Angry Birds was the mobile app sensation back in 2009. It exploded onto the app scene and captured the imaginations and free time of gamers forever, spawning many spin off games (including Star Wars, Rio, and Transformers versions), a merchandising empire, and even a theme park. There was a time in the early 2010’s where you couldn’t move for seeing a disgruntled bird.
It seems that developer Rovio have finally got around to releasing the sequel, Angry Birds 2 (although it really is the 13th installment in the series). With so much time having passed since the original’s release, could it compete in today’s market?
Anyone who played the original will be familiar with the gameplay of Angry Birds 2. You progress through the levels, flinging birds with various abilities at rickety pig structures in order to knock them down and get your eggs back. New features include a card system that lets you swap the order of your birds, to maximise piggy damage, and a treasure trail style level progression, which will be familiar to anyone who’s played Candy Crush Saga or similar games.
However, what has also changed is the payment method for the game. Angry Birds was $0.99 on iPhone and free on Android, but the sequel has adopted the freemium model that many popular apps have adopted. The game gives you five lives, and when you run out you can wait half an hour for them to replenish, or pay money to play on instantly.
Many players have taken umbrage at the system, seeing it as money grubbing from a company that has made millions of pounds from their game. Erik Kain has complained that the freemium model has been implemented poorly, making the game grind to an absolute halt unless you pay up to continue. He posits that Rovio have shot themselves in the foot, as most people would rather just wait than pay out to carry on playing. Jumping on the freemium model can seem like Rovio have been running to catch up with current mobile app trends, and haven’t really understood them properly.
However, others don’t see it that way. Ree Hines points out that waiting for your lives to replenish can actually avoid player burnout. Whether that was intended is unclear, but in what is really a pick up and play game, that can be invaluable. She also says that a lot of the time, the option is given to watch an ad rather than pay out real cash, which is often much more palatable.
One iTunes reviewer has accused Rovio of being ‘like drug dealers’, making players pay for more one more hit. In today’s app market, however, it’s hard to imagine what else they could have done. Many app users won’t download an app if it costs them money before they’ve evehn tried it, so charging even a small amount for it probably wouldn’t work. For most people, the adverts and waits for lives won’t cause an awful amount of problems. As Candy Crush Saga and their ilk have taught us, players will put up with an awful lot to play a game for free, and many more will happily hand over money to continue playing a game they’re enjoying. With 30 million downloads so far, it certainly hasn’t hurt Rovio at all.