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Angry Birds Developer is Always Angry

No High Scores

Perhaps it’s just the way that games are covered lately but it feels like you can’t go ten minutes without Angry Birds developer Rovio getting all hot and bothered. Someone needs to take a minute in the time out chair and get a hold of themselves.

Now look Rovio, I understand where you’re coming from. Angry Birds has been downloaded 100 million times and you guys are sitting on a boatload of cash from the sales and here’s Satoru Iwata saying that cheap games devalue the industry. The problem is that I kind of see his point…

You could argue that a generation of gamers raised on 99 cent games can’t see why a game should ever be more than a dollar, or five bucks. Now, for many of those people that dollar game fits their needs, but when it doesn’t, will they be able to understand that offering a deeper experience than Angry Birds costs money? Cause, I like Angry Birds and I’ve played the hell out of it, but I wouldn’t consider it deep. Getting a new set of levels out, even if they’re themed, and some static, 2D artwork to convey the “story” is nothing compared to what it takes to pull off something like a Legend of Zelda game. The two should be priced differently because they offer much different experiences and cost a different amount to make. It doesn’t make one better than the other, just different.

Now, as for your comments about Nintendo being worried, well, you can be damned sure that they are. Nintendo isn’t stupid and to imply that they can’t change is an extremely ignorant comment because Nintendo’s willingness to go in the opposite direction than everyone else is why both the Wii and the DS sold as well as they did. The problem is that while Nintendo is great charting a new course for Nintendo, they are extremely stubborn in following someone else’s course, even if that path goes where most people want them to.

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For example Friends Codes. No one likes them. They suck. They sucked on the DS, they sucked on the Wii, they suck on the 3DS, yet Nintendo continues to hang on to them because it’s what they want and, more importantly, it’s what they think their consumers want. The same can be said about demos. There are a lot of people who don’t play demos and that’s fine, but there are a lot of people, like myself, that use demos to evaluate possible gaming purchases. Nintendo knows this, but they don’t offer them. Why? Who the hell knows. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s because they don’t want people deciding not to buy something based on a demo. A shrewed business decision, sure, but ultimately limiting. And don’t get me started on the whole Nintendo online purchasing thing because it’s a mess. An absolute mess.

So here we have a company that is seemingly dead set against offering some of what you would consider basic online functionality for current generation consoles and then here comes you, Rovio with your cheap, accessible, wildly successful game that not only can be updated on the fly but is so cheap that it doesn’t need a demo. Hell, on some phones, it’s free (thanks for that by the way). So yeah, Nintendo is worried because they see their death grip on the handheld market loosening with every flung bird and smashed pig.

The problem, as I see it, is not that you don’t have good points, but that you come off like such a colossal douchebag when making them. Now, I know that it has to be hard to be as successful as you are and be a mobile phone game developer because for as much cash as you have, I would imagine this industry doesn’t give you the respect you deserve. So yeah, I get that. The problem is that your comments don’t come across as someone who has had enough and wants some respect, but it comes off as “Hey, look at us, we’re filthy rich and if you don’t change to be like us then you’re all doomed. DOOMED!” Maybe that’s not what you’re trying to say, maybe it is, I don’t know, but that’s what it sounds like and that’s downright silly.

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When consoles first grew to popularity and obtained the ability to show PC-like graphics, the PC industry was declared doomed. Doomed, dead, whatever. Did that happen? Of course not, because there were, and still are, people who prefer to play on PC’s. The same is true for consoles. I love Angry Birds, but when I have the time to sit down and play a game for more than ten minutes, it is not the game I go for. That’s just me though. Others have and will. My point is that there are consumers of all stripes, all looking to have different gaming experiences and gaming as a whole is better when everyone succeeds. As for your “$49 pieces of plastic” comment, last I checked, Apple wasn’t selling iPhones and iPads at cost, so let’s just get down off of that high horse, shall we?

So yeah Rovio, let’s calm down a bit and make sure that the way we’re delivering our message isn’t drowning out the message itself. Game publishers do need to figure out the best way to update their games to make them competitive with smaller games that offer more than less, and I want to see that happen. What I don’t want is for the notion to be ignored because the person delivering the message is the crazy guy yelling out on the street corner. Besides, dude, you’re like, rolling it. Next time someone takes a shot you should respond with a picture of you neck deep in Euros. That’d shut them up.


Brandon loves games, which shouldn't be a surprise given where you're reading this. He has written for GameShark, The Escapist and G4, and made them all less relevant as a result.

14 thoughts to “Angry Birds Developer is Always Angry”

  1. Strutting around like they own the place…sorry guy, call back when Angry Birds has sold as many copies and become as much of a cultural institution- not a Macarena-like fad- as Mario.

    He does have some good points in the grandstanding, and it is true that the industry is changing. But it is also true that dollar games train consumers to go for bargain over quality. You can’t tell me that even the best IOS game- even a ten dollar one- has the quality and depth of development as a Miyamoto game. Ten years from now people will still be playing god damned Mario 64. I’m not sure that five years from now people will even remember Angry Birds.

    It cracks me up when people make these juvenile, naive assumptions that giant corporations that make billions of dollars are “stupid” or “clueless”. Of course Nintendo knows what’s going on at the App Store. They have a competitive intelligence department. Meetings are held, powerpoints are shown, and they know what turns a profit for them and what doesn’t. If NOT selling the dollar games and working with “garage” devs is keeping them in the black, then obviously they’re not idiots about it.

  2. I think the thing that has Nintendo and other traditional developers in a tizzy is that they have been selling us shovelware for years that costs $20-30+ and now the non-traditional developers are selling us similar experiences for 99¢. iPhone games are not devaluing games like Zelda and Mario, they are devaluing games which already had somewhat questionable value like Nintendogs and WarioWare and mini-game collections.

  3. They haven’t been selling “us” shovelware. Third party companies have been leveraging the success of the Wii and DS to release mainstream titles that yeah, for folks that read gaming blogs or have been gaming for 30+ years are shovelware. But it’s like claiming that a major book publisher has been selling us trashy romance novels when you’re reading the classics they also print. It’s a different market than what we represent. The whole villifying Nintendo for good business practices thing doesn’t really look at the big picture.

    I’m also not really sure that Nintendo or other developers are “in a tizzy”…they’re still making profit, it’s just that they’re not yet monetizing an emerging market that did not previously exist.

  4. I’d prefer to call them stubborn.

    Stubborn is a double edged sword. Failure to adapt to positive changes can be quite harmful while sticking to your guns and doing what you know will work out in the end can be very beneficial.

    Making billions doesn’t mean you can’t be stupid or clueless. It means you’re good at making money. Take Activision for instance, they know how to make a buck, but they have also done many things that hurt the industry and themselves (Things many would consider as stupid and clueless) When $ is the deciding factor, many things suffer as a result of it.

    Nintendo seems to be more concerned with $ than with anything else and this is why:
    We see more remakes and rereleases than any other company
    Innovation that does not seriously impact cost (Wii is a Gamecube with Motion Control – 3DS is a DS with 3D)
    Hardware has yet to actually improve for sometime.

  5. They are a for-profit, publically traded company- of course they’re more concerned with $ than anything else, that’s how capitalism works! If they ran the numbers and determined that they could make a hundred bucks more a quarter by selling nothing but pink Gameboys, they would do it and they _should_ do it because that would be good business. Just because it doesn’t serve you or a particular demographic doesn’t mean that they’re not adapting properly or whatever- they’re doing what drives profit for them. It’s the American Way.

    I mean, really…”all this business cares about is money!” Think about how naive that sounds in the scope of a capitalist, profit-driven economy.

    The problem is that creativity, innovation, audience expectations, fans, and other factors that aren’t always in line with running a profit-centered business figure into it all as well.

    Declaring that Nintendo has done things to hurt the industry is silly. They’re making money, and they’ve done more to bring the mainstream public to video games than any other company in the business. They have a market segment that they cater to that’s different than SOny and Microsoft, and they know how to monetize it. And you’re also neglecting the fact that if Nintendo could push a button and be the only company in the industry, they would. They’re not in it for the good of the industry anyway, at least not beyond nurturing it so that they can monetize it.

    As for hurting themselves, I’m not seeing that Nintendo is on the ropes or suffering, except in the words of long-term fans that feel like they’ve been slighted by Nintendo’s shift towards a much, much larger market than Zelda cosplayers and obsessive Mario fanatics. If you have the ability to sell 500,000 “hardcore” games or 5,000,000 casual ones, you’re doing it all wrong if you go for the hardcore segment. Not that there isn’t a valid business case to pursue that market as well, but it does come down to money- you’re right about that.

    Stubborn isn’t the right word either. If you think that Nintendo is somehow sticking their fingers in their ears and pretending that online games, social gaming, indie devs, and all are not happening right now, you’re just being naive. They may not have an adaptive strategy in place just yet to work with and around these things, but there are people well above my paygrade that are working on this kind of stuff at Nintendo.

  6. I think you’re oversimplifying a bit in your analysis of these “for-profit businesses.” Take the pink Gameboy example. Say Nintendo has a demographic that really REALLY likes pink Gameboys, and a smaller, less valuable (but valuable nonetheless) group that does not. Let’s say this is the core gaming group who, let’s face it, will buy the pink Gameboy anyway if it’s all that is available. Nintendo may not need to cater to this group as much as the group that goes ga-ga for pink electronics, so on one sheet of paper it appears that it is more profitable to produce pink Gameboys exclusively, because one group finds them compelling and one group, while unhappy, will endure it. Cha-ching, start cranking out the pink and let the money roll in, yeah!

    This model doesn’t take into account the depth inherent to a long-term business strategy. So, no, it would not be good business. There are all sorts of abstractions which must be considered…look at this nonsense with Homefront and Metacritic. Any time someone in a board room makes a static decision/declaration about an industry they barely understand they almost always end up looking like a dumbass. I don’t think it’s naive at all to complain about a corporation’s laser-focus on profit, because when creativity, innovation, diversity, flexibility, etc. all go out the window so the stock trades half a point higher, the company is asking for trouble, even if those interests don’t seem to line up around a conference table. Wouldn’t Blizzard make more money if they released a new product every six months? Sure they would…but it would have a serious impact on their reputation, one of the most valuable assets in Blizzard’s “portfolio.”

    The board room types may be obsessed with sucking up as much as cash as possible as quickly as possible. That doesn’t mean an entire company should be devoted to maximizing that bottom line.

    Not going to comment on Nintendo because I actually agree with you there (and on most points). This line of reasoning just irks me. Many of capitalism’s greatest success stories started as seemingly lousy business decisions. It takes risk-taking and vision to do it right. Not just math.

  7. I feel like I hit a sore spot and most of your text should be in CAPS. You’ve even got name calling in your response. Tisk tisk.

    Nintendo is a Japanese company so saying “It’s the American Way” is a misnomer. Your input on them being completely in it for monetary purposes is also a fallacy. How could you know that type of information for a surety. Do you have Satoru Iwata on speed dial? If you do… please tell him to apologize for the virtual boy.

    I never declared that Nintendo has hurt the industry. My fear is that they are hurting themselves. They have promoted lots of positive change in the industry. They proved that gaming is not about the best graphics possible (something that Microsoft and Sony didn’t seem to understand) but about the experience overall. Failure to innovate technically however will hurt them as every new TV is outfitted with an HDMI cable and a 16.9 aspect ratio.

  8. Nope, because I’m not angry. It’s a dialogue, and we can disagree and engage in discussion without all caps or any of that nonsense. I’m not defending Nintendo, I just want to make sure that we talk about business issues that we’re doing it as adults and not as kids talking about things like what THEY do and not taking into account the realities of running a huge, multinational corporate entity.

    I did misread what you wrote a bit, you claimed that it’s Activision who’s hurt themselves and the industry- my bad on that one. I probably agree with you on that point. I apologize for mischaracterizing what you said.

    Nintendo may be a Japanese company, but it’s still doing a large percentage of its business in America, and it’s still meaningful when I say “that’s the American Way”. It was actually you that said that they were only in it for the money, I was reinforcing your comment by indicating that’s how for-profit businesses operate. I’m sure there are other factors- company pride, industry leadership, personal goals, and so forth- but at the end of the day it’s about money. And sometimes, as Nintendo has shown, good product means good money. Nothing wrong about that.

    Definitely agree that it’s pretty silly to release a console right when everyone is going HD…with no HD compatibility. But there again, how silly is it really when they made so much money from the console?

  9. Chad I don’t see where Mike called you a name, aside from saying you were naive. That’s hardly calling you a booger or anything.

    I think Nintendo caters to a specific audience and does it rather well. As for The Americsn Way, Nintendo is a publicly traded company; doesn’t get more much American than that.

    And while I don’t have anyone on speed dial other than my wife, I’m willing to bet Nintendo is in this basically…for the money. To make games and hardware and share its creative joy with the world? Maybe. Sure.

    But also the money.

  10. Of course it’s a simplification because I’m not an MBA. I’ve run small businesses in the past but I frankly am talking at least 50% out of my ass in terms of How to Run Your Corporation 101.

    What you are getting at is the need to diversify the portfolio, so to speak, and I do agree with you about the difference between a short-sale and a long-term business strategy. And I’m definitely with you that there are numerous abstractions and issues that we could not even begin to touch on here with any cohesiveness or clarity.

    But when I say “Nintendo is about making money”, that is in itself an abstraction. The guy doing character animation, the guy doing sound, the guy mopping the floors…ultimately they’re all there for different reasons. And yes, some of them are monetary. It’s a high-level distinction, sure, but when we’re talking about “Nintendo” here it’s not on that granular a level. If I were to say “Shigeru Miayamoto is only in it for money”, that would be very different (and effectively wrong, I think).

    There again though, at the end of the day, we’re talking about people doing their jobs to make a living.

    I completely concur with you about risk-taking and vision- without a doubt it’s that spirit of innovation and adventure that not only drives progress, but can also result in lucrative rewards.

  11. How many games, besides Angry birds and it’s variants, is Rovio planning? Or are they just hopeing to ride the wave forever?

    I have yet to play Angry Birds, and I have yet to care about it. I watched my boyfriend play it, and it looked pretty damn average. I can’t tell what makes it so special. I played Crush the Castle when it was first out in flash. That was enough throw X at Y gameplay for me.

    All I’ve ever seen of Rovio is every time they come out and have a big cry because the bigger boys said something mean about them. Maybe they’re just the stories I keep seeing, but it just seems a bit sad. It’s almost like they weren’t ready for the giddy heights of fame and fortune, and can’t shrug off the cheap jabs companies fling each others way.

    Also, i’m going to come right out and say it. I can play compareable games to what they make for free at Armour Games, and AGs’ library gets updated with a few games weekly. I’ve yet to find a free alternative to my Wii, XBox or PS3 that gets updated with new titles regularly, so I keep useing those.

    You made a popular flash game Rovio, and you sold it. Well done. You’re a known developer now, so of course other companies will take cheap digs at you. Get over yourselves.

  12. That would actually be funny as that’s the nickname I have for my girlfriend. I may have warranted a retort of “Booger”, but I actually take naive to be somewhat hurtful.

    Naivety implies ignorance. Something I definitely am not in this industry. Misinformed could very well be appropriate though and readily accept that given substantiating facts disproving my words.

    So far I’m definitely enjoying the banter though on this topic. Huzzah!

  13. I can’t decide if you spelled it ‘shrewed’ on purpose, but either way, it ended up being funny.

    Market forces will settle it, as always, and the successful people will be the ones who read those forces accurately.

    It’s deplorable to me, that it’s always about money.

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