Why is Angry Birds so Popular?

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Is it just me, or is Angry Birds wildly overrated?

I have never understood the over-the-top popularity of Rovio’s mega-hit game. Flinging birds across a screen over and over and over and over and over? I was bored after ten minutes.

I enjoy casual games as much as the next guy. I play a mean Scrabble. And I can understand the initial appeal of the game: its physics are well done (particularly with a touchscreen interface), its sounds and visuals make flinging birds and knocking stuff over feel satisfying, and there’s a kid friendly Hatfields-and-McCoys thing going on between the birds and the pigs.

But that doesn’t justify Angry Birds becoming the biggest, most important casual puzzle game since Tetris or Pac-Man. It may be a fun little game, but that’s all it is. Developer Rovio is treating it like the second coming, milking their cash cow for all it’s worth. A monster-sized empire is being built around those tiny, ball-shaped birds. Hope as I may that they might show any sign of restraint or concerns about over-saturating the market, there’s zero chance of that. Case in point: since Lucasfilm knows a thing or two about capitalizing off of a popular franchise, Rovio announced just this morning a new partnership with Lucasfilm for an Angry Birds Star Wars game — and loads of tie-in merchandise, of course.

The hype is out of control for Angry Birds, and I’m sick of it. But it looks like Rovio is just getting started…

  • To date, there have been five core Angry Birds games, including the upcoming Star Wars title, which hits app stores on November 8th.
  • The popularity of the Angry Birds games has spawned umpteen zillion copycat games in the App Store. It even kicked off a new genre: the “physics puzzle” game.
  • Beyond the obligatory t-shirts and plush toys, tie-in products include Hot Wheels cars, board games, a cookbook, sodas, shoes, costumes, backpacks, band-aids, dog toys, and at least half the handmade products on Etsy.
  • Rovio purchased its own animation studio last year, and is currently in production on an animated Angry Birds TV series.
  • A big-screen stop motion film is in development.
  • Late last year, the very first official Angry Birds retail store opened in Helsinki. There are plans for more of them.

An animated Angry Birds movie and TV show… What would that even be about? How do you turn a bunch of colorful, ball-shaped birds that hurl themselves at tiny green pigs into characters worthy of ongoing adventures? I’m not saying it can’t be done, but this sort of thing always follows the same old formula. There will be the silly, goofball bird. There will be a wise, elderly bird. There will be a hot-tempered one that’s always getting into trouble (the red one, no doubt). And probably one that’s got mad engineering skills (somebody’s got to build all those slingshots). It’ll be trite and predictable and boring. Don’t even get me started on the big-screen movie, which I guarantee won’t be anywhere near as cool as this.

I’m not saying it’s a bad game. I just don’t think it deserves the popularity it’s enjoyed. It’s risen to the ranks of a modern fad. And fads wear off.

But what do I know? Maybe it’ll be a timeless gaming classic for the ages. Even my kids are obsessed with those colorful little birds. It’s sort of like how a toddler goes all glassy-eyed when fixated on a shiny red ball. Or a fly that’s drawn to a bug lamp. Or a zombie unwaveringly focused on human flesh.

“Must… fling… BIRDS!!!”

Call me when everybody comes to their senses.

The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of GEEK Magazine. But then again, they might be. It’s a mystery. Savor it.

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