Does Angry Birds Make Us Reconsider The Role Of Download Games?

I know we’ve been here before,  but when Angry Birds Space can shift 10 million units in three days it does seem worth taking a look at the future of the industry again. Oh I know it only shifted that many because it’s free on some platforms, and even when it’s paid it’s hardly anything.

All those arguments can go round and round for hours, but I don’t think Rovio really cares: they got people to hit that all important download button 10 million times in three days: that’s about 38 people a second hitting the all important link on whatever screen is in front of them.

[drop]Oh, and before we go any further lets address that free version. Way back in 2010 Rovio stated that the ad-supported version of was projected to hit $1 million  a month by the end of that year. In an interview with Wired in April of 2011 they stated that their ads on Android were netting them £600,000 a month, which is pretty much in line with their $1 million* projection.

In that same interview they revealed that the Angry Bird brands had, at the time, netted them $70* million overall, for an initial cost of around $140,000* dollars.

Anyone who thinks there’s a gaming executive that isn’t paying attention to figures like that is, quite frankly, deluded.  Sure, not everyone is going to reach the success of Angry Birds, that’s certainly a given. However, if someone can make something that’s only one-tenth as successful as Angry Birds that’s still a seventy-fold return on the original investment; those are the kind of figures that make anyone’s eyes light up.

All of this is before we even get to the 10 million figure for Angry Birds Space, something that I’d imagine has caused a few executives to book some extra meetings today.

Of course these kind of games aren’t going to rule the gaming in its entirety, but it’s very easy to envisage them being one of the big money drivers in the industry of tomorrow. If a publisher can create an entirely new property that does similar volume to Angry Birds they’ll have a huge chunk of change in their pocket, why not funnel that back towards full console titles?

Although there’s more money in gaming now than there’s ever been before, it’s does seem to continuously get tougher for smaller console projects to find their way through publishers. If the app market could inject some fresh excesses of cash back into a publisher you’d hope they’d use it in new and creative way, although with the potential for very highly performing mobile games (performance in terms of profit margins anyway) we might see things swing the other way.

Imagine it, you’ve got your top five games (say FIFA (above), Madden, Battlefield, Need for Speed and Mass Effect for EA) that you know are going to sell in a terrifying volume. The profits margin aren’t a lot percentage wise, but with the amounts of money involved it’s more than enough.

At the other end you’ve got mobile games with low development costs and the potential for very high margins. Now potentially this gives you money to pour from the top and bottom into the middle, but with the potential for huge chunks of the top and the bottom would anyone want to put money into projects that might make a bit of cash if you’re lucky?

Obviously you need to take some risks, but I wonder if the “make a profit or die” mentality will be pushed even further?

The industry seems to be getting to one of those transition points where there’s the potential for everything to change, where we could see everything pivot and re-align around one concept. There’s so many ideas and concepts popping up this time it’s impossible to tell where things will go but I’ll tell you this; if anyone thinks they can successfully emulate Rovio they’ll do it without hesitation.

*All currency conversions are based on exchange rates at the time the figures were quoted.

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26 Comments

  1. I think big name AAA titles making some kind of mobile attempt are going to be more and more common. FIFA’s one thing (it’s actually really good) but when the likes of Mass Effect roll into town, it’s obvious that EA at least are deadly serious about mobile.

    That said, the casual stuff still flows more quickly – Angry Birds is a beast.

    • the version of Dead Space on iOS/Android was pretty damn good too.

  2. I’d like to see what nets them better profits between the always paid for iOS versions and the (likely) 99% advert supported Android versions, compared over the length of a year.

    I saw an interesting, unscientific study into the profits that spare-time created apps and games net somewhere recently. I’ll see if I can find that again.

    • I’ve seen figures on that from Rovio, but despite a lot of Googling I couldn’t track it down and didn’t want to commit myself without a source.

      However I believe in the first article I link too they mention that it was netting roughly $1.2 million a month on the iOS store, compared to their $1 million prediction on Android with Ads.

  3. The problem is, the mobile market has yet to prove itself as sustainable. The number of users playing Facebook game dropped over the course of last year and aside from Angry Birds, few mobile games hit such heights.

    If a company were to invest heavily and solely in mobile games and leave the core gamers behind, they’d be taking a huge risk – potentially more so than trying a new and fresh IP. There may well be money to be made in the short term in mobile and Facebook games, but given that it’s only really been a successful market for a few years, it’s impossible to determine whether the trend would remain quite so profitable.

  4. We did a lecture on the future of video games the other week at uni (I study media). It was really good, but my lecturer at one point said home consoles will be dead in a few years time, giving way to games like this. Frankly I think it’s ridiculous; it’s like saying no one will go to the cinema anymore because they have YouTube. It’s an entirely different experience. Yes, it’s going to have an effect on the hardcore gaming industry, but it’s not going to kill it dead.

    • I hope you raised that with him! I love mobile games and have loads like Angry Birds, Temple Run, Draw Something, Reckless Racing, Sonic CD etc on my android phone and I play them a lot WHEN I’M OUT.
      When I am at home though I want a big expansive game with amazing graphics and sound, a long engaging story or realistic physics. I’ve never sat at home and played a mobile game until the early hours losing track of time and forgetting to have dinner! That’s an experience only home console/PC gaming can deliver.

      • Only a good console/game experience can have you forget about basic bodily functions.

      • Nah, I’ve played Angry Birds so long I’ve forgotten to eat before.

      • Damn straight! last week i booted up Amnesia for a spin at about 9pm, lots of sheer terror later and it was 11am and i was an hour late for work.

        gotta love your hardcore gaming :D

      • @halbpro – You’ve played awful Flash games for that long, you’re not a good barometer :-p

      • I didnt say anything actually, mostly because it was towards the end of the lecture and the girls were getting very bored. Its a sad stereotype that girls dont like games, but this time it seemed to be true.

        I do play some mobile games at home, like Cut the Rope and Draw Something, but comparing them to Mass Effect or Uncharted is ridiculous – they’re two very different beasts.

  5. It’s all about being original. Angry Birds was so successful because it was something different both in style and in pricing. I’m not saying it was the first by any means but it was the best overall package.
    As you say, no-one is likely to emulate that success in the mobile market because it’s been done. The market is much more crowded now, Angry Birds struck while the iron was hot.

    Developers need to focus on making games that are fun and use the money from their cash cows to take a few risks. I really hope that Rovio are doing that and I wish EA would put some money down that route too.

  6. Mobile gaming is certainly hitting new heights as time passes, games that would be considered throwaway by the hardcore (Angry Birds, Peggle, Osmos etc) still rack up huge amounts of peoples time gaming and with the Advent of games for the Hardcore such as Real Racing 2, Shadowgun and the upcoming Baldurs gate re-release its gonna be racking up huge amounts of playtime from the Hardcore.

    Exciting times to be a mobile gamer.
    (id be more excited if theyd hurry up and announce BG for my Transformer Prime though!)

  7. This thing has grown out of proportions. They want to be bigger than Disney, open theme parks, make more from selling puppets than the actual games,…

    Soon we’ll be left what nothing else than Facebookvilles and more of these pass time 1 dollar games.

    All this stuff is the new huge ICT-bubble. I hope it pops sooner than later.

  8. Angry Birds lasted about 5 minutes on my phone. Pile of poo.

    Mobile gaming has me worried for the future of gaming. Given that so many people are seemingly entertained for countless hours by things as simple and shallow as Angry Birds and Kinect games, I wonder how long it will be before those games are all that are produced. How long before developers start to think that’s all people want, and leave the rest of us without decent games to play?

    • funnily enough you reminded me of an article i read years and years ago in PCZone on console gaming.
      rather than launch into something that will be just given the tag of TL;DR ill just say – Dont worry matey, mobile gaming will find its niche and settle down, never affecting the immortality of the PC platform and of the cycles of Consoles, home gaming will always exist and be strong just as mobile gaming will always be a fixture.
      Be Cool :D

      (how Zen was that? :D )

  9. Sure, it’s changed the way we approach gaming as a whole, though as we’ve seen with games such as Angry Birds and Draw Something, success doesn’t always come from bigger, well established companies.

  10. In a word no. They are next to nothing of freebies, throw away titles to be honest. They’ll never be the full Sunday roast, they’ll always be a quick bag of crisps.

    • Thats a perfect way to describe them, lol.

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