AppFigures Explores Five Years Of Angry Birds — And The Lessons It Can Teach


For us humans, turning five years old means you’re ready for kindergarten. For a mobile game franchise, it’s roughly the equivalent of a 40th wedding anniversary in the sense that it represents sustained and fairly rare success.

Believe it or not, Angry Birds hits that milestone this week, as it first hit the iPhone in December of 2009. It’s safe to say it’s been one of the most influential brands not just among mobile games, but video games in general during that time. The people at appFigures have done some digging into how it got that way, publishing a new blog post today with some key takeaways from Rovio’s success story.

The entire post is worth a read, and it’s especially interesting to ponder whether a developer or publisher could follow a similar path five years later. Could someone else strike gold by releasing a popular game and applying the lessons learned from Angry Birds? AppFigures identifies four takeaways, but I’ll boil it down to just three points in order of usefulness to up-and-comers:

  • Release in small markets first

This makes so much sense that many developers and publishers choose to do it these days. Soft launches in specific markets are a normal part of the process of bringing mobile games to the U.S., particularly on iOS. I’ve had game designers tell me that doing so can teach them a lot about gameplay and spending patterns, and that information is extremely valuable.

  • Building one hit into a franchise

To me, this is the smartest thing that Rovio did once it realized the scale of the hit it had on its hands. So many mobile game companies have experienced tremendous success with one title and found themselves unable to duplicate it with anything else. Rovio simply kept doubling down on Angry Birds with different iterations of the same overall theme, and while not every attempt at doing so turned into a smash, appFigures points out that even later games in the franchise that had different gameplay gave boosts to the original when they released.

But Rovio went even further, spinning Angry Birds off into animation and a dizzying amount of licensed merchandise. This move isn’t for everyone, as some companies will simply prefer to make more games. It’s certainly worth considering once a game reaches a certain threshold, though. Kind of makes you wonder (or be grateful, depending on your point of view) why there weren’t Candy Crush Saga plush dolls …

  • Forming partnerships

Angry Birds has forged alliances with some major brands, including Star Wars and Transformers. Those are moves right out of the “spending money to make money” playbook, which you can only do once you’ve hit it big.

The appFigures report has some good advice on this front for games and apps that aren’t at the household name point, and that’s to partner with smaller companies with products or services that make sense. I’m not an expert in this area, but if you can convince a prospective partner that there’s value in it for them as well, it’s a perfectly logical move. Once you’re popular enough to have conversations with movie studios, you’re obviously already doing pretty well.

Kudos to appFigures for doing the research, and congrats to Rovio and Angry Birds on the milestone birthday. If we’re doing this all again five years from now, there should be some really intriguing things to discuss.

For more on the AppFigures reporting platform, head to

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