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Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Angry Birds: How the underdog is succeeding

It's always good to see an underdog succeed.  It's human nature to see someone persevere, go against the grain and come out on top.

This has been exactly the case with Angry Birds, the game that has quite literally taken the world by storm.

After first being introduced in December 2009 as an App to download on the iPhone, it quickly grew and has now moved off the iPhone, onto many other smartphone platforms including Google's Android.  What though has been the landmark moment in my opinion has been the shift from smartphone gaming onto console gaming for Angry Birds (more history of Angry Birds can be seen here).

With the announcement that Angry Birds will be available on various platforms like the PSP, PS3, Wii and the upcoming Nintendo 3DS, it's shown just how far the developer, Rovio, a Finnish company, has gone in a little over 15 months (This news can be seen here).

In an era where the landscape of gaming has changed with the emergence of smartphones, we've seen several trends develop that make it that much more significant.

Firstly, the console or PC market is not the only route to gaming success.  With smartphones and tablets, there is a whole new segment of people who've now started gaming that you probably wouldn't have seen earlier.  Earlier, it was considered that most people playing on a smartphone or tablet were "casual" gamers and the hardcore gaming fans stuck to consoles and PC's.  With Sony's recent announcement of the PlayStation Suite, we're now seeing an integration of portable, console, smartphone and tablet gaming as you could possibly start playing a game on your PSP (or NGP), move it onto your PS3 and then move it back onto your Sony Ericsson Xperia Play (some details from Sony for the PlayStation Suite can be seen here).

This should've been good news for everyone involved in gaming but they aren't quite as happy as the whole model of games distribution has changed as well.  With smartphone and tablet gaming, it's more a case of downloading an App instead of buying a cartridge or CD for your game.  With the price of Apps being just a couple of dollars, if not free, it means average revenues per game sold have dropped.  With Apple also opening the Mac App Store recently, this has meant even those with a Macbook start downloading games.  A lot of people who were a part of the food chain here are being overlooked (yes, including retailers like us), but this has only meant more people are gaming.  For the gaming industry to grow though, they need a bottomline that supports them.  This can only come if they make up for the loss of CD or cartridge sales from App sales (where the average selling prices are much lower, but volumes could be significantly higher).

Coming back to Angry Birds.  They've now seen over 50,000,000 downloads since the game was first launched.  The game has come in several different flavours and varieties with special versions launched during festive periods or indeed during Valentine's Day.  This also probably marks one of the first cases where a game has moved from a smartphone platform onto the console platforms.  This is at a time when console and PC gaming developers are actually trying to capture a piece of the pie in smartphone gaming.  Industry stalwarts like Electronics Arts (famed for their EA sports series of games) surely are looking at this market very closely and must be wondering how much of a threat smaller developers like this will be in the future.

The underlying fact is that the gaming industry is changing probably quicker and more rapidly than most could anticipate.  When established companies like Sony start developing entire gaming platforms in Android because of the fear they're going to be left behind, we know it's come down to a case to change or be an afterthought in the industry.

At the end of the day though, we all like to see the underdog succeed and who knows, somewhere along the way, we could see the next Facebook or Google emerge.

 Posted By: Ashish Panjabi, Chief Operating Officer, Jacky's Electronics