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Attention, ladies and gentlemen! We gather here today to celebrate a true App Store milestone: Angry Birds has sat at the #1 spot for a total of 250 nonconsecutive days. Angry Birds—a juggernaut of a game in which players sling the titular avians at the fortresses of the opposing pigs, has seen amazing success. Released on December 11th, 2009, Angry Birds has jealously guarded its perch at #1 with much success.

In honor of Angry Birds’ amazing success, we’ve decided to take some space to reflect on the game that has redefined App Store success.

The Dawn of an Era
Angry Birds launched on December 11th, 2009 to modest success and minor fanfare. The original game included sixty-three levels and a single world. The story was present from the beginning: the pigs steal the birds’ eggs, and the birds set out to get their revenge by destroying the pigs’ castles. (Fun fact: the green pigs were inspired by the then-current swine flu epidemic.) Originally, there were five kinds of birds; leaderboards and achievements had yet to be added. Rovio fiddled with the price a little (for about a week, the game cost $1.99) but the real changes were yet to come.

People liked the original Angry Birds. They laughed. But it wasn’t yet a phenomenon.

Reaching—and Taking—the Skies
The 1.2 update really started the fire. A few months after its original release, the 1.2 update brought forty more levels in two distinct new “worlds,” leaderboards, and more complex structures, such as (gasp) triangular shapes. Then in April, the 1.2.1 update added the usual slew of extra levels, “golden eggs,” and the new “boomerang” bird. Shortly afterward, armed with these improvements, the birds barreled their way to the top of the charts. I’d say that the rest was history, but that would be implying closure…and Angry Birds is still chugging away. The chart below graphs the rise of the Angry Birds era.

Angry Birds took the #1 spot for all paid apps on April 27th, 2010 and has rarely been knocked from its perch since. How has Angry Birds done so well? Well, that’s the multi-million-dollar question. Personally I think it’s simply that Rovio found a “sweet spot.” Angry Birds has the potential for great depth and complex tower structures, and yet it only takes a few pictures to demonstrate how to play the game. Each aspect is carefully crafted and balanced, with new ideas surfacing with regularity. The charismatic birds and pigs don’t hurt, either. But I think Angry Birds’ success is also a function of Rovio’s careful, relentless promotion of the game and willingness to experiment. Angry Birds Halloween grew into Angry Birds Seasons when Rovio saw an opportunity for a companion app, and they capitalized on the characters by creating plush toys and have supposedly been working on other merchandise. Most importantly of all, perhaps, is that Rovio simply hasn’t stood still.


Marching (er, Flying) Onward
After reaching #1, Rovio didn’t rest on its laurels. Instead, Rovio has pushed out oodles of Angry Birds-related developments, both in terms of traditional updates to the main app and more creative endeavors. We won’t go into too many details, but here’s a small sampling of Angry Birds developments since the app’s initial peak.

  • On April 4th, Angry Birds has sells its millionth copy. Soon, the 1.3 update delivers more updates and a total of five million sales.
  • In fall 2010, Angry Birds goes to its first new platforms. Among the first are Nokia phones through the Ovi store and webOS. Angry Birds eventually heads to PSP, iPad, Android Marketplace, Mac, and Windows.
  • Angry Birds Halloween is released with themed levels as a separate app. It eventually becomes Angry Birds Seasons, a companion app to the main Angry Birds app.
  • Angry Birds plushies: So many people clearly loved the birds that Rovio decided to create some tangible plushies. The toy birds and pigs started shipping in December and can now be bought from Rovio’s online store.
  • In celebration of the game’s one-year anniversary, the “Ham ‘em High” update introduces new levels and the Mighty Eagle. The Mighty Eagle, a one-time in-app purchase, allows players to blaze through one uncompleted level per hour. It’s the first in-app purchase from Angry Birds.
  • Angry Birds Rio is announced. A tie-in with Rio, an upcoming movie from the creators of Ice Age, Angry Birds Rio will be an all-new game set in the Rio universe.
  • Super Bowl commercial: During the 2011 Super Bowl, Angry Birds made an appearance in a commercial for the upcoming movie Rio. The ad included a code that unlocks an extra level in the game.

Where to Now?
No app has come close to Angry Bird’s grasp on the #1 spot. For comparison, the second-place contender is not Doodle Jump or Pocket God, but the Moron Test, with a (relatively) measly 38 days at #1. Angry Birds has single-handedly redefined App Store success. Will anyone else ever be able able to replicate this feat?

But having achieved such great success, how can Angry Birds become even more awesome? The upcoming Angry Birds Rio is mostly a mystery, and I think it’s a great opportunity for Rovio to reconsider, improve upon, and maybe even reinvent parts of Angry Birds. It should certainly contain some great new ideas, given the developer’s track record. We’ll also be seeing Angry Birds on a lot more devices in the future, as Rovio has already announced plans to port their hyper-popular game to the Wii and Xbox 360.

Regardless of where Angry Birds heads, its current success is richly deserved. Angry Birds is a great game with an amazing amount of replay value and an incredibly funny, if silent, cast of characters. Congratulations to Rovio for 250 days at the top!

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