Angry birds is a global success. Downloaded over 50 million times with Prime Ministers, actors and pretty much anyone and everyone confessing to be a fan. It’s no longer a game, it’s a brand. Cuddly toys, a theme park and a TV series in the pipeline – all from a simple game that takes a minute to figure out how to play.
But Angry Birds didn’t happen by accident. The mobile games developer Rovio had hit tough times and focusing on 2007’s hot gadget of the day, the iphone, they set about creating a hit game. Experienced in the mobile gaming market, times were getting tougher and tougher. Pre-iPhone, different versions of games had to be created for the different handsets which sent costs soaring. iTunes change all that, with people all over the world able to download the game from the same source. Rovio had years of experience in the market and knew what makes a game a success or failure. They were able to use all of this knowledge to develop something for the iPhone.
They figured they would need a strong brand to get to the top of the iPhone charts (it’s called Angry Birds and not catapult), a game that is simple but not too simple, levels that are difficult but achievable, characters and so on.
But their best insight to make the game a runaway success?
Don’t compete with other games, compete with life.
They didn’t look at the other games they would be competing against, they looked at the other things people would be doing when they could be playing Angry Birds. Namely downtime. Waiting for a bus. Queuing for a sandwich. Sitting on a tube. Time that is devoted to staring, pondering or fidgeting.
This insight drove the development of the game – from no loading time, to minimal instructions, to different high score rankings, to simplicity of gameplay.
And look at who’s playing it. Men. Women. Children. All ages. All professions. But the commonality is usually they’re all playing it too fill time while they are waiting to do something else.