Why Angry Birds are so darn popular

Angry Birds is the most popular puzzle-type video game developed by Rovio Mobile. And just how much did the agitated feathery creatures bring last year? A very cool $106 million with 60%+ profit margin with only 224 employees. Downloaded 800 million times to date with 200 million active users by end of 2011, Angry birds has turned out to be a worldwide hit.

I decided to try out the much-talk-about game on my HTC and find out what all the fuss was about. This is my User Experience design take on the game as to why it is so popular.

So, whats the game about? Dishing out revenge on greedy pigs who stole the Angry Birds eggs. Each level sees the birds taking down pig fortresses by catapulting them using a sling shot towards the swine. Simple enough considering each bird has their own unique powers at your disposal. Each level however presents tougher obstacles and fortresses housing the pigs. Its up to you to figure out how to use the birds at your disposal to kill the pig and clear the level.

Creating truly engaging experiences are very complex even with simple games so what makes so many people download the game and even pay for the advanced version to spend countless hours throwing birds?

Here are some reasons why it IS so compelling and a really good user experience.

1. Simple to learn:
Pull back on the slingshot and destroy as many pigs as possible. Its so basic a concept any age group can understand and play. Though the game gets harder, no real skills are needed to play. Tutorial guides make it easy to know how to play and what powers the birds have.

2. Visually attractive:
The birds, pigs and backgrounds are well designed. Colors are very subtle and appealing. Adds to the enjoyment of the game.

3. Addictive success:
The game builds the player’s confidence by awarding the user with stars in celebratory fashion. Three stars for maximum damage which gives pleasing user satisfaction. This makes it addictive as there is a insatiable thirst to beat your best score and getting a three star rating. Why is success addictive? Its keeps you playing.

4. Free
You cannot go wrong with free software. If people find the software exciting or useful, its an added bonus which gives them a feeling of being special. Experiential marketing thrives on this, providing customers with a means to “test drive”  products without actually paying for the experience.

Real User reviews
In User experience it is always important to know how your users feel about your product. This is really what makes games popular. The alignment of user enjoyment and design of the game. User feedback also helps designers and developers find ways of improving the game. These are some of the reoccurring reasons why users loved the game

  • Very amusing
  • Easy to learn
  • Short game to pass the time
  • Free
  • Amazing graphics
  • Challenging and fun
Tapping into the emotions afforded by these responses, allows just about anybody to build a profitable game which people will love.

What should developers stay away from? Creating games or software that evoke the wrong emotions and ruin a user’s experience. Users also had this to say about improving Angry Birds

  • Wish there were more levels on the easy side. Lot of these levels are just ridiculously hard.
  • Addition of ads annoying because game freezing, slowing birds down and ads getting in the way of playing.

Personally, the ads were a giant mood killer. Game freezing and obscuring of the game absolutely got annoying over the levels played. I recognize that is how their business model works but simpler alternatives can be found. All in all the game is totally great and a definite must-play.

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