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5 Lessons Learned from Angry Birds Launch on Android

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Angry Birds just passed 2 million downloads on Android (s goog) after launching Friday, making it the fastest downloaded app on Android Market ever. The rush to get the free ad-supported app slowed down servers on app store GetJar, which had first-day exclusive distribution rights.

The successful launch says much about the game, which has sold 7 million paid copies on iOS (s aapl) and was previously released in a lite Android beta version, and also about the state of Android Market. Here are five things we learned:

There is a lot of pent up demand for great games on Android. Granted, the free price certainly helped goose sales. But the speed with which people downloaded the title was stunning, suggesting that Android users haven’t had many can’t-miss game titles to turn to. Even though it’s the second largest app store, GetJar was overwhelmed by the response, which slowed down its servers, prompting developer Rovio Mobile to open up sales of Angry Birds on Android Market later in the day Friday. GetJar was originally supposed to have a 24-hour exclusive window. It shows that Android is a viable gaming platform, it just needs more top-notch titles.

Paid apps on Android Market are still not the favored way to go for many developers. While Rovio plans on releasing a paid non-ad supported version of Angry Birds, it said via its Twitter account that the market for paid apps on Android is “not yet the model on Android,” partly due to the fact that paid apps are still being rolled out in many countries. Going with a free app allowed Rovio to hit the global Android user base. And the approach fits with the behavior of users, who are more apt to click on mobile ads than iOS users. It’s all part of Rovio’s very methodical approach to each market it sells in. It’ll be interesting to see how paid sales of Angry Birds do. But until the Android Market has wide distribution in more countries and a better checkout system, free apps are the way to go for many Android developers.

Having multiple app stores can help with distribution. It sounds obvious, but for developers, having an option like GetJar could be a big help down the road in getting apps out. While there is only one way to sell apps in iOS, Android could sport any number of stores. That could create some chaos but in the case of Angry Birds, it gave Rovio a way to publicize its app apart from Android Market. Having more storefronts that can feature your app could be good for developers who are still finding it difficult to spur sales on Android Market alone. And it gives developers some flexibility if one store is overwhelmed by downloads. The GetJar exclusive also highlighted the growth of GetJar, which touts itself as the second largest app store in the world. With exclusives like Angry Birds, GetJar has suddenly gained a lot more exposure with many Android users.

The tide of quality games toward Android is shifting. With the release of Angry Birds, along with Fruit Ninja last month and Doodle Jump back in March, Android now has three of the top ten games from the Apple App Store. There’s still a ways to go but it suggests that developers may be ready to capitalize on the Android opportunity after saying as much for a number of months. Peter Relan, chairman of Aurora Feint, which operates the OpenFeint social gaming platform, told the Wall Street Journal he started bringing games such as Fruit Ninja to Android a month ago including Fruit Ninja because developers said they were ready to make the move, provided they got the promotion and distribution help from OpenFeint. There are still issues to deal with like a culture of free apps on Android and the need for better discovery and payment methods, but Angry Birds may prove to be a turning point for better games on Android.

Android fragmentation is a serious issue for developers. In its tweets, Rovio Mobile said it began working on the Android version of Angry Birds in the spring. But the company said it took a long time to test for all the different Android devices to ensure they worked well. “Main challenge with Android is the amount of different devices. They are all different. Takes forever to test,” the company said tweeted. In the end, there are still devices like the HTC Hero and Sony Ericsson X10 that appear to have problems running the game. By comparison, porting over Angry Birds to webOS (s hpq) earlier this year only took a “few hours.” This could be a growing problem for Android developers as the number and variety of devices proliferates.


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26 Responses to “5 Lessons Learned from Angry Birds Launch on Android”

  1. Sooner or later, Android is going to need the equivalent of Adobe’s Device Central. Since FlashLite was running on all kinds of different devices with different screen sizes and resolutions, and they came up with an elegant way to allow Flash developers to test their content on all those different devices and see how it performs. Google needs to take a hint from Adobe and create something similar to Device Central for Android developers

  2. Frankly, I don’t think Angry Birds is a particularly good game. Furthermore, Angry Birds just uses the touch screen and little else, so the only difference between devices is screen size. If the developers can’t handle that, they really have a problem.

  3. I would love to pay for the opportunity to get rid of the stupid ad on this game. I have purchased other games for Android, as well. How can you declare free as the way to go when there isn’t even a non-free offering?

  4. I learned something, too. Devs need to care about MEMORY. No chance for me to even install it. And I removed anything I could.
    This is frustrating. I know, my phone is old (nearly 2 years), but even so, I feel like there could have been a better compression of the graphics and sounds.

    It’s the old problem. Look what people could squeeze out of C64 or Amiga. It is possible to make decent games with low memory profile, with a good compression.

    So no Angry Birds for me until I got a new phone, and probably using 20% of the memory for a game…

  5. So, porting to webOS only took a few hours, eh? Makes me wonder if more developers should test their apps on webOS before launching on Android. Makes sense, right? In the same way that having multiple app stores/catalogs available for devs to release their apps on (for testing purposes and such), they can release on webOS to do some market testing. Why?

    1. It’s easy.
    2. It’s a smaller market, so more variables can be controlled during testing.
    3. It’s yet another platform to have your app distributed on.
    4. The webOS App Market is still pretty small, so any successes over there will end up being HUGE in comparison.
    5. It’s easy.

    Sounds like a win to me, and something that other developers should put into practice.

    • Porting to WebOS from Nokia’s Maemo was easy because they both are native Linux unlike Android’s Java VM.

      If WebOS and Android used the Open Source Qt framework there would be no need to port between these platforms and Android would avoid all the lawsuit crap they are facing from Oracle. Qt is much faster and less resource intensive since it’s native and not a VM on top of Linux.

  6. I, for one, don’t think paid apps will get the rush like they do on iOS. We can all agree that ads-powered apps will eventually gross their worth and make more. There is no doubt that if Angry Birds was a paid app it wouldn’t have 500K download yet. But with the free module you get the download and make your money on ads.

    • I agree. I think they will make more money like this on ads than on the paid version. 99 is not even that much. I’m sure they can make as much with only a few clicks, which is more than possible considering they have an ad showing for each of their 150 levels, and every time you repeat the failed level, too.

      I hope other developers will follow and only offer free ad-based games.Also, I think that if they offer it paid there’s a higher chance of not making money on a big part of users if those users get it from torrent sites.

  7. clearsam,Chicago, IL

    “Android fragmentation is a serious issue for developers.”
    i think this subject was hammered more than enough, it looks like everybody but the tech press gets it.

    ANDROID is not iOS, never will be iOS and not even trying to become iOS, ANDRROID is the OS that will have the 95% market share of phones in a few years, so a reasonable person could easily guess that many devices with many different processing and graphical capabilities would run it, that is where 3rd party standardization/ common assemblies come to play.
    and yes, lazy developers would have to deal with the fact that different people like different screen sizes and different devices and they should leave with the other fact that they will have to test their their apps a couple of times to accommodate for that.

    all developers dream of coding once and testing once or even not testing at all, but reality is cruel, apps have to be tested, whether there are desktop, web or native.

  8. Anyway I think the displeasure with the Marketplace is just FUD. Why not get all of the domestic sales you can get? Plus if you bet against the infrastructure Google has built you are going to loose more times than you win.

    Development on Android does seem like a growing issue. At least with people who don’t really develop in Java. Between that and Oracle it could be the leading Android concern. I bet Google wishes they purchased Palm for Web OS now :-).

  9. dalaketh

    I love Angry Birds and play it all the time on my iPad. I wish I could use the full, paid version I bought for my iPad on my android phone. That would be sweet. I would like to see more cross-platform apps that I can share between my android devices and my ios devices. (I love tech so yes I love android and ios) ;)

    • R. Moose

      You can when the paid version is available. Just buy it for your Android phone as it is cool that they are developing it for many platforms… or are you expecting that since you bought it for one platform you should get it for free on other platforms?

      It doesn’t work that way with PC/Mac versions in most cases, and it doesn’t work that way with game consoles. You need to buy the XBOX360, PS3, Wii and other console versions separately.