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How Angry Birds went from an idea into the best selling app of all time

How Angry Birds went from an idea into the best selling app of all time

The challenge

In early 2009, Finland based games make, Rovio wanted to build a successful phone application that would appeal to a wide consumer audience, but of course bring in a profit for the game maker at the same time. This was the tricky part – to date very few mobile phone apps had made much of a margin – so Rovio knew that it was in for a challenge.


Angry Birds actually originated out of an entirely different game proposal altogether. Previous to its development a senior game designer within Rovio, Jaakko Iisalo, came up with an idea for a game that involved angry looking birds with no visible legs or wings. While Rovio didn’t get the concept behind this gaming idea – they did like the characters. From there on it, designers worked around the character design to develop the concept of Angry Birds.

It was quickly decided that the birds would need an enemy within the game. Pigs – inspired by the then swine flu epidemic, were chosen.

The development of the game – which would see it launched as a paid-for app - took hold, on an initial budget of just $25,000 (£15,235). The final cost would end up being four times that amount.


Angry Birds was eventually born and launched in December 2009, emerging as a simple game in which players use a slingshot to launch birds at pigs on various structures. The game started out life on the iPhone – launching first on Apple's iOS.

For the first three months of its launch, the game was a flop. But in February 2010 Apple agreed to feature Angry Birds on the front page of its app store in the UK for a week. To prepare for this, and create a bit of extra buzz, Rovio made a You Tube trailer – only the second ever for an iPhone game at the time – which to date has racked up more than 17 million views.

Rovio also added another 42 levels to the game and crucially developed a lite, free version – encouraging consumers to "try before they buy".

The You Tube video, boosted version of the paid-for app and lite version were released over the course of three days. The immediate result? Angry Birds jumped almost overnight from number 600, to number one in Apple’s App Store.  By April, Angry Birds was also the number one app in the US too.

Since its initial launch on Apple devices only, Rovio has since developed Angry Birds for a multitude of other devices – such as Android handsets and the iPad.


Angry Birds has seen a combined total of more than 200 million downloads across all platforms since its 2009 launch. The game cost $100,000 (£61,000) to develop in the end, and has reaped rewards many times over for Rovio.

On Apple devices Angry Birds lite has so far been downloaded more than 20 million times from the app store, and the paid version more than 7 million times – making it the most purchased iPhone app of all time.

On the iPad alone more than 200,000 people have already downloaded the paid for version of the app.

Because of the success of Angry Birds on the screen, the franchise is now creeping into other markets. For example, more than two million cuddly toy versions of the now infamous birds have now been sold.

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