Angry Birds Go! Is Taking A Seriously Wrong Turn

It's still a couple of weeks before the Angry Birds kart racing game hits mobile devices in North America, but it's on New Zealand's iTunes right now, and I've played it long enough to get very angry with it. Energy meters? Really?

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A lot of folks like to rip on the Angry Birds series for releasing the same sort of game over and over again — generally folks who don't play those games. Tweaking the established formula is almost as much a hallmark of developer Rovio as providing regular doses of free content long after its games are released — the original Angry Birds got a new free update just this week.

Rovio has also done a good job of steering clear of free-to-play mobile pitfalls. There are microtransactions, but they're generally limited to purely optional power-ups, which are never necessary to complete a level.

I have a pretty high opinion of the developer, which is why what it's doing with Angry Birds Go! has me so puzzled. Energy meters, limiting the amount of time folks can play? Souped-up cars for cash? And all of this done in a game that's riddled with corporate sponsorship?

It's shaken my faith, to be sure. I always thought of Rovio as one of the good guys.

Angry Birds Go! is due out on December 11, so chances are the version I played from New Zealand's iTunes is largely the same one we're getting here. It's quite pretty, and it handles nicely, but the first time I run out of energy and have to wait for it to refill is the last time I am playing.

DISCUSSION

A game cannot be developed, and then risk just putting out optional upgrades. I play mobile games too, and appreciate when I can play for free, but I understand that someone has to pay for something otherwise it's a failure. People lose jobs, and companies close down.

It'grinds my gears when reviewers (user and professional), complain about having to actually buy something in a free to play game. The game is not developed and released purely for enjoyment, and your 5 star reviews will not be equal to a paycheck.

Charging for games - making them premium - does not work. Mobile advertising mostly sucks. Conversion rates on ads are low as it is, and then when arriving on the download page and seeing it being a 'premium' title will completely hamper any purchases expected from impulse.

The reality is, is that for most companies developing titles on mobile and some PC, cannot afford to risk putting a price on their game. They cannot afford to have simply cosmetic items available for purchase. You may see an handful of games with high revenue and large user bases, but they are a tiny, tiny percentage of the whole field.

Now, although I'm understanding of this, there are exceptions. Obviously, someone like Rovio and with an IP like Angry Birds, they can sell it as a premium title and market it with a good conversion rate due to the IP being used. So their model used is purely for more revenue (it's a business, it's understandable), but unlike those who don't have much choice, Rovio did, but they choose the route of greater long term revenue... possibly.

But perhaps with some of their other titles not living up to what Angry Birds did, they needed to go with something that had a better chance of turning a higher profit. And notice themselves that the premium game on the mobile platform just doesn't work too well.

It's not always about being greedy, it's due to not having much choice if you actually want to make anything back in the incredibly crowded mobile space.