Angry Birds Action! is a fast-action free-to-play mobile game where you can smash piggies with Angry Bird characters in a pinball-like fashion. It’s been in the works for a while, but it’s just the tip of a the spear in Rovio Entertainment‘s gigantic transmedia strategy to cash in on its famous feathered franchise.
Angry Birds Action! debuts today on a global scale, and it is integrated with an unprecedented augmented-reality campaign where consumers can scan BirdCodes from the physical world into their smartphone or tablet game and earn power ups that they can use in the digital app. Rovio hopes to get a billion BirdCodes into the hands of consumers in 50 different markets through partnerships with 20 brands, including H&M, McDonald’s, Lego, Walmart, and PEZ. All of this will lead up to the May 13 launch of The Angry Birds Movie in the United Kingdom and the May 20 debut in the U.S.
This is all the logical extension of the Angry Birds brand, which exploded on the market in 2009 and has been played by more than 2 billion consumers. The popularity of the original game and its sequels enabled Rovio to move into merchandise, cartoons, and the new movie. Rovio has more than 300 licensees for Angry Birds merchandise. But the staying power of the brand has weakened somewhat, and Rovio had to lay off some employees recently.
“We have created a game that stands on its own, but it enables you to interact on your own terms with the different pieces of content out there, from the BirdCodes to the movie,” said Justin Chacona, director of digital marketing at Espoo, Finland-based Rovio Animation Company, in an interview with GamesBeat. “The user gets the ultimate power to dive in as deeply as they wish.”
Game companies have turned to digital-physical strategies, dubbed “toys to life,” ever since Activision’s Skylanders toy-game hybrid products debuted in 2011. We’ve seen the category explode into billions of dollars, with competitors such as Rovio, Disney, Nintendo, and Warner Bros.-Lego moving into the market. But the Rovio campaign is something else altogether, dubbed a “360-degree experience” where Angry Birds characters are going to be inescapable, said Miika Tams, vice president of games at Rovio Entertainment, in an interview with GamesBeat.
“It’s a cool game by itself, but the extras you get with the movie add to the experience,” Tams said.
The game was created by Tag Games and published by Rovio.
“The ultimate experience is the Angry Birds Action! game that is launching this week,” said Mikael Hed, chairman of the Rovio Animation Company, in an interview. “It’s a nice way to tie together everything we do. This is the first time it all comes together in one beautifully designed package with so much functionality. We are very excited to see this out in the market.”
If it doesn’t work, some people in Finland will be disappointed. The Angry Birds brand has become iconic in quite a short time, compared to lasting brands like Mickey Mouse. But it’s quite possible that consumers are tired of being inundated in the brand’s ubiquitous marketing without corresponding innovations in gameplay.
In the new Angry Birds game, the leader of the flock Red smashes and crashes through obstacles and bounces from wall to wall like a wrecking ball. It’s all in the name of saving precious and fragile eggs. Along the way, players can unlock exclusive additional content by going to see The Angry Birds Movie on opening weekend. There’s a whole new area of the game, Movie Magic, that they can explore. It will have an additional exclusive movie clip that can’t be viewed anywhere else except inside Angry Birds Action!. Movie Magic works in the game by detecting an inaudible digital watermark that plays only behind the end credits of the film.
“With The Angry Birds Movie coming soon, Angry Birds Action! brings the brand back full circle to its mobile origins, while also creating with our partners a new type of entertainment experience altogether,” said Kati Levoranta, Rovio CEO, in a statement.
Players can collect special BirdCodes in the real world and earn rewards in the game. On top of that, they can play two dozen mini-games in augmented reality as well using an app created by Zappar. More than a billion BirdCodes have been printed and distributed around the world.
Whatever happens, it’s a huge bet.
Tams said that more than 50 people have worked on the project at Rovio. On top of that, there are teams that deal with the major partners outside the company such as the film makers and the augmented reality partner Zappar. It could be closer to 500 people when all of them are counted.
“From an operational point of view, it’s huge,” Tams said. “I personally can’t wait to see the reception for the game and the movie.”