The British Broadcasting Company, or BBC, has covered the release of Angry Birds 2, which arrives around six years from the original title. Angry Birds 2 is a little different in structure, sophistication and polish: it makes better use of more powerful devices, but one of the BBC’s points is how the game actively encourages players to spend money in in-app purchases and the nagging for customer to spend money ruins the experience. Angry Bird 2, then, is a “fremium” game with those constant little reminders that the easiest way to progress is to open ones’ wallet or purse. This reflects the changing market, where when the original Angry Birds was released, it was available in two versions. One was free and supported by adverts – as you played, the game would pull up adverts either in some small part of the display or on a slide show between levels. These adverts are retrieved online and one way to reduce their impact is to disable your device’s Internet connection. Another way is to buy the premium version of the game, where for a small fee you could download the game that did not connect to the Internet in order to download adverts. At the time, free games were criticized for using more battery and internet allowance than the paid versions due to these ads.
However, roll forward to 2015 and there are fewer casual but paid-for games. Some of the more specialist games do have paid-for versions, but these are less optimized for casual gamers – more for sitting down on your sofa with your tablet connected to your wireless speaker set up or some expensive headphones, than pulling your smartphone out on the bus commute to work. Angry Birds 2 is very much aimed at the casual player, and it’s cleverly set up to take advantage of the simple but addictive style of game. Customers get five attempts within a given amount of time to successfully complete a level but if you fail, you have to wait for the next opportunity. Luckily, there is a shortcut to extra attempts in the form of gems, and you can be rewarded with more gems as you play the game but the downside is that the game encourages you to buy more gems (using real money) in order to accelerate your way through the game. Even experienced, die-hard Angry Birders (is that a real name?) will get stuck on a level that will require a fair amount of practice, but at five shots a pop until your lives are reset, this could very quickly become a frustrating experience. Or perhaps an expensive addiction.
That Angry Birds 2 is following an established way of extracting money from addicted players is not unexpected: early reviews of the game are positive and indeed is has been gorgeously put together. However, for those of us less experienced at the Angry Birds franchise, running out of lives when attempting a level pulls up the prompt to throw real money at a casual game in order to progress. Rovio defend their decision, explaining that players who don’t pay anything still get their “fully-formed game” for nothing. Creative Director, Patrick Liu, said this on the criticism: “We encourage users to play, not to pay. Everybody has an equal opportunity to progress in the game, as all transactions are made with Gems which can be earned by playing and completing challenges. Furthermore, extra birds, lives and tickets can be earned through watching videos, which are accessible to everyone. Angry Birds 2 can be enjoyed fully without purchasing anything, but we do offer for purchase a variety of ways to expand, extend and enhance the game play experience and progress.” For some players, being invited to spent money will quickly become a turn off and for others, reaching for their VISA card may become second nature. Rovio, after all, are a business.