Rovio announces Rovio Stars Publishing Initiative

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Finnish mobile game developer and creator of Angry Birds Rovio Entertainment announced the launch of its third-party mobile game publishing initiative, Rovio Stars.

Icerbreaker: A Viking Voyage by developer Nitrome will be the first game published under the Rovio Stars Program, followed by Spanish developer 5 Ants’ stealth puzzle game, Tiny Thief.

Many mobile game developers like Pocket Gems, Zynga, and Kabam have launched their own third-party publishing programs recently, and we’ve heard rumors Rovio would launch a similar program for a while. In January, PocketGamer.biz all but confirmed the program’s existance when it reported that 5 Ants had been signed with Rovio but at the time we weren’t certian that this was not a talent acquisition.

“Rovio Entertainment has positioned itself as one of the powerhouses of mobile entertainment, so moving into publishing is a logical step for us at this point”, Rovio’s executive vice president of games Jami Laes said in a statment. “We want to help our fans find quality entertainment among the more than 100,000 games available in app stores. That’s where Rovio Stars comes in.”

Games that leverage Rovio’s Angry Birds brand are immensely successful, with titles showing up at the top of our weekly charts regularly, but the developer’s more recent titles based on new IP have struggled. Amazing Alex, Rovio’s first new IP after Angry Birds, is currently the No. 258 top paid app in the games genre according to traffic tracking service AppData. The Croods, based on the DreamWorks animated motion picture, is currently the No. 247 top grossing app in the games genre.

Rovio said that Icerbreaker: A Viking Voyage is “coming soon” to iOS. Check back in with Inside Social Games for our full review.

Mobile apps news roundup: Most top grossing mobile games are integrated with Facebook, Puzzle & Dragons reaches 13 million users in Japan and more

facebookFacebook recaps stats about its games ecosystem from GDC 2013 – In a blog post Monday, Facebook’s director of games Sean Ryan recapped some stats about its games ecosystem that were revealed during the 2013 Game Developers Conference. Ryan says more than 250 million users are playing games on Facebook each month, and 82 percent of the top 100 grossing U.S. mobile games and 75 percent of the top 100 grossing U.S. Android mobile games are integrated with Facebook. In 2012, Facebook paid out more than to $2 billion to game developers and saw total payers increase 24 percent year-over-year from March 2012 to March 2013.

kakaotalk-logo-roundupKakaoTalk’s game platform expands into Vietnam and Indonesia – Messaging app KakaoTalk’s game platform recently expanded into Vietnam and Indonesia, where many of Kakao’s more than 80 million users come from. Indonesia, in particular, has become a hotly contested market for messaging apps. Both Tencent’s WeChat and Kakao have launched TV ad campaigns in the country.

iMessage iconMessaging apps usage surpasses SMS texts for the first time ever, Informa says – Research firm Informa told the BBC Monday that 19 billion messages were sent per day via messaging apps — such as WhatsApp, Kik and iMessenge — in 2012, compared with 17.6 million SMS texts. It’s the first time that the amount of messages send from chat apps have usurped the amount from SMS. Despite the growth of messaging apps, Informa still expects revenue from SMS to grow to $127 billion by 2016, from $115 billion last year.

rovio_logoRovio’s Angry Birds Friends launches on mobile – Finnish game developer Rovio launched Angry Birds Friends, a once Facebook-exclusive title, for iOS and Android yesterday. Angry Birds Friends plays a little differently than the mobile titles in the franchise, where in Friends users can compete against other users in weekly tournaments for the highest score.

ubm-logoUBM TechWeb cancels GDC Online, opens submissions for GDC Next, ADC – UBM TechWeb announced that it’s opened submissions for its two new conferences — Game Developers Conference Next and App Developers Conference. Both conferences will take place in Los Angeles from November 5 to 7. The two conferences replace the GDC Online conference which was held in Austin, Texas. Basically, UBM is looking for input from the game and mobile app industries as to what topics the conference should cover. The deadline for submissions is Wednesday, May 29. Find out more about the submission process here and here.

puzzle-and-dragons-app-icon-roundupPuzzle & Dragons reaches 13 million downloads in Japan – According to Social Game Info, GungHo Online, which now has a market cap of $10 billion, saw its incredibly successful mobile game Puzzle & Dragons reach the 13 million downloads mark across the iOS and Android versions in Japan.

playfirst_logoPlayFirst launches Deep Sea Deli – San Francisco-based mobile game studio PlayFirst launched its latest game this week in Deep Sea Deli, a puzzle-matching arcade title for iOS. Unlike some puzzle-matching games, there’s no time limit on game sessions, meaning the title focuses more on skill.

GREEGREE updates NFL Shuffle with new ‘Talents’ feature – Mobile-social gaming giant GREE updated its card-based game NFL Shuffle with a new feature called ‘Talents’ that is aimed at increasing the game’s competitiveness. Users can now utilize an NFL players Talent, a game-changing boost, to increase a card’s scoring potential. Talents come in the form of gameplay enhancements such as additional swaps, and shuffles, offense and defense team bonuses, and Silver and Gold Football Bonuses.

Rovio brings Angry Birds Friends to mobile

AB FRIENDS

Finnish mobile game developer Rovio today announced it’s bringing the Facebook version of its flagship title, Angry Birds Friends, to mobile.

Angry Birds Friends is different from the other mobile versions in the franchise in how it monetizes and its social hooks. Whereas in the mobile versions a single lifetime purchase of $0.99 unlocks all of the game’s levels and powerups, players of Angry Birds Friends can only purchase a limited number of powerups that range from 20 uses for $1 to 1000 uses for $20. The Facebook version of the game also includes exclusive levels and items. Rovio has also expanded the game’s social features for Facebook, integrating Open Graph so users can add the app to Timeline, creating a more visible leaderboard that stays on the right side of the screen and allowing players to send and receive gifts. Players can also collect bonuses for playing every day and competing in weekly tournaments.

Rovio, presumably, hopes to drive up engagement by offering all of these social features and monetization methods to mobile players.

Angry Birds Friends peaked after it officially launched in May 2012 with 24.1 million monthly active users. It has been losing users steadily since, but seems to have platued in December 2012. Today AppData has Angry Birds Friends at an estimated 10.8 million MAU, placing it in the No. 38 spot of thr most popular Facebook games by MAU (right behind FreshPlanet’s SongPop and ahead of Zynga’s CityVille).

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Rovio’s revenues double in 2012 to €152.2 million

Rovio Angry Birds assetRovio today revealed its financial results for 2012, reporting revenues of €152.2 million ($195.5 million), a twofold increase from revenues in 2011 of €75.6 million ($97.1 million).

Profits were also up year-over-year from €35.4 million ($45.5 million) in 2011 to €55.5 million ($71.3 million) in 2012. Rovio also doubled the size of its company during 2012, from 224 employees to 518.

Rovio launched four games in 2012 — Angry Birds Space, Amazing Alex, Bad Piggies and Angry Birds Star Wars. The games helped Rovio surpass the one billion download mark by May 2012, and the total number of monthly active users across all platforms to 263 million in December 2012. In total, Rovio’s total number of game downloads has exceeded 1.7 billion. Rovio says its main revenue channels were paid games, virtual goods and advertising. Lastly, Rovio’s Consumer Products business unit, which creates the Angry Birds-branded merchandise such as toys, plushes and board games, accounted for 45 percent of the company’s revenue in 2012, up from 30 percent in 2011.

Recently, Rovio launched Angry Birds Toons, its cartoon series based off the company’s hit franchise, and The Croods, its most recent game based off DreamWorks’ animated feature but does’t have any Angry Birds affiliation.

The Espoo, Finland-headquartered company says the future of its business in 2013 will depend on successful new game launches, keeping fans engaged with its content and the success of new initiatives.

“We have had a stellar start for this year,” said Rovio CEO Mikael Hed, in a statement. “In addition to our successful games portfolio we recently launched our first Angry Birds Toons series through third party partners and our own in-game distribution channel. We will continue to strengthen our position in the entertainment business through continuing to innovate on our existing brands, exploring creating new IP as well as exploring opportunities with external parties.”

Angry Birds Toons to be accessible within Angry Birds games, will begin airing March 16 to 17

Rovio logoMobile game developer Rovio today announced that Angry Birds Toons, an upcoming cartoon series based on the company’s popular game franchise, will be accessible within all Angry Birds mobile games.

After installing an update, any of the Angry Birds apps will be able to get access to a new channel button in each game’s home screen, which is where users can watch episodes of the show.

The cartoon series is scheduled to begin airing this upcoming weekend (March 16 for broadcast TV and March 17 for on-demand services) on a dedicated channel within Rovio’s game portfolio, and on Comcast’s U.S. video platforms like Xfinity on Demand, Xfinity.com.tv and in the Xfinity TV Player app on Samsung Smart TVs. Rovio plans to add support for Roku and other platforms in the future. In other parts of the world, the Angry Birds Toons will air on FOX8 in Australia, JEI TV in South Korea, ANTV in Indonesia, Cartoon Networking in India, MTV3 Juniori and MTV3 in Finland, the Children’s Channel in Israel, 1+1 networks in Ukraine, Gulli and Canal J in France, SUPER RTL in Germany, TV2 in Norway, Canal 13 in Chile and Gloob in Brazil. Rovio has also partnered with Activision, Paramount Pictures, BlackBerry and Sony Pictures for the launch of the Angry Birds Toons channel.

So far, Rovio has planned 52 episodes for the cartoon series, with a new episode scheduled to air every Sunday. Rovio hopes the cartoon show will help with increasing installs as well as its engagement and retention rates for its Angry Birds games.

Inside mobile news roundup: Indies, Rovio partners with DreamWorks, Chilingo partners with Samsung

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Selfpubd launches indie game promotion site Thumb Arcade — The Portland, OR-based company focused on helping independent developers promote and monetize their games launched a new website, Thumb Arcade. Users can use the site to discover and download new games. The site is optimized for mobile phones and supports iOS and Android games with support for Windows coming soon.

chillingo

Chilingo and Samsung partner to launch “100% Indie” — Mobile game publisher and division of Electronic Arts Chilingo has partnered with Samsung to launch “100% Indie.” Developers can submit their games to www.100PercentIndie.com to be considered for Samsung’s mobile app marketplace. Developers who are accepted into the program in the first six months will receive 100 percent revenue for their titles and are guaranteed higher revenue share through March 2015.

gameloft

Gameloft, GREE release Dragon Summoner — Mobile game developers GREE and Gameloft announced the launch of a new card battle game they created together. The game can be downloaded for free on the iTunes App Store here and on Google Play here.

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Glu launches Small City — Mobile game developer Glu launched Small City for iOS, a city management sim and the sequel to Small Street. In the game players will be able to customize their street, play with friends, help their citizens and collect trophies. You can find the game here.

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Rovio, DreamWorks partner for The Croods — Based on the upcoming animated feature by the same name, The Croods will release on iOS and Android on March 14 and will include an exclusive short animated clip. Rovio has dabbled in movie tie-ins before with projects like Angry Birds Star Wars and Angry Birds Rio, but this will mark the developer’s first game to be based on a movie with no connection to its hugely popular Angry Birds brand.

red hot labs

Red Hot Labs raises $1.5 million in seed funding — Mobile developer Red Hot Labs which was founded by former FarmVille creators Amitt Mahajan and Joel Poloney announced it has secures $1.5 million in seed funding for the development of mobile games and platform technology. Investors include Andreessen Horowitz, Greylock Partners, SV Angel, General Catalyst, Japan’s IT-Farm and private individuals.

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Bing Fund invests in Sonar – Location-based social mobile app Sonar announced Microsoft’s Bing Fund has made a strategic investment in the company. The amount of the investment was not disclosed at this time. you can find our review of Sonar for Android here.

Rovio returns with Bad Piggies

Bad Piggies is the long-awaited follow-up to Angry Birds from the hugely successful mobile developer Rovio. The game is available now as a paid download for iOS devices and a free app for Android users.

Bad Piggies casts the player in the role of the titular porcine antiheroes — the main antagonists from Angry Birds — as they attempt to overcome numerous adversities on their quest to steal the birds’ eggs. Unfortunately for them, things regularly do not go to plan, requiring them to construct increasingly elaborate and bizarre machines in an attempt to traverse a range of perilous terrains.

Gameplay in Bad Piggies is completely different to Angry Birds, though still physics-based at its core. Rather than flinging birds at precarious structures in an attempt to knock them down, Bad Piggies tasks players with building vehicles to transport the pigs to their destination while, ideally, collecting as many objects scattered around the level as possible.

Each level gives the player a grid on which to work and a limited number of pieces. These vary from the purely functional (such as wheels to move the vehicle and boxes for the pigs to ride inside) to the interactive (such as sets of bellows which “blow” the vehicle in a particular direction. Once all the pieces have been laid down, the player confirms their design and sets it on its way. At this point, the game’s physics engine start to take effect. Vehicles will roll down hills and their stability is determined by their weight distribution. For example, put a pig in the front of a vehicle as it rolls down a hill and it will probably flip over; put it in the middle and it will have a great deal more stability.

Each level has a “tip” that can be viewed at any time to get a rather vague hint of what to do. As with many other mobile games, Rovio appears to have an aversion to using actual words anywhere in the app, so the entire interface along with the tutorial and hint system is based on graphical representations. This certainly means that bringing the game to other territories is significantly less challenging as there is next to no text to translate, but it also carries the risk of confusing the player as it is not always entirely clear what the various icons and diagrams actually mean.

Bad Piggies is, like Angry Birds, a good looking game with a distinctive, recognizable aesthetic. It makes good use of the Retina display on iOS devices for crisp, clear visuals, and animates smoothly. Background sound is relatively minimalist but features some catchy tunes and audible feedback as the chaos unfolds.

Overall, the game is very good — and the fact that the team didn’t take the easy approach and make it “Angry Birds with pigs” is worthy of praise — but the added complexity coupled with the unnecessarily obtuse interface may put a few people off. The game is also significantly more challenging than Angry Birds, too, which may deter some more casual players.

As a high-profile new title from the creators of Angry Birds, Bad Piggies is likely to enjoy a huge amount of success in the short term, but in this case it’s somewhat more questionable as to whether or not it will become as much of a major cultural phenomenon as its predecessor.

Bad Piggies is currently the No. 1 paid iOS app in the U.S. in both its iPhone and HD iPad incarnations. The Android version does not yet appear to be listed on the Google Play leaderboards, but has apparently been downloaded between 100,000 and 500,000 times to date.

Bad Piggies hits No. 1 in more than 37 countries — impressive, but not as good Angry Birds Space or Amazing Alex

Maybe people just don’t like those green pigs after all. Bad Piggies, the Angry Birds spin-off repaints the iconic hogs as heros doesn’t seem to be seeing the same launch day success that Angry Birds Space and Amazing Alex did.

The game was released today at 3:00 am pacific standard time, or 1:00 pm in the afternoon Helsinki time. When Inside Mobile Apps checked the iTunes app store this morning the game was the No. 1 paid iPhone app in 37 countries and the No. 1 paid iPad app in 39, including: Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Taiwan, France, Sweden, Spain, Norway and Russia.

The game is in the top 10 of the paid iPhone app charts in 40 countries, and in the top 10 of the paid iPad app charts in a further 36 including: China, Mexico, the U.K, India, the U.K., Japan and South Korea.

Interestingly, the game was the top grossing iPhone or iPad app just 9 countries when we checked:  the U.S., Belarus, Finland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Macedonia and Poland.

The game, which costs $0.99 on the iPhone and $2.99 on the iPad hasn’t seen the same chart reception as either Angry Birds Space or Amazing Alex, Rovio’s last two releases.

The highly anticipated (and heavily promoted) Angry Birds Space was an instant hit, shooting into the No. 1 spot on both the top grossing and top paid charts in dozens of countries including key markets like Germany, France, the U.K., the U.S. and China. Amazing Alex was also able to put in a strong debut on the paid app charts, hitting No. 1 in 53 countries on the iPhone and 68 on the iPad, although it wasn’t able to crack the top grossing app charts in key markets such as Japan, China or the U.S.

As is typical, the app hasn’t yet shown up on the U.S. Google Play charts, as Google’s chart ranking algorithm tends to update slower than the one Apple uses. The game is free on Android and monetizes via ads, and comes in both a standard and an HD version designed for tablets. The game is also available as a $2.99 Kindle in the Amazon Appstore, and as a $4.99 download in the Mac App Store.

It would be disingenuous to say the game isn’t a hit considering how many charts Bad Piggies is currently on top of, but it’s likely Rovio were hoping for a better debut for the title. The company’s last game, Amazing Alex started strongly, but hasn’t been able to hold its momentum. According to our traffic tracking service AppData, the iPhone version of the game is currently the No. 107 top paid app and the No. 368 top grossing game in the U.S. The HD version is the No. 117 top paid iPad app and the No. 226 iPad app in the games genre. For Bad Piggies to see the same kind of success its Angry Bird precursors have, it will need to hold the momentum its built up today. We’ll be watching the title’s performance closely.

Build an incredible machine with Amazing Alex

Amazing Alex is a new iOS and Android game from Rovio, creators of Angry Birds. The game is the first title not in the Finnish developer’s hugely succcessful multimedia franchise for a very long time, but stays true to the developer’s strengths: pick-up and play gameplay, suitable for both quick sessions or longer marathons, and universal appeal. The game is available now from the App Store in separate iPhone and iPad versions. Android players can pick up a copy from Google Play and the Amazon Appstore, and Windows Phone and home computer versions are following soon.

Amazing Alex is a physics-based puzzle game heavily inspired by Jeff Tunnell’s ageing The Incredible Machine series for PC, an iOS version of which was released by Disney in 2011 but which since appears to have disappeared from the App Store. Players are presented with a series of physics-based challenges and provided with a selection of tools with which to accomplish their goals, which vary from dropping things into baskets to popping balloons. Objectives are communicated in a visual style with arrows and circles — this is a difference from the original Incredible Machine format, in which tasks were explicitly explained to the player via text. While Amazing Alex’s approach allows even young children with poor literacy skills to participate in the game, The Incredible Machine’s text-based system was a much clearer way to explain exactly what was expected of the player.

As is the norm for most mobile games, players may complete each level with up to three “stars.” Stars are acquired simply by causing a level element to roll, float or slide through them and also often provide vague hints as to the “optimum” method for completing a level. These hints are supplemented in the early levels by explicit markings showing exactly where the player should place their tools. This makes the early levels extremely, almost insultingly easy for most people, but at least allows players to get a feel for how basic “machine” elements work. The game also doesn’t fall into the trap of allowing its “tutorial” levels to go on for too long — a criticism which could be leveled at some of the earlier PC-based entries in the Incredible Machine series!

Amazing Alex is built to be a “connected” game. Completing a level automatically uploads the player’s solution to the Internet, and a random selection of their Game Center friends’ solutions is displayed for them to peruse on the results screen. Players may also call up their friends’ solutions manually at any time from the game’s menu, somewhat undermining the “puzzle” nature of the game but at least ensuring that players can make progress if they are stuck — assuming they have some friends playing, of course. After making a certain amount of progress in the game, players also unlock the ability to create their own levels and share them online.

Amazing Alex is a mostly very good game, but it suffers somewhat from a problem that also blighted Angry Birds — in an attempt to be universally appealing (and, presumably, to minimize the amount of translation work required for international markets) the game is almost entirely icon-based, but it’s not always immediately apparent what each of these icons does. The game also doesn’t easily give up its “secrets” — it doesn’t explain to players exactly what the requirements for unlocking new levels or accessing the level editor are, which could lead to frustration for those more interested in “freeform” play than solving puzzles.

This issue aside however, Amazing Alex is a good addition to Rovio’s lineup and will even appeal to those who are sick of the sight of the perpetually-disgruntled avians. The online features will help ensure it has a long lifespan even long after players have beaten the built-in levels. With regular updates, Rovio could easily have another long-term hit on their hands.

Amazing Alex is currently the No.1 paid app on both iPhone and iPad. Follow its progress with AppData, our tracking service for iOS and social games and developers.

Bird-free physics puzzling in space with Gravity Fleet

Gravity Fleet is a new iOS-based physics puzzler from young Argentinian indie studio Coffee Powered Machine. It’s available now as a $0.99 Universal download from the App Store with a free Web-based demo available here.

The basic premise of Gravity Fleet sees players commanding a spaceship whose job it is to defend various celestial bodies from a seemingly endless army of planet-devouring monsters. This is achieved by firing a variety of different types of missile at the giant alien miscreants and taking advantage of the gravitational pull of nearby planets to curve shots.

The control scheme is simple but effective — players tap on the screen where they would like to aim their missile, press the “fire” button and watch to see if it successfully defeats any enemies. Once all enemies are defeated, the player is given bonus points according to how many missiles they have left and how many planets have survived. They are then given a ranking of up to three chevrons according to their performance, are awarded with in-game currency and may then either retry the level to improve their score or move on to the next.

Like Angry Birds Space, the player’s arsenal for each level is both strictly limited and follows a fixed order, and this is where the puzzle element of the gameplay is most apparent. Determining which order to destroy the aliens in becomes very important, as does determining which group of aliens should be punished with a three-way missile and which should feel the wrath of an area-effect bomb. It’s possible to brute-force most levels, but the elusive three-chevron ratings will remain out of reach unless the player determines the most efficient, effective order in which to destroy their adversaries.  The puzzles in Gravity Fleet have very precise solutions which can be worked out by eye and then executed first time, removing the need for frustrating “trial and error” gameplay almost entirely.

For those who need a little assistance in leveraging the game’s celestial physics, a number of powerups are available for in-game currency which provide a longer “guide line” for aiming missiles and the facility to display how far the influence of a planet’s gravitational field extends. Clumsy players who have found themselves inadvertently blowing up habitable planets with their own missiles may also choose to protect said worlds with a force field powerup, too.

Alongside the powerups, players may also spend their in-game currency on various “assistant” characters. Each of these provides a special bonus — some increase damage or blast radius of specific missile types, some increase the rate at which defeated aliens drop free powerups and some increase the “health” of planets. Meanwhile, players may also purchase new ship designs, though these are largely vanity options that change the appearance of their vessel and the projectiles it fires. The ships on offer pay non copyright-infringing homage to a wide variety of well-known sci-fi games, movies and TV shows including Futurama, Mass Effect, Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek and even retro classics Asteroids and Space Invaders. Players earn in-game currency at a steady rate over the course of the game, though impatient players who immediately want to start using a rather square-looking Starship Enterprise may purchase packages of credits ranging from $0.99 to $29.99.

The game does not include any social features at this time, though Game Center support is promised in an impending update, along with more levels, assistants and ships to purchase and an interface tweak to make the iPad version run at the correct aspect ratio rather than scaled-up iPhone visuals. Should the developer continue this level of support over the game’s lifetime, it deserves to enjoy some success — though the unfortunate timing of its release during the beginning of Angry Birds Space fever may mean it gets glossed over by many players in favor of Rovio’s title. This would be a real shame, as barring some in-game text whose English translation could do with a proofread, Gravity Fleet is a high-quality iOS game that features excellent presentation, fun gameplay and unobtrusive monetization.

As a new release, Gravity Fleet is not yet listed on our tracking service AppData, but check back soon to follow its progress through the App Store charts.

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