Author(s): Peter Bryer
Rovio, the Finland-based publisher of Angry Birds, released a new mobile game called Nibblers last week. It's a so-called "match-three" game — in the same genre as Candy Crush Saga published by King Digital Entertainment — and features fish tempted by rows of fruit but challenged by fire-breathing lizards and accelerating speeds.
Nibblers is free for download on Android and iOS based on an in-app purchase model, aligning it with the almost de facto freemium approach of most mobile games. Players can buy extras like characters and additional moves, with in-app products costing between $0.99 and $39.99 per item according to the app's Google Play store page.
Mobile gaming is about marketing and addiction. Angry Birds, introduced six years ago, became one of the first big hits in the mobile gaming industry thanks to viral marketing and an experience that combined simple virtual physics with the need for revenge. Rovio built the brand into a fantastically successful franchise, with several more games and a very active licensing unit. The characters are still ubiquitous, and an animated Angry Birds movie is scheduled for May 2016 and will star the voices of US actors Bill Hader and Peter Dinklage.
Rovio's accomplishments have been impressive, but building a new cast of characters to be found on clothes, candy and toys across the globe is a struggle and has led to leadership changes and personnel cutbacks. Casual gamers tend to be loyal to the game, not the brand behind it. The Angry Birds' theme song is tattooed into people's minds, but the Nibblers experience is quite different. For the most part, the company is starting from scratch. It's a game-by-game business.
However, the early reviews for Nibblers are positive. It's too soon to tell if hungry fish will be as explosive a hit as Angry Birds, but match-three mobile games like Bejeweled, Candy Crush Saga and Jelly Splash have consistently ranked among the top-grossing.
There's no such thing as permanence in the picky world of mobile gaming, and publishers are only as good as their newest hit. For Rovio, fruit-eating fish could be its next method of revenge.