure thing, Angry Birds might have its slingshotting mechanic to Fifa's play mechanics, but Angry Birds has also stepped out of its core gameplay loop of aim-pull-release to dabble with other genres.

That is why, after 10 years, Angry Birds' characters are symbolic of the brand more than the slingshot mechanic. Just look at the role that the actual flinging took in the two feature-length Angry Birds movies (not much) and you'll see that - much like Mario - the characters are stronger icons than the games.

So, let's chat about some of the milestones that Rovio have managed in these past ten years, and about how a little Finnish company changed the face of mobile gaming when it finally latched onto Angry Birds. 

Rovio wasn't unheard of before Angry Birds, they had worked on over 50 titles for mobile before landing on their now-famous IP. Do you remember Police Quest? I certainly do. Well, they were responsible for SWAT Elite Troops (Bronze Star Pocket Gamer award winner) back in 2007, and even worked on the Need for Speed brand with Need For Speed: Carbon (Gold Star Pocket Gamer award winner) before that. 

However in 2009, when they released Angry Birds, their fates completely changed. Hit the big blue button below to join us on a journey through the Angry Birds' 10 years at the top.

Click Here To View The List »

How did it all start?

Back in 2009, ten long, tired years ago, somebody at Rovio played the internet sensation Crush The Castle. Armor Games' internally produced physics game was lightning in a bottle and was no-doubt dropping worker productivity anywhere that there were computers with internet browsers - and lax workplace browsing settings.

If there's one thing that the mobile development scene does well though it's moving fast - our industry is known for dropping products which aren't performing to start again. Rovio saw an opportunity to build on the successful formula of CtC and swooped in.

Angry Birds released later that year. It featured a more family-friendly topic than the destruction of property by the ruling classes - far too relatable - and it also capitalised on the mobile phone touch screen. The satisfying drag and release movement was simple and fun, but it also felt incredibly responsive and... for want of a better word, natural. It seems wild to think about it, but games like Fruit Ninja hadn't come into existence yet, and many developers were still struggling with what to do now that the role of buttons in phones was going away.

yt
Subscribe to Pocket Gamer on

The first Angry Birds was by all standards a phenomenon, and the unfortunate thing with phenomenons in media is that they are normally one-of-a-kind. The main difference here was that Mobile Gaming was a rapidly emerging market with an incredibly fast-growing audience.

Rovio's next title would have brand power behind it, however, it wouldn't have the push of being first past the post on the proper use of the iOS touch screen. So, when Angry Birds 2 did come along they'd need to give it one heck of a boot to get it going... or would they?

When did Angry Birds 2 come out?

Good question. It was actually almost six years before a big 2 was affixed to the Angry Birds name, there were however 10 other Angry Birds games which launched in between that point.

Almost a year on from the initial release there was a lot of demand for more levels and content for the brand. By this point, everybody and their grandmother had played through most of the core game and pretenders and other games were starting to capitalise on the expanded potential audience created by the game. 2009's mobile userbase was a shadow of 2010's audience, and a shadow of 2011's audience too - the market was growing exponentially.

Rovio's answer to this was Angry Birds Halloween, a seasonal offering which was exclusive to iOS. However, within a few months, Angry Birds Seasons has released on multiple formats, encompassing the Halloween offerings and promising more, regular content. Seasons was an innovation and one of the earliest foundations for modern 'Live Ops' in mobile games. The app became a delivery platform with which the team could release new, seasonal content to a waiting audience - it meant that app updates did much more than just fix bugs, they could also advertise upcoming content for the app.

yt
Subscribe to Pocket Gamer on
Seasons continued to receive updates for six years and went multiplatform well beyond the scope of mobile platforms. It was part of the Angry Birds Trilogy pack which launched on every last-generation console, from 3DS through to PS3.

It was a long journey and the later few updates for Seasons truly underlined the scale at which the brand had grown over the years - 'Piggywood Studios' had the pigs reenacting scenes from Hollywood Movies, all licensed, including Aliens, Back to the Future and Indiana Jones. Back when Angry Birds Seasons launched in 2010, mobile and movie licensing had barely begun, with the nearest thing to these high-level crossovers being when a (sometimes-shoddy) movie tie-in game released on various platforms.

But, let's get back to the earlier days of Angry Birds.

When did Angry Birds get big?

2010's Angry Bird Seasons successfully cemented Angry Birds' place in mobile culture. Earlier I drew a comparison between the birds and Mario, but unlike with the moustachioed plumber, the world of 2009 had been ready to accept game characters as mainstream mascots. Angry Birds had done in two years what Mario, Sonic, Pac-Man and more had taken much much longer to achieve.

Angry Birds was undeniably a big deal from the moment it launched, but that was completely cemented when in 2011 the brand stepped beyond the small screen, launching an official Angry Birds store in Helsinki. As a matter of fact, 45% of Rovio's 2012 revenue was cited as coming from branded merchandise (The Guardian).

That year they also launched a cookbook. Very notably 2011 was also the year where a Chinese theme park opened up a (totally unlicensed) Angry Birds attraction - both a sign of things to come and a testament to the widespread popularity of the brand. Needless to say, an official Angry Birds theme park was planned immediately and Rovio have been smart with that area of licensing since. There's a play park near to where I live which would, without the licensing, be a standard wooden-stockade style park, instead, it's covered in brightly-coloured birds.

Of course, we're still waiting for a Chinese theme park to release an unofficial Pocket Gamer attraction - we're sure we'll get there one day.

yt
Subscribe to Pocket Gamer on
2011 also marked the third core game release, Angry Birds Rio. It was a tie-in with Blue Sky Studios' computer-animated series of films - linking the birds intrinsically to film, something we know that they expanded on later.

Perhaps my favourite little milestone for Angry Birds in 2011 however, is when they inspired a Yoga book titled 'How to Eliminate the Green Pigs in your Life'. An interesting step from a game about launching birds into structures in order to crush and destroy green pigs, but a much more interesting read.

Angry Birds goes social & beyond

2012 was a bumper year for Rovio, they went from having created three core entries in the series onto creating four full games in one year.

The year started off with them releasing Angry Birds Friends which was, initially, an exclusive for Facebook. We might chuckle now, but that year was lauded as the year where social media truly began to come of age, settling into their role as a media format rather than simply networking. An exclusive deal accessible for only Facebook's (ginormous) userbase was a clever tactical move which undoubtedly garnered some favourable advertising. Ultimately though, Angry Birds Friends launched as its own app on mobile platforms the following year.

yt
Subscribe to Pocket Gamer on

Next up came Angry Birds Space. It took the birds out of our terrestrial atmosphere and introduced forces beyond traditional propulsion. It also changed up the ability set of some of the birds, and restructured level formats into planets.

Then we saw Rovio's first wider attempt to move the brand beyond the slingshot-flinging mechanics which are so heavily intertwined with it. Bad Piggies, released in September 2012, was still a puzzle game, however, players had to assemble vehicles in order to move Piggies to their destination. It was the fastest-selling game on Apple's App Store, and rocketed to the top of the downloads list in under three hours. Rovio had proven that they could deliver multiple titles which could top the charts and that they could deliver successes outside of the situation which led to the original title's phenomenon status.

In 2009 172.38m phones had been sold, in 2012 that number was massively overshadowed by a whopping 680.11m handsets sold. To be able to continue topping a marketplace which had expanded over four-fold washed away any doubts that people had about Rovio's longterm place in the industry.

yt
Subscribe to Pocket Gamer on

During all of this time, the original Angry Birds game was still receiving updates, but more importantly, there was something else brewing in the background. Angry Birds Star Wars was unprecedented - mobile games simply didn't get crossovers of that tier. How it came to be didn't really matter, what mattered is that it was a massive milestone for mobile gaming brought to us by Rovio.

We gave it Angry Birds Star Wars a Gold Star award, and we also got to use the header of 'Ham shot first' which, frankly, deserves an award in itself.

yt
Subscribe to Pocket Gamer on

Alongside the year of releases, there were a few cultural markers for Angry Birds. Rovio had sponsored the Lotus F1 team, with Red appearing on the helmet of a racer; National Geographic paired up with the developer to create 'Angry Birds Space: A Furious Flight Into The Final Frontier' to tie into Angry Birds Space; An Angry Birds soft drink was launched, and Hot Wheels manufacturer Mattel did a tie in series of die-cast cars with the brand.

By the end of 2012 you could be sitting at home under your Angry Birds blanket, drinking Angry Birds soda while watching an Angry Birds sponsored team take place in an F1 race.

Wild.

Angry Birds Tie-Ins and Toys

2012 was an incredibly hard year to follow, not only did the brand expand even further from the small screen, almost double the number of games on the market, but Rovio also bundled the first three titles into Angry Birds Trilogy. It would be easy for the Helsinki developer to kick back and take a year off. They didn't though.

In games, 2013 saw the release of Angry Birds Star Wars II. The September release covered the prequel trilogy of the films, as well as the popular Star Wars Rebels TV show. It was followed in December by Angry Birds Go!.

yt
Subscribe to Pocket Gamer on

Angry Birds Go! certainly might sound like an AR game about wandering around a map in realtime, but it instead tied back to some of the sponsorships that Rovio secured the previous year: it was a racing game. It marked the first time that the core series had strayed from the puzzle format. While it received mixed reviews, it was a well-rounded racer and it also used the Hasbro Telepods toy range which launched earlier in the year - as Angry Birds Star Wars II had before it.

You've probably seen Telepods around, most people have. But, a lot of people don't actually know exactly what they were. Telepods were very much a part of the Toys To Life movement which was popularised by Skylanders. In order to use the Telepods, players would put the toy on a special mount and then over their device's camera. It was a fascinating toy range, and much like other stand-outs in the Toys To Life genre, the figures were instantly collectable.

yt
Subscribe to Pocket Gamer on

2013 marked another massive milestone for Rovio however, in March of that year Angry Birds Toons first aired. There had been short animated sequences made before, but never anything of the scale of Toons. It would run for over 100 episodes across three seasons, and prefaced several other series - including an animated Stella series and a stop-motion one focused on the Piggies, which would both launch in 2014.

With two Star Wars tie-ins, a Toys to Life range, and don't forget that Yoga-tie-in book, where could Angry Birds even go in 2014?

Under Construction

We're still working on this feature, check back soon and we'll have it updated for you.

Left Arrow
0/6
Right Arrow