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Angry Birds creators: traditional gaming ‘is dying’

by Phil Hornshaw

The creators of Angry Birds seem to think that traditional video gaming is on the decline.

Speaking at a panel at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, this week, developers from Rovio Mobile said that the traditional console model of video gaming is dying, according to a report from VG247. While no-one has really figured out the best way to make money making mobile games, they said, games with a $40 price tag that aren’t easily updated are becoming less and less viable.

That’s a bold claim, but if there’s anybody who can make a claim like that, it’s Rovio Mobile. Angry Birds has just surpassed 100 million downloads across all the platforms for which it is available, and it’s available on a lot of devices -- including the Apple iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad, Android phones and tablets, Windows Phone 7 devices, Sony’s PlayStation 3 and PSP, PC and Mac, and soon, the Nintendo 3DS handheld. Clearly, Rovio is doing something right.

Although lots of those platforms onto which Angry Birds has expanded are consoles, Rovio still seems to think that tablets are going to be the future in video gaming. Regardless of whether the company is right, it’s clear what kind of clout Rovio carries right now -- it remains the top selling PSP Mini game on the PlayStation Network, and among the Top Grossing apps in the iTunes App Store.

Apparently Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo aren’t the only ones who are banking on Angry Birds. In the Android camp, the newest version of the hugely popular game, Angry Birds Rio, won’t appear in Google’s Android Market at all. Instead, it’ll be exclusively available in Amazon’s new third-party Android app store.

That’s pretty significant, seeing as not only is the app store from Amazon and not Google -- which created the platform -- but it shows that Rovio is willing to step on a few toes for whatever it deems its interests might be. It also shows just how serious Amazon is about getting powerful apps into its app store for launch. Angry Birds is the biggest thing going in the mobile space right now, and Amazon basically swiped their next project from Google’s grasp.

The move could have some big implications, but more than anything, what happens between Amazon and Google when Amazon rolls out its app store will show something about just how powerful Angry Birds is. Obviously it’s a high-selling app -- but can it be used to sell a whole new app store to Android customers?

The same question floats around when it comes to Windows Phone 7, an operating system that is lagging behind in market share in the smart phone race. Microsoft doesn’t have an Angry Birds exclusive, but it has added the game to its roster this spring. Angry Birds, it seems, is necessary to get Windows Phone 7 on a level playing field with the rest of the smart phone market. One wonders if an exclusive Angry Birds game could actually get users to move to a new device, as well as a new operating system.

That’s a tall order, but the exclusivity of Angry Birds Rio in the Amazon app store suggests that Rovio thinks it might have that kind of power. It certainly thinks Angry Birds is contributing to a massive shift in video gaming -- and it might be right.