Blog Post

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 (s goog) 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 (s aapl), which takes a cut of in-app purchases, as well third-party payment services like PayPal (s ebay), 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 (s aapl), Android, webOS (s hpq) and Symbian (s nok), 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.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (subscription req’d):

22 Responses to “Fed Up With Android Market, Angry Birds Flies to Carrier Billing”

  1. Sure some comments point out that ad monetization can work, but is it worth it? You end up with angry users badmouthing your app simply because you put ads in it. Yet at the same time users aren’t willing to pay for apps and piracy is rampant on android. You can spend months developing a great app, throw ads in it and users will rate it a 1 out of 5. This just makes the whole store look bad and keeps serious developers away.

  2. Pete Austin

    As a consumer, I’ve found the Android Market to be complete crap. For months I was unable to download anything, despite spending hours browsing the forums and following every suggestion. They finally improved it for me a couple of weeks ago.

    I was clearly not the only one tearing their hair out, because Google Search still has the following suggestions for: Android market download

    android market download unsuccessful, android market download paused, android market download problems, android market download unsuccessful fix

  3. James MacMillan

    When Vesterbacka said “Everyone would agree the payment and purchase experience (on Android) has been less than excellent.”, he wasn’t talking about consumers. He was talking primarily about developers. The reason why they went ad-based on Android is well documented in the news; the pirating of paid games is rampant and they weren’t able to make any money. An in-app purchase system would give developers a (hopefully) well-protected stream of revenue so that they can keep developing new content and new games. This would be a good thing for Android, regardless of who implements it.

  4. Our Bad Piggy Bank announcement really is about offering choice. We have been very happy with the success of the ad supported, free Angry Birds version for Android. At the same time there hasn’t been any developer having huge success with paid content on Android. Our model is to offer both, ie you can download Angry Birds for free with ads from Android Market, GetJar, the various operator android appstores. If you want to get rid of the ads you can do so using the Bad Piggy Bank in-app payment based on carrier billing. We will also make Angry Birds available in some of the other Android appstores launching in Q1. For us the most important thing is to make it as easy as possible to get Angry Birds for the end user. If we can deliver a great user experience, everything else will follow.

  5. Add Cents

    It’s like sooooo obvious that the Google’s master plan all along has been to capture gullible users and to grow market share at the expense of monetary gains. But don’t be fooled they will put the squeeze on those Android users once the market share levels off. Be prepared to feel the Google Pain Stick you here and there and also heavily litter everything you see & hear with junk ads. It’s coming baby….wait for it…

  6. Rovio is being two faced here. They talk about the frustration of offering their game for free with ads on android, yet recently they disclosed that they are making a million a month from the android app-store through ads.
    I doubt they could sell a million a month’s worth of birds for too long, yet here is a viable solution that is definitely worth the ‘frustration’.

  7. Shaun Murray

    You have to remember than Angry Birds is also on Symbian with in app billing and carrier billing already so Rovio have experience of a system that works much better than Android.

    This is Rovio wanting to give Android users the same billing possibilities as Symbian. Android’s marketplace worldwide reach is abysmal compared to Symbian, especially if you want to buy apps.

    On Symbian, carrier billing also increases the number of purchases compared to using a credit card.

    • Wrong, this is rovio wanting the last few people on the planet that haven’t purchased angy birds to do so. The android buying experience isn’t any different then how I buy apss for the iphone. It’s tied to an apple account. It works on iphone, it works on android.

      This all stems from the nonsensical capitalist model of not simply being content with selling well (even if well really means you’re insanely successful), you need to show that your product sells more quarter over quarter.

      What happens when you’ve sold everyone who can buy AB a copy, how do you show growth with the quarter winding down, it will lead to a rushed sequel with a slight variation on the original.

      I won’t say that are no companies that actually care about their customers, they must exist, but I certainly haven’t seen many.

  8. As an Android user, I don’t think the Google Checkout process is bad user experience at all. I happened to have my Checkout account set up before starting to use Android anyway, but what is the problem other than people not having it set up to work (not having a credit card entered)?

  9. I think it’s hilarious that no one is mentioning their (very) recent comments about the boatloads of money they made releasing AB on android for free with adds.

    (Paraphrasing) “It’s the google way and it’s out preferred way and it’s wonderful”

    Literally days later “The payment system is crap and it’s what forced us to do ad supported, we’re rolling our own.”

    This will be a bad mark on google only if people choose to forget rovio’s original comments.

    (As I’m typing this I’m rereading Richard Garret’s comment which seems spot on)

  10. “Everyone would agree the payment and purchase experience (on Android) has been less than excellent.”
    As a user, I’d say it’s been pretty excellent.

    Rovio is a one-hit wonder with a game based entirely on a single action. Fun for a few hours, then monotonous. I get why they would want to expand, but I don’t get their Android hate. It’s exactly the opposite of what I hear from other developers.

    “Google needs to step up and take more control. The carriers, handset-makers, and now app-developers are all going different ways and causing platform dilution.”
    None of which is bad for users, frankly. There are already lots of Android app stores. The average user is aware of only one. The rest of us are not inconvenienced by the others. In app payments has nothing to do with dilution or fragmentation.

    And no matter what, Google makes a bundle. I’m not sure where roofus gets the idea that Google hasn’t monetized Android; it’s an advertising cash cow, even without apps.

    • Yes Google is making money via advertising from Android. It also making money via advertising from the iPhone. They certainly haven’t broken out revenues in their earning reports to show which one of the two generates more money for them.

      What is clear is Google spend a lot of money and use a lot of resources on Android development that they don’t have to spend on the iPhone. It is very possible that Google would have been considerably more profitable had they never acquired Android.

    • Steve Sabol

      “Rovio is a one-hit wonder with a game based entirely on a single action. Fun for a few hours, then monotonous.”

      Good point. As long as you ignore Mario (jumps on things), Pac Man (eats things), Sonic (runs through things), Frogger (avoids things), Tetris (block dropping), etc. All one-hit wonders with a game based entirely on a single action… that ballooned into franchises selling 20 million copies or more.

  11. This is an awesome for Rovio (shows clear tech leadership) but a bad mark for Android (more fragmentation of the Market).

    What good is Android for Google if they can’t monetize it (or worse, someone else monetizes it exclusively using their hard work)?

    Google needs to step up and take more control. The carriers, handset-makers, and now app-developers are all going different ways and causing platform dilution.

  12. Richard Garrett

    While Vesterbackas is right about options and competition, ot everyone agrees that “the payment and purchase experience ” of the Android market has been less than excellent. As a consumer I’ve yet to have any problem with billing or payments.
    This initiative seems more directed to Rovio’s bottom line and less to altruism. No problem with that but Vesterbackas shouldn’t try to fool us, himself or carriers as he describes it Rovio has a lot of clout and is looking to exert it.