Amid this week's influx of gaming news from the 2019 edition of the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, it was easy to overlook the fact that Rovio was on the scene as well, albeit acting like it's 2009.
That's because the company unveiled a port of a rather generic augmented reality game called Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs. Its name is also its strongest selling point, which isn't saying much seeing how the franchise has been consistently losing popularity in recent years, at least as far as its core gaming segment is concerned (it's been less than three years since The Angry Birds Movie was one of the biggest positive surprises in summer theaters).
If the name itself sounds familiar, that's because this is essentially the same game that debuted on the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive several months back. It's also scheduled to debut on the PlayStation VR on March 26.
Owners of Apple's iOS devices can already pre-register for the game that's expected to hit the iTunes App Store in a matter of weeks, whereas Android gamers will have to wait for an unspecified period of time before they can play a version of the game native to their mobile operating system of choice. iOS taking priority over Android is something we're used to seeing from Rovio and many other developers. Even today, after both of the currently most dominant OSs have been available for over a decade each, Android still yields lower install figures and piracy rates, according to countless developers. Couple with the increased difficulty of doing ports to the platform due to its highly diversified portfolio and iOS still takes precedence over Google's solution, at least as far as most premium apps are concerned.
However, Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs isn't going to launch as a premium iOS title and will instead be pushed as a free-to-play game with optional, yet aggressively promoted in-app purchases. The original title designed for virtual reality headsets sets buyers back between $15 and $20, depending on the market, but Rovio is understandably counting on a lot less goodwill from mobile gamers; $15 goes a long way on the Google Play Store and can get you several ports of console titles or complex experiences at the very least worthy of portable consoles, which is the case with the majority of Square Enix's originals.
As things stand right now, Rovio is stuck with an intellectual property that's too valuable to let go, too old to reinvigorate interest in the majority of consumers (who could easily be sick and tired of its formula, not because it's bad but simply due to the fact it's been overused to death by now and a break or a creative breakthrough are needed for things to continue), and too new to be considered a classic. There's no doubt Angry Birds played an important role in the early smartphone era but today's Rovio is garnering more interest with experimental projects such as mobile game streaming and movies, so while experimenting with new formats is very much part of its M.O., it's unlikely the Angry Birds series will be getting any more relevant anytime soon, which doesn't bode well for the company's stock that's still trading at barely over a half of its debut price of €11.50.