'Angry Birds' Spinoff Flies To Top Of iTunes Charts

On Thursday, Rovio — the company behind the hit mobile game "Angry Birds" — released a new game. "Bad Piggies" is a spinoff of "Angry Birds" and its already among the top downloads in the iTunes App Store. Robert Siegel talks to Ina Fried, senior editor at All Things Digital about how profitable "Angry Birds" has been and whether Rovio can replicate its success.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

This soundtrack has accompanied untold wasted hours around the globe. It is the music from "Angry Birds," the addictive mobile game that surpassed one billion downloads in May.

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SIEGEL: Today, Rovio, the company that created "Angry Birds," released a new game, "Bad Piggies." It's a spin-off. Instead of slinging birds to destroy the pigs, you create vehicles the pigs use to steal the birds' eggs. Within hours of "Bad Piggies" release, it came to top paid download on the iTunes app store.

Well, joining me to talk about the "Angry Birds" phenomenon and the future of "Bad Piggies" is Ina Fried, senior editor at All Things Digital. Welcome to the program.

INA FRIED: Thanks, Robert.

SIEGEL: And while Rovio is releasing this new game, does the original "Angry Birds" still command the same interest? Are millions of people still downloading it or is the world tired of using a slingshot to fling cartoon birds at pigs?

FRIED: Well, it's not on the tip of everyone's tongue but it is still very popular. And one of the things that keeps the "Angry Birds" so popular is the fact that Smartphones, the devices that these are played on, are still taking off around the world. And so, even as one or two people start putting down the "Birds," somebody new gets a Smartphone and tries it out.

And the other big thing is nothing bigger has come along. So the big danger for Rovio is if someone came out with a more addicting time waster.

SIEGEL: So, since this is a new area of the big, popular app for mobile devices, can we learn anything from the trajectory of "Angry Birds?" That is, did it zoomed to a billion right away? Did it take a while to get there? Is it still big in other parts of the globe and less so in the U.S. now?

FRIED: It took off pretty quickly. And I think one of the things that they did is they found the magic formula, which for games is a game that, first of all, is endearing. And second of all, it's easy to pick up and hard to master. And that was, you know, going back to board games and other strategy games, that's always been the magic formula is something that people can get into quickly but want to perfect.

SIEGEL: And at 99 cents a download, how profitable has "Angry Birds" been for Rovio?

FRIED: It's actually been incredibly profitable. They made about 66 percent profit margins in the last quarter they reported. And, you know, they make money on the game. Obviously 99 cents isn't a ton, but they also have turned it into an empire of T-shirts and stuffed animals and fruit Gummi chews, and all sorts of other "Angry Birds" related products.

SIEGEL: You mentioned the successful formula of "Angry Birds" was that it was easy to play but hard to master. From what I saw of the "Bad Piggies" trailer, it looked a little bit more complicated to me.

FRIED: Yeah, it's a - you know, I only picked it up for a second. It just came out today. I mean, it's sort of this classic physics game that's become pretty popular on the iPhone. I think one of the dangers here is this is a pretty crowded field that they're stepping into. So they're really counting on the strength of the characters to motivate people to play. So I think the most dangerous thing here is that they're moving into crowded territory.

SIEGEL: And any chance you think that "Bad Piggies" could be as big as "Angry Birds?"

FRIED: I think it would be tough to be as big. I think Rovio would be quite happy if it proves just as popular as some of their other titles. Their other non-"Angry Birds" title, "Amazing Alex," also zoomed to number one or in the top pretty quickly, but it's faded pretty quickly as well. And it's now not in the top 100 games in the U.S.

SIEGEL: Ina Fried, thanks for talking with us about it.

FRIED: Thanks for having me.

SIEGEL: That's Ina Fried, who is senior editor at All Things Digital.

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