How Angry Birds Started and Why It Got So Successful

© | OlegDoroshin

In this article, we will look at 1) Angry Birds – an introduction, 2) how Angry Birds got so successful, 3) global impact, and 4) what enterprises can learn from Angry Birds.


This video game franchise was created by Rovio Entertainment, a Finnish computer game developer. The game was inspired by a sketch of stylized wingless birds. The first release was on the Apple iOS platform in December 2009 and by October 2010 the game had sold 12 million copies on the Apple app store. At this point, the game was developed for other smartphones including those on the Android, Symbian and Windows Systems. The game has also expanded to video game consoles and PCs.

The game has seen phenomenal success in all its platforms for its addictive gameplay, comical style and low price to play. The large market for game related merchandise is also present with items featuring game characters. There are also multiple spin-off games and a TV series with longer terms plan for a feature film.

Total downloads for the game across all platforms for all editions total 2 billion. The game is the highest downloaded game series that employs a freemium model. The British Prime Minister, David Cameron has admitted to having a slight addiction for the game as well as other famous people such as Dick Cheney, actor John Hamm and many more.


One main reason for the games immense popularity is its simple design. There are barely any instructions or complicated controls allowing people of all ages and technical prowess to easily play the game. The game screen features the antagonist pigs to the right while the angry birds are to the left. The pig are sheltered in structures made of wood, concrete, steel or ice. The birds have to be catapulted through the air to destroy the forts and squash the pigs.

The game appears simple but there is science behind it. A bird on the right trajectory can wreak havoc on the pigs while a wrong one can lead to failure and the level restarting.

History of Angry Birds

Angry Birds Games and Spin offs

The game has led to many different versions. These include Angry Birds (2009), Angry Birds Seasons (2010), Angry Birds Rio (2011), Angry Birds Friends (2012), Angry Birds Space (2012), Angry Birds Star Wars (2012), Angry Birds Start Wars II (2013), Angry Birds Go! (2013), Angry Birds Epic (2014), Angry Birds Transformers (2014), Angry Birds Fight (2013) and Angry Birds Under Pigstruction (2015).

Spin Offs include Bad Piggies (2012), Angry Birds Stella (2014) and Angry Birds Stella POP! (2015).

Angry Birds Statistics

The game has been downloaded 2.5 billion times by 1.7 billion smartphone users globally. These users have thrown 600 billion birds collectively and earned 150 billion stars across all Angry Birds games. In comparison, the Milky Way only has 100 billion stars! By the end of 2011, 300 million minutes of the game were played daily.

According to The Guardian, in 2013 Rovio’s growth stalled and revenues grew by only 2.5% year-on-year. The company reported revenues of €156m (£128.4m) for 2013 compared to 2012’s €152.2m – which represented more than double the €75.6m that Angry Birds made in 2011. 47% percent of this revenue came from the consumer products division which includes toys, books and other licensed products.

Some other interesting infographics about the game can be seen here and here.


The creators of Angry Birds managed to formulate the perfect recipe for a casual game with everything in just the right quantities. According to Michael Chorost, there are four main reasons for the game’s popularity. Underlying these reasons is the delicious delay between the birds being launched and the results. This feeds our primal pleasure centers.

The dopamine action in your brain makes you want to know, urgently, what will happen when you fire the bird. And it’s extremely easy to get yourself in a position of wanting, because the game is so simple. It gives you intermittent but extremely satisfying rewards. So you pull the slingshot again and again and again. And again and again and again and AGAIN.

Another opinion is by Raph Koster who believes that a primeval skill is re-awakened in humans through the central aiming mechanism.

It’s evolutionarily useful that the brain fastens on challenging problems that have to do with trajectories. Physics calculations like this were extremely valuable if you made your living with a spear.

Some other reasons for the game’s success are described below.

Simple Yet Engaging Concept

This may seem like an obvious combination to aim for when developing a game. But it is not always translated practically. In Angry Birds, the developers have ensured that the game is easy to pick up for a new player and factors such as age or intelligence are not barriers to enjoying the game and even doing well as it. This means that none of the challenges presented by the game are impossible and can all be overcome with some time and effort. This makes for a relaxing and low stress game which can be played at any time for any period of time.

This simplicity can also be a danger to the engagement level of a game. If a game is too simple in concept, then people may lose interest faster. But because the game is based on trajectories, there is a slightly different result every time. In addition, though people quickly develop a mental model of the game’s methodology, strategy and scoring, it remains engaging because there is carefully planned expansion of this mental model through increasing complexity as the game progresses with more birds and more complex structures to destroy.

Cleverly Managed Response Time

Generally, applications will attempt to provide users with a faster response time. This is a key requirement for many products such as google, email or instant messaging. However, in other types of applications, a more prudent use of response time can actually add depth and quality to user engagement with an interface. In Angry Birds, this response time is utilized quite cleverly where the bird is released at a leisurely pace and its trajectory is marked and observable. The pigs and their structures take their time to fall apart or be destroyed completely. This slow pace allows users to correct their errors, study what they did right or wrong and plan their strategy. It also allows the game to remain relaxing rather than nerve racking.

Short Term Memory Management

Human short term memory is exceedingly limited when compared to other aspects of our system of memory. This short term memory allows humans to recall a small number of items, behaviors or patterns for a short time frame allowing us to operate without the more complex process of bringing in the long term memory. The Angry Birds game design manipulates this short term memory in the most intuitive way by bending it to create better engagement with the game. This short term memory loss is created in a way that it does not become a negative for the player but adds to the complexity of the game. One example of this in action is when the screen loads at the beginning of each game. The player sees a quick view of the pigs in their structure before panning back to the birds, driving the structure out of mind and removing the ability to strategize. The player will then move back to view the structure again, allowing the short term memory to recharge.


The element of mystery, big or small, has the ability to keep humans engaged. Whether this mystery is in art, advertising or a movie, we tend to find these mysterious details compelling. The game is full of these little mysteries such as the presence of small bananas in some levels, the shaking of pig abodes right before the level begins, why birds sometimes somersault when released and not every time and many more. These small questions are not enough to frustrate but enough to add another layer to the engagement of the game.

Casual Play Time

Another appeal of the game is that it can be played for as short or as long a time period as the user wants. This means that a quick game can be taken in while waiting in a line, during a lunch or tea break or while traveling in a taxi or bus. The game is meant to be played casually but with enough goals and objectives to keep even hardcore gamers involved.


All the visual and audio effects of the game come together to make a satisfying and enjoyable experience for any kind of player. The game play allows for satisfaction and achievement with every successful level, whether it is finished in one try or several dozen.

Popularity Breeds more Popularity

Human curiosity makes us want to try out what is deeply engaging another person. With the initial buzz of the game on its release, more and more people wanted to try out this new sensation, thus leading to increased referrals and yet more interest.


Angry Birds is a true phenomenon, having entered the lexicon of the current times. Its impact can be seen extensively in all aspects of modern entertainment and culture. Some of these examples are:

Television & Film

The characters from the game have been mentioned in various TV shows around the world. These include Israeli comedy show Eretz Nehederet’s satirized version of Israeli-Palestinian peace attempts featuring the Angry Birds negotiating with the pigs. Other mentions include Conan, The Daily Show and Tosh.0 as well as 30 Rock. Fans of the game include British Prime Minister David Cameron, author Salma Rushdie, basketball star Kevin Durant and actor Jon Hamm. The game was also featured in film G.I Joe: Retaliation, TV series VEEP and referenced in a parody of The Hunger Games.


The characters have also been featured in advertisements for different products. These include a series for Microsoft’s search engine Bing, one for Nokia’s N8 phone, T-Mobile, Finnair as well as Rovio created promotional variants for other companies. These include Finnish snack company Fazer, Spanish pizza chain Telepizza, Japanese TV network Fuji TV, Cheetos and Coca Cola.


Formula 1 driver Heikki Kovalinen was sponsored by Rovio in 2012 and wore an Angry Birds helmet and a promotional web-based version of the game was released in his honor. Another driver, Kimi Raikkonen also has an Angry Birds Space logo on his cap. For the 2012 Monaco Grand Prix, Rovio teamed up with the Lotus team to affix its logo on top of each Lotus Renault F1 car.

An angry hockey player bird, HockeyBird was unveiled as the official mascot for the 2012 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championships designed by Toni Kysenius and Rovio.

Video Games

The game has inspired knock-off and parody games which use the same basic mechanics as the original. Some of these include Angry Turds, where monkeys throw feces at hunters. Yet another is Chicks’n’Vixens where the birds and pigs are chickens and foxes. This game was released on the Windows phone platform as a challenge to Rovio, who had not released the game for the platform.


This app can help enterprises learn about how to handle large amounts of critical data. According to Andy Gross of Basho, there is a connection between a mobile gaming app and an effective, strong enterprise infrastructure. This connection is the huge amounts of critical data as well the constant pressure to meet customer expectations.

Data & Customer Expectation Handling at Rovio

The creators of the game have to handle more data than many enterprises do. By 2013, the game had been downloaded 2 billion times with 263 million monthly users. All these users bring in considerable data such as personal information and player stats among others. To manage customer expectations, companies such as Rovio manage critical data by keeping a focus on the key factors that have an effect on business revenue and user experiences. In this case, these are game performance and availability. This means that the game needs to be available all the time with no downtime and that users can access their data such as scores and stats at all time without any loss of data or errors. These learnings can be translated to enterprises easily.

  • Catering to high user expectations – To ensure a perfect user experience, companies such as Rovio, Amazon and Facebook have put in place distributed systems to guarantee availability, zero data loss and zero downtime. This is possible only through distributed databases.
  • Flexible Storage – The Rovio databases have a schemaless design as well as no restrictions on data formats. This allows all critical user data to be easily stores, managed and delivered with no unified format required.
  • Low Latency Design  In a distributed system, data is replicated on different multiple nodes to provide a higher tolerance for hardware failure and allows the system to continue to function with no loss of critical data.
  • Global Data Locality – A multi-datacenter replication makes sure that data is present close to users in order to ensure optimal performance anywhere in the world.
  • Scalability to Manage Growth – As more users enter the fray, more data is brought in the need to scale becomes crucial to success. The Rovio infrastructure allows them to add and remove nodes and scale from tens to hundreds of servers to meet customer demand.

Companies therefore, need to learn to not only capture big data but also leverage it to improve the bottom line.

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