Angry Birds Rio takes the original games mechanics, tweaks them slightly and weaves around it a story in which the titular vexed creatures have to smash locked birdcages and release the stars of the film. It’s a minor stroke of genius to jump aboard the Angry Birds train to promote the film and in aligning themselves with game creators Rovio, Fox and Blue Sky have millions of fans of the game poised to jump upon this new opportunity to enjoy a whole new iteration of their favourite game and thus promote their film to millions in one fell swoop.
This in itself in not a new concept. Universal recently gave another popular iPhone app, Doodle Jump, a Hop makeover, the two properties seemingly made for each other. The Hop version of Doodle Jump is a free download whereas Angry Birds Rio has a price tag of 59p and this is partly a factor in the success of the original game as it is a small price to pay for so many hours of entertainment. Only with a branded version of Angry Birds could you ask people to pay a charge to, in effect, be advertised to relentlessly, and there’s more thought gone into this gamble as you can bet that Angry Birds Rio will stay at the top of the Paid Apps chart whereas the Free Apps list is far more fluid. As of right now the game tops the Paid Apps and Top Grossing App chart – incredible for a game released just this morning.
Movies and their video game tie-ins have a long and well trodden path, with landfills of Atari 2600 ET cartridges lining the sides, and virtually every mainstream movie is now launched with a host of video game companions, on every available system. Just last night we were given a glimpse of what might have been if Duncan Jones’ Moon was released in the earlys 90s, and I remember 20 odd years ago seeing the Weetabix had commissioned someone to make a game to advertise their cereal. It was rubbish, and yet Angry Birds Rio is borne out of the same urge to market by any means necessary.
This is not the first time Angry Birds has been connected to the world of movies, as it was recently reported that there was to be a movie version of the game. Why this is should be the case when the property is far more suited to short animations in the style of Wile. E. Coyote is beyond me, but so far this tie-in with Rio could be a sign of things to come. It is far less risky to adapt a successful game than to create your own and compete with it, plus you can guarantee that when the Rio theatrical and subsequent Home Entertainment releases come out you will see significant updates to the new game, keeping the film alive in people’s minds. Indeed within the game there is a link to a Rio movie trailer and updates to the game scheduled for May, July, October and November ensuring that people keep coming back for more.
Certain films lend themselves very well to game adaptations and much of the summer blockbuster set will find an eager audience with toy manufacturers and console owners but Angry Birds Rio is something different. The iPhone continues to be a huge success as a games machine and this has meant that portable (or casual if you must) gaming is available, and enticing, to all. You can imagine when Cars 2 is released it will come with a slew of videogames on every available platform, the iPhone included. What is different is that Fox and Blue Sky have decided not to make their own game but rather to hijack an incredibly successful one instantly getting their film (or brand, again, if you must) in front of a huge audience.
Film marketing bodies have already woken up to Facebook and the example of the recent 8-bit renditions of Hobo With a Shotgun, and Scott Pilgrim games are a clear indication that we’re seeing a resurgence of this kind of cross media marketing with the smartphones being a particularly powerful weapon in their war to win an audience.
They did miss a trick though, as it is easy to imagine Drive Angry Birds 3D app in which you fire mini Nicholas Cage faces at Demons in a cartoon Hell with a realistic physics environment. Perhaps Sucker Punch could redesign Plants Vs. Zombies with the girls fighting off advancing dragons and airships, Joe Cornish’s Attack the Block lends itself perfectly to a Tower Defence game and it’s a shame that the Saw franchise is over as it is could have been the perfect vehicle for a Cut the Rope redesign – sever the ropes tieing up a helpless victim suspended over a fiery pit, swinging them into the waiting arms of the police. I’d buy it, and for a dollar too.