It’s fair to say that Angry Birds is one of the biggest games going around right now. It’s hit almost every platform known to man, has spawned sequels and merchandise galore and has single handedly turned Rovio into a household name. So when it comes to expanding the franchise further or taking it in new directions you can either do one of two things: play it safe or take a risk.
So where does Bad Piggies fit in? The just released spin-off has already found itself atop the App Store charts and sees the Pigs, once in the firing line, now taking center stage for their own little adventure. Instead of being a tale of revenge for all that smash and grab action the Birds have put upon them over the last few years, Bad Piggies is all about creation and puzzle solving in order to fly them through the sky in search of their desired eggs.
Sure spin-offs aren’t a new thing in gaming, but placing the bad guys of your biggest product into the forefront, while also using a far different play style that fans aren’t used to, can’t be considered playing it all that safe. Then again, for all the talk about what Rovio will create outside of Angry Birds itself, this is still within the same franchise, with tried and true characters (kind of), despite all the gameplay changes.
The problem I have with the Angry Birds franchise is its lack of longevity. There are only so many levels you can create or spin on the same formula before it can become stale. Just look at where the Tetris or Worms franchises are, they certainly aren’t as big a crowd puller as they used to be. So the question has to be raised, does Rovio want to continue to milk Angry Birds for all it’s worth, or slowly branch away from it towards something bigger? Eventually people will move onto the next big thing, it’s a fact of life.
Rovio’s only non-Angry Birds related title so far is Amazing Alex, itself based on a previously created product (Casey’s Contraptions) and hence not a Rovio original. You could also argue that Amazing Alex loosely influenced Bad Piggies, with physics based puzzles and the use of the imagination to create what you want. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course, but it says something about Rovio’s mentality when it comes to franchise building.
Bad Piggies is an interesting step forward, partially towards originality yet playing it safe with a familiar face. Therefore, in returning to my original thought, it’s neither playing it safe OR taking a risk, but more something stuck in between. Whether it reaches the same kind of sales numbers as Angry Birds is still up in the air (there’s a pun in that, I think) but it is riding the coat tails a little, instead of standing out all on its own. That in itself is a risk.
So yes, for the time being the Piggies will continue to place the spotlight firmly above Rovio and, as business goes, it will probably sell big(ish) numbers. But to be fair, I am way more interested in what Rovio might come up with next, and not with what they are working on now.