First off, I love Angry Birds! I check it for updates more actively than any of my other iOS apps, and I have both the original version and the candy-coated “holiday” versions—including V-Day, St. Pat’s Day, Xmas and Halloween. I have played them all to completion and think they represent some of the best the mobile platform has to offer (this is true even if we also acknowledge the game play borrows just a tad from other, older games).
Second, with that bit out of the way, Angry Birds creator and Rovio CEO Peter Vesterbacka is quickly becoming kind of a dick.
To say success has gone to his head—just a bit—and clouded his judgement is, I’m afraid, a bit of an understatement at this point.
Which is really too bad! Because, again, Angry Birds is such a great game.
Not great? Saying consoles are dying, even when the evidence doesn’t really back it up. Newsflash, Versterbacka! Your game is kind of the exception! Also, there’s the matter of February console sales, which were actually up, thanks in no small part to innovative little peripherals like Kinect (yes! there! I! Said! It!), hardware like the all-but-sold-out 3DS, and software like Dragon Age 2, Donkey Kong Country Returns and basically everything I saw at PAX East this weekend (which, coincidentally, included more news about Angry Birds for all consoles).
I’d include PlayStation Move in there, but I’d only be able to say people are “playing” that if we allow that “playing” means they are using the bulbous controllers as a kind of rudimentary bat to smash their unplayed PSPGo’s out the window and into a dumpster. So, yes, people are “playing” the PlayStation Move too, without fear of Angry Birds usurping their active activities with its cheap, mobile goodness (joking aside, no one’s playing Move).
But the real point is that consoles are just fine and dandy, thank you very much, and the proof is pretty much in the February numbers. Forever and ever now people have been prophetic with their belief that the console is dead—the Wii especially, because everyone still loves to hit that low hanging fruit—and that the numbers would start to turn around and go negative as mobile gaming took hold. That really hasn’t happened.
Instead, what’s happened is there’s been this huge in-pouring of gamers who might just be even more “casual” (in quotes because I hate it) than the Wii owners seem to be. They love their 99-cent apps and their 5-min seated-on-the-toilet restroom sessions, thank you very much, and they’re pretty happy playing those games all the live long day. But what they aren’t doing is leaving their DS’s or PSP’s or Xbox’s or Wii’s at the wayside to enjoy these new experiences. Nope. They’re continuing to do play them, or they’re the kind of people that don’t particularly like the disposable experiences (yes! I said that too! Just like Iwata!) one finds overwhelmingly prevalent on mobile iOS and Android devices.
Thing is, disposable doesn’t mean bad! It just means what it means. Disposable razors aren’t bad. Neither are pens. Disposable just means whatever it is serves a purpose admirably and then when it doesn’t the person really doesn’t feel all that bad if they never use it again. Kind of like the majority of software in the App Store right now. Again, that’s not a bad thing! Some people actually LOVE those orange plastic Bic Razors, but this doesn’t mean the Art of Shaving is going out of business anytime soon. Not by a long shot.
Perhaps what Rovio’s outspoken CEO meant to say is that, *deep breath* “gosh golly gee the App Store has been absolute gangbusters for us, and as I sat atop this gigantic pile of money I mistakenly assumed that every developer who ever stepped foot in or heard of the App Store has had the exact same experience as we did, and because of this mutual, shared success they have decided not to make console games anymore! Ergo, consoles are dying!”
Yeah, something like that.
In the end, my advice for Rovio is pretty simple: You have a great product, but it’s not that great. It’s not even genre-defining or paradigm-shifting. It’s an exceptionally designed exception to the rule in an App Store filled with garbage and occasional diamonds in the rough.
So instead of saying silly things like “consoles are dying” during a month where they actually saw an increase in sales, why not focus on that next holiday expansion pack? The St. Patty’s one wasn’t particularly hard or evolutionary, nor was the Valentine’s Day one…come to think of it, the shorter levels kind of make it feel as though the franchise is slowing a bit. Not dying, per say, but I had to check the pulse a few times, you know?
Better yet, focus on that Angry Birds console version. I hear games on consoles can be a real bitch to pull off successfully. Or are we to believe the up-tick in console sales are an effect of the Angry Birds phenomenon as well? No, probably not.