Fed Up With Android Market, Angry Birds Flies to Carrier Billing


Rovio is taking its success with mobile game Angry Birds — 50 million downloads and counting — and using it to launch a new in-app purchase, carrier-billing payment system. The mobile developer said it’s launching Bad Piggy Bank early next year with Finnish carrier Elisa, allowing users to upgrade to an ad-free version of Angry Birds or buy Angry Birds’ first virtual good  — the Mighty Eagle character — with one tap.

During a press event, Rovio CEO Peter Vesterbacka said the studio will offer its system to other developers and will take a share of the revenue. He said he hopes it will provide consumers, especially in areas with less credit card penetration, an option for buying in-app content without having to register. Vesterbacka said the initiative was born out of frustration with Android’s payment system, which prompted Rovio to offer Angry Birds for free with ads on Android.

“Everyone would agree the payment and purchase experience (on Android) has been less than excellent.  We’re trying to make that a lot better,” Vesterbacka said. “We’re about choice. It’s always better to offer consumers choice.”

In-app payments, something we’ve been talking about lately, has definitely taken off in 2010 though it’s unclear how much of a boost Rovio can provide with its Bad Piggy Bank service. Rovio, which is talking to a bunch of carriers, will need to convince them it’s good to implement its system. From Vesterbacka’s words, he said the undisclosed revenue share will be favorable to developers, which may mean the operators may have to have to take a smaller cut of Bad Piggy Bank transactions. We’ve seen that operators are trying more carrier billing options, and appear to be willing to take a smaller percentage of transactions compared to premium SMS billing if the carrier billion alternative can spur on more sales overall.

With Rovio’s clout, it might be able to get another option on the table for consumers and developers. It would, however, put them in competition with application markets like Apple’s App Store, which takes a cut of in-app purchases, as well third-party payment services like PayPal, Boku and Zong, which are also trying to enable in-app payments.

Whatever happens, this caps off a huge year for Rovio, which launched Angry Birds a year ago. The company said in addition to 50 million downloads on iOS, Android, webOS and Symbian, the company is bringing the game to the PC, Mac, video game consoles and Facebook. Angry Birds users are now playing 200 million minutes a day. The company has expressed a desire to transform Angry Birds into something more just a game, but a Hollywood brand. If Bad Piggy Bank can take flight, the studio will show that a game can be the launch pad for many more lucrative ventures.

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