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Angry Birds prepares for new frontiers with Space, theme park and more

by Phil Hornshaw

Space isn’t likely to be the final frontier for Rovio Mobile’s Angry Birds franchise, but it is the latest one starting around 11 p.m. EDT today.

That’s when Angry Birds Space will drop on the iTunes App Store during its nightly update, bringing what is effectively the first true sequel to the game since it was first rolled out way back in 2009. It will likely hit the Google Play Store around the same time. Whereas other versions of Angry Birds have rolled out themed levels and even boss fights, Angry Birds Space will have new birds, new physics rules and a completely new setting – as you might have guessed, the reaches of outer space.

It’s just the latest in Angry Birds’ seemingly unstoppable forward motion as a cultural force: The game has been downloaded 700 million times across various platforms. Already, Rovio Mobile has rolled out versions of Angry Birds on several platforms, ranging from Android and iOS to the Nintendo Wii and PlayStation 3, and sells all kinds of physical merchandise, including T-shirts and plush toys, and there’s been talk of other crossovers like movies and cartoon shows for quite a while. Angry Birds Rio was, itself, a tie-in promotion for the movie animated film Rio.

For Angry Birds Space, Rovio Mobile is also teaming up with Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, for the release of the game, offering additional levels to Android users who buy Angry Birds stuff in the company’s stores. As Appolicious outlined earlier, codes for the levels will be hidden in certain bits of Angry Birds merchandise, including toys and clothes, starting on March 25. Walmart is launching a Facebook page on March 22, which will give players clues that also can be used to unlock additional levels.

The Walmart deal is something of a demonstration of just how huge Angry Birds has become as Rovio Mobile is able to parlay with the huge corporation to do promotional offers such as that one. It doesn’t stop there, either. Earlier this month, it was reported that the game is getting a theme park of its own, or at least part of one. It’s actually a bit of Finland’s Särkänniemi Adventure Park called “Angry Birds Land,” but it still puts the game on the same level as cultural icons such as the works of Dr. Seuss and the characters of Marvel comics and Walt Disney.

One of the more interesting things about Angry Birds Space itself is that it’s actually heading something of an educational push about its subject matter. National Geographic and NASA teamed up with Rovio to create an app called National Geographic Angry Birds Space, which will include lots of real information about outer space. That app is out sometime soon, following the release of the game. At the same time, the iPad-only publication The Daily published The Daily’s Angry Birds Space Guide, which includes information about the game as well as material bringing real information about the game’s setting to its readers. This app was also just released on Android today for both smartphones and tablets.

Will the latest game in the Angry Birds series take flight the way its predecessors have? It’s pretty likely, provided Rovio has brought the same level of quality in creating the game’s new mechanics that it has shown in Angry Birds titles for years now. That seems like a foregone conclusion. Regardless, space seems like only the next step as we see just how far Angry Birds will go.