Update: The CEO of Rovio, Mikael Hed, has dismissed reports that the company is not developing its latest Angry Birds game for the Windows Phone platform. “We are working towards getting Angry Birds Space to WP7,” he told Reuters. Original post follows below.
Yesterday, the day that Rovio launched its newest game, Angry Birds Space, it also said it has no plans to develop the game for Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 platform. An analyst today has taken that news one step further to suggest that the impact of this decision will be far greater than WP7 users missing out on this one game.
Richard Windsor, a mobile analyst with Nomura, calls Rovio’s decision a “worrying development” for Windows Phone because it suggests a lack of confidence in the future of the platform from a key influencer in the industry. And he also says this will have an inevitable, and negative, knock-on effect, not just for Microsoft but for its biggest and most crucial platform licensee, Nokia.
His thinking, from a research note: Angry Birds (version 1) is already the number 1 on the Windows Phone App store, so if the most successful developer on the platform isn’t investing the time and money to put a new game on it, “it gives a strong indication that no one else will expect to be making money writing for this platform, either.”
And given that Nokia is banking its future on the success of the platform, that will mean problems for the handset maker, too:
“It’s early days, but Rovio’s lack of confidence in the platform may cause some to think twice about the likelihood of Nokia’s recovery in smartphones,” he writes.
Ironically (or perhaps intentionally?), the launch of Angry Birds Space happened on the same day that news broke that Microsoft now has 70,000 apps the Marketplace app store for Windows Phone devices, up from 60,000 in December.
But in an interview with Bloomberg yesterday, the Mighty Eagle at Rovio, Peter Vesterbacka, called developing for Microsoft’s mobile platform a “big undertaking”: “You have to completely rewrite the application,” Vesterbacka said. The app is available on Android and iOS platforms, as well as a Mac app and a Windows PC app and has already proven to be a huge best-seller quickly getting to number-one in app store rankings in some 28 countries as of yesterday.
But Windsor at Nomura puts a more blunt point on where Angry Birds Space is missing: “Without a very strong certainty of sales, [publishing on WP7] is a sure-fire way to risk losing money.”
He doesn’t completely dismiss the platform, but effectively thinks that its best hope is for a “halo effect” from the wider launch of Windows 8 later this year. Windows 8, he notes, looks just like Windows Phone, and that will represent a bigger collective opportunity for developers, similar to Apple’s success in attracting developers to iOS across both the iPhone and iPad.
For now, he says the situation is in a chicken-and-egg state: “no apps means no users and no users means no apps.”
Windsor notes that in the past Nokia has paid developers to port apps to platforms it uses on its devices, although that tactic has “largely failed to bring any life back to the platform.”
Rovio, a Finnish company like Nokia, has been a relatively prolific publisher on the Symbian platform, with 12 games currently listed. It’s unclear whether Rovio would have been one of the paid to write any of those games, or if it was paid to port Angry Birds to Windows Phone 7.
The latest figures from Gartner (Q4, 2011, published February) gave Microsoft only a 1.9 percent share of the smartphone market. Nokia’s Symbian platform accounted for 11.7 percent, but that is less than half of the 32 percent share it had a year before
Windsor says Nomura remains cautious on Nokia.