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January 19, 2014

Why Did The Angry Birds Become So Popular?

Hey everyone! For today's Editorial, I thought I'd discuss something that I really like, and I know many others like: Angry Birds!

The little birds appeared for the first time in 2009, in a game for Apple's line of portable products. In less than four years, many versions were created by Rovio Entertainment, from the original series to Angry Birds Seasons to Angry Birds Star Wars, and there's so many I'm missing. These games, which are available for free - although in some cases, you have to pay a bit to buy items that will help you with some levels - have therefore reached a total of about two billion downloads. Picture that, almost one third of all of mankind. The franchise has also grown to include a cartoon series, a line of building toys sold under the K'nex line, little figurines to attach to your phone, and so on.

It was an instant breakout hit, and we gotta wonder why. Yeah, that's a good question. Why did the Angry Birds become so popular?

First off, the Angry Birds have a fairly simple concept: Toss the Angry Birds at the fortresses of their enemies, the Bad Piggies. Problem is, this is "technically" nothing new. The concept, I mean. Long before the Angry Birds came around, there were already games in which you threw projectiles at fortresses to crush them and every living being inside them. It has always been an interesting kind of Flash game, of the kind you can find on Newgrounds. What makes it different, what makes it apparently better than the rest?

The setting, of course! If you've never played Angry Birds, here's a quick recap of the story. The Bad Piggies are hungry, so they go steal the eggs guarded by the titular Angry Birds. The Angry Birds still somehow fall for the Piggies' pranks. The Piggies, knowing how the birds will come to get them, build fortresses to protect themselves. However, you don't anger a bird who's trying to retrieve its offspring. Hell no. So the birds place themselves into slingshots and launch themselves at the Piggy fortresses. And they won't stop until all the piggies have been killed.

Now, re-read that paragraph out loud, and try not to laugh. That's the point; the concept is completely absurd, totally hilarious.

Now, what else may have caused this series to grow to such heights? Let's take a look at the game's design. How can you describe the characters? They're "heads". No limbs, only heads, with beaks for the birds and snouts for the pigs. Take a look at the characters. If you didn't know they were gonna try to kill each other after some time, you'd just go "Aaaaw", am I right? The cuteness aspect! It's for the same reason that some game franchises have grown so much! Think of Pokémon. Once again, the concept is that two Pokémon fight until one falls unconscious. And many Pokémon remain cute even at their final evolution stage. Yep, those little Angry Birds are cute, regardless of what they're doing. And actually, the Bad Piggies are somewhat cute as well. Still, I don't know if that explains everything. I mean, not everyone likes cuddly things, so it's certainly not the only reason.

Another reason? The game's difficulty. The first levels are always easy, and then it gets progressively hard as time passes, right? Despite all that, the game remains simple. The concept is simple. Extend the slingshot's rubber band, move up and down to aim, release to shoot. Click again to use the bird's special ability if it has one. Simple, don't you think? No matter how hard the levels become, there's always this fact: The game is easy to learn for everyone. Despite this simplicity, the game remains extremely difficult to master. Some levels require a lot of preparation, as well as good aim and being able to predict what exactly is going to happen. In some cases, you can lose with only one Bad Piggy remaining because one piece of wood didn't fall the right way. Other times, you must kiss goodbye to your third star for a level because a bit of stuff didn't crumble down.

Oh yeah, I must also mention those stars. It's very difficult to complete all the levels in the game, but it's even harder to get three stars in every level. There's this added layer of challenge that makes it even more interesting. Even once you're done beating all the levels once, you can then try to get one more star on the levels you got only one star on, and then keep going until you've collected absolutely all the stars, which will be EXTREMELY LONG. It takes an amazing amount of dedication for that.

Also, I think the franchise is interesting for another aspect: The levels are short and most can be played - and beaten - in less than a minute. As a result, when you have only a few minutes with nothing to do, hop! Just start up Angry Birds, play a couple levels, and then stop once you have something to do.

Also, last but not least, I think there's other, minor reasons. The fact that it's free at first (no, scratch that, it's a very important reason); that you can pay for additional items to use in the game, to make it easier, although this is not necessary to enjoy the game; the comedy that takes a big part of the storylines; that you can compete with friends for the highest score and see the rankings for a level; that there are always new levels available in weekly tournaments, keeping the game fresh; and last but not least, the fact that the birds' powers are pretty creative and that it takes a moment to get used to those as well. Actually, what made it popular is the combination of all these aspects. Hard to say if it would have been as popular if one or more of those aspects weren't  present.

All reasons that prove that a game doesn't have to be complicated to be fun and addictive. As for me, I've been playing for a while now, on Facebook. Over two hundred levels with new gimmicks or ideas that come up... Hurray!