Sci-Tech

Angry Birds flying south
to Indonesia

Flying in: Rovio Entertainment Ltd.’s hit game Angry Birds is branching outinto Indonesia. Bloomberg/David Paul Morris
Flying in: Rovio Entertainment Ltd.’s hit game Angry Birds is branching outinto Indonesia. Bloomberg/David Paul Morris

The company most likely responsible for creating new correlations between pigs, birds and slingshots is looking toward Southeast Asia’s largest economy as an inspiration and target market.

Peter Vesterbacka, the “Mighty Eagle” of Finland’s Rovio Entertainment Ltd., said last week that the company behind the puzzle game Angry Birds would do this in a number of ways, including having a special launch for the Facebook version of the game in Indonesia, which has the second-largest number of the social networking site users after the United States.

According to Facebook , the website currently has over 800 million active users. The website www.internetworldstats.com cites Indonesia as having almost 42 million Facebook users in December of last year.

“The game [Angry Birds on Facebook] will be launched simultaneously all over the planet but we will have a special launch here in Jakarta … Again for obvious reasons. Jakarta is the Facebook capital of the world and for us it’s always very important to be where our fans are,” Vesterbacka said.

According to Vesterbacka, the game already has a prominent place on Facebook with 12 million fans sharing Angry Birds-related content. “We are talking about making Angry Birds even more social … [by] bringing the game to Facebook,” he said.

Since its launch in 2009, Angry Birds has had over 600 million downloads. It is the number one selling iPhone paid application in 79 countries including Indonesia.

The game, which at first was developed as one for touch screen devices, is available in a number of platforms, including iPod, Android and Palm.

Dino Adinoka, an engineering consultant who lives in Jakarta, said he plays Angry Birds almost every day on his Android-equipped phone. “It’s simple yet difficult. It’s good for killing time. I play three series, and on average I am on level 15,” he said of the game.

He added that he would likely download the game on Facebook after the launch.

For those less familiar with the how-tos, Angry Birds basically involves hurling odd-shaped birds using a slingshot toward grinning green pigs usually seated on a flimsy construction made of materials such as wooden boards or boxes. The breakdown of the construction spells victory for the birds.

The question that one might ask eventually is, why are the birds angry? That is precisely why the game has social potential in the first place, Vesterbacka said.

“Angry Birds as a brand is very social because it begs for a question. Why are the birds angry? Because the pigs stole the eggs. And then the story, and that’s actually how Angry Birds has spread,” he said.

The Facebook version of Angry Birds is a full-screen experience, with a display more or less the same as existing ones.

However, the social networking site will allow interaction and competition among its users within the same network.

This is made possible partly through a competition board where one can see how their performance in the game ranks among their friends. The top player will gain access to a crown.

“There are different features like earthquakes, TNT packages or power up goods but the point is this. When I compete with my friends … I want to be the one who is actually doing the leader. … I will make everything I can to make sure that I get the crown and I am going to be the first one. There is a leader board ... So not only there is exchanging messages but also giving you bragging rights,” Henri Holm, the senior vice president for Rovio Asia, said.

Vesterbacka added that Angry Birds on Facebook would refrain from causing one user to spam the others with announcements of items purchased on their walls.

“Here it’s more about that somebody beat you on level one … It’s not about tricking you into buying various things,” he said.

The game is free to play, but users can purchase various features such as “power-ups”. Vesterbacka also promised “great” products coming players’ way.

“If we don’t deliver a product that at least half of our friends want to buy, it’s not a very good product. If only 2 to 3 percent want it, it can’t be very good,” he said.

Rovio’s increasing engagement with Indonesia extends beyond the launch. Vesterbacka said that the company is planning to develop an Angry Birds version with an Indonesian feel.

To ensure maximum results, it is holding a competition for Indonesian developers to forward their best ideas about what Indonesian flavor should be added to the game. The winner of the competition will get a chance for a short internship at Rovio’s headquarters.

“We will build an Indonesia specific version and we will produce and we will work with Indonesian people to do that … as a company we want to be more Indonesian than the Indonesian companies. That’s what we have been doing in China. We have worked with Chinese designers, developers, and that’s how we make the game Chinese specific,” Vesterbacka said.

He added that the company is looking for something more than “batik and Bali” for the flavor. “We want to put more depth into the Angry Birds Indonesian experience and then we will take it to the world,” he said.

Taking note that some Indonesians have little access to smartphones and tablets, Rovio is also making the game available on more affordable phones. Nokia’s Asha 300, which was launched in Jakarta last week, has built-in Angry Birds games. It was priced at Rp 999,000 (US$112).

“We want to make the experience seamless. So you have a feature phone then you can play Angry Birds on the big screen at home, at an Internet café, anywhere with your identity, your Facebook profile,” Vesterbacka said.

According to the material distributed at the soft launch of Angry Birds for Facebook, Rovio is also planning to come up with Angry Birds Lebaran-themed games for Muslim majority countries, including Indonesia.

These birds are pecking hard.

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