First came the popular smartphone game, with players hurling a variety of birds at fortified pigs. Game sequels followed. Then plush toys. Last year, Angry Birds -- the board game -- was one of the holiday shopping season's biggest sellers.
Now, in Rovio's boldest bet yet, the app developer behind the franchise, will be putting out 52 episodes of an animated Angry Birds series.
Shooting for Small-Screen Stardom
Don't look for Disney (DIS) and Nickelodeon parent Viacom (VIA) to duke it out for broadcasting rights. These 52 weekly installments will be bite-sized clips, averaging roughly three minutes each.
Rovio is aiming at smaller screens, hoping to turn the clips into digital sensations. If it can line up the right partners and score lucrative advertising deals, the massive established audience of Angry Birds fans may make this a more promising route than the traditional television path that proven marketable properties have taken in the past.
How big is Angry Birds? Well, the latest version of the mobile game -- Angry Birds Space -- hit app stores two weeks ago. It immediately vaulted to the top of the download charts, overtaking OMGPOP's Draw Something a day after Zynga (ZNGA) had acquired OMGPOP in a deal reportedly worth about $200 million.
Forget trying to put a price tag on privately held Rovio. All you need to know is that the game was downloaded 10 million times in its first three days on the market.
Rovio has ambitious plans. It plans to roll out another four Angry Birds games later this year.
Will the Birds Land on the Big Screen Next?
It's easy to see where this will go from here. If the games continue to be popular and if the short videos are a hit, a full-blown movie makes perfect sense.
It's usually the other way around: A hit movie will result in merchandising opportunities and video games. This time it's a video game that triggered merchandising deals and now video development initiatives.
No film is publicly in the works, so if it happens, it won't hit theaters until 2015 at the earliest.
That's a long time, especially in the fickle universe of gamers. Casual gaming will probably still be popular in three years, but there's no way of guessing whether we'll still be playing Angry Birds.
Unlike traditional video games, where a Halo or Super Mario franchise can translate into decades of gaming, there's too short a history behind them to know if the types of games being put out by Rovio, Zynga and OMGPOP today will stay relevant in the medium term.
First things first, though. Keep an eye for the short animated clips later this year to determine if this franchise has wings in video form.
Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz does not own shares in any stocks in this article, except for Disney. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Walt Disney.
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