Peter Griffin suggested it, and now Rovio has confirmed it: the Bird is the Word. In a mere three days following its release on March 22, Angry Birds Space, the latest entry in the highly popular (and highly lucrative) physics puzzle series, reached ten million downloads. That’s a whole lot of furious flying fowl, but what comes next for Rovio’s rock stars?
There was never any doubt that the popularity of Angry Birds Space would explode like a bomb bird raining black death on piggish scum, and ten million downloads in three days means that Rovio won’t be abandoning its golden geese any time soon. Nor is Rovio likely to dispose of the zero-gravity physics engine for Angry Birds Space before it gets a couple more games out of it, at least. Still, it might not be the worst idea for the studio to give the homicidal parrots a small vacation.
Last month, Rovio’s CEO, Mikael Hed, promised that all-new IP is coming from the Finnish company, and that the game featuring said IP should be out in “a couple of months.” Rovio understandably doesn’t want anyone taking their eyes off Angry Birds Space right this second, but even so, now would be a great time for the studio to demonstrate that they’re capable of blockbuster ideas besides Angry Birds. As Jim Squires (Gamezebo’s own Mighty Eagle) points out in his review of Angry Birds Space, the games are still great, but the formula is starting to get a little, y’know, old.
In fact, the mobile market is evolving at breakneck speed, but Rovio seems like it’s running to stand still. In the past, Hed has compared the success of the Angry Birds franchise to the phenomenal popularity that Super Mario Bros experienced on the Famicom/NES. Here’s the thing, though: as soon as Nintendo had a hit on its hands, it immediately went to work on the game’s formula, which is something Rovio is not doing with Angry Birds, aside from tie-ins with children’s movies, and some zero-gravity experimentation–and it’s taken the studio three years to even reach that point.
By comparison, look back at what Nintendo did with the Super Mario formula. In 1985, Japan received the original Super Mario Bros; in 1988, it received Super Mario Bros 3, a game that still inspires veteran and start-up developers alike. The jump in quality between the two games is tremendous, and goes far beyond a couple of tweaks to the old Mario formula. Moreover, Mario grew up in the ’80s, when communication between game developers and consumers was slower than a one-legged koopa, at least by today’s standards, but the company still managed to spin gold.
Also consider that Nintendo gave birth to a host of different franchises during that same period: Zelda, Metroid, and Kid Icarus, to name a few.
Not to put any pressure on you, Rovio. It’s wonderful that Angry Birds Space is doing so well, and it’s even better that you aspire for Angry Birds to be the next Mario, but it’s time for you to prove that you’re more than a one-trick birdie.