Finnish casual game maker Rovio is back at it with a new title in its Angry Birds series, this one a branded partnership like the Star Wars version released previously. The new game pairs Blockbuster Transformers with the squabbling birds and pigs, in an upcoming game teased by the company with a new landing page and press release today. For Rovio, which has reportedly seen its profits drop 50 percent year-over-year between 2012 and 2013, the partnership might be a good indicator of the path back to growth.
The partnership with Hasbro on the Transformers game isn’t just about a digital licensing agreement – Hasbro will also be producing physical toys to go along with the new mashup mobile title through its Telepods line. These Skylander-style toys feature embedded chips that let them talk to mobile devices, delivering virtual characters into the game environment that can adapt and change through continued play.
Sound familiar? That’s the same pitch Nintendo made for its Amiibo line of own-branded NFC-enabled toys to work with the Wii U console. These are popular with game makers for a very simple reason: they offer recurring revenue, with high margins, since they’re cheap to mass produce and carry relatively little in terms of complicated tech vs. consoles and other dedicated gaming hardware. Rovio and Hasbro can make money on the initial game sales, plus any in-game purchases they plan, plus on hardware collectibles created via the Telepods integration, so it’s a triple dip in an industry that has done very well on the double dip of just the first two.
Angry Birds has released a number of different titles since the original Angry Birds, but the ones that have done the best are those that stick close to the original IP. To that end, the company might do well to try to become the Hello Kitty of the mobile age – an infinitely rebrandable vehicle for the promotions and successes of others, for which too much variation (read: innovation) actually runs counter to success.