Smartphones were pretty revolutionary when they first came out, but experts agree they were missing one key thing--testy little birds willing to fling themselves into concrete walls to destroy smirking green pigs.
Since Finland-based Rovio released the Angry Birds game in December 2009, 36 million gamers have downloaded the cute time-sink. Despite a brief partnership with publisher Chillingo at the app's release, Angry Birds has reached its dominance with a marketing budget close to zero.
"It really is intended for everybody. It's easy to pick up and start playing, even if you've never played any games before," says Ville Heijari, Rovio's vice president of public relations, explaining why the game has become so popular. "Not to forget the unique characters, wacky sound design and the seemingly absurd plotline. It really is the total sum of all its parts that makes it a great game."
Rovio is hoping 2010 was just the first of many years for its birds. This spring, the company plans to roll out Angry Birds versions for Facebook and the web, and it also hopes to launch versions for Xbox 360, Wii and PS3.
Merchandising of the game's cute birdies and pigs is underway with a plush toy collection, and rumors have been swirling that Angry Birds may get a feature film treatment as well.
In all, Rovio hopes that by the summer, the birds will reach 100 million players, both on and off the phone.
"Consider the Angry Birds like other loved characters, such as Mario," Heijari says. "There's a lot more to the story of Angry Birds than has been seen yet, and infinite possibilities for storytelling."
Jason Daley lives and writes in Madison, Wisconsin. His work regularly appears in Popular Science, Outside and other magazines.