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'Angry Birds' Flies Toward The Game Board

Angry birds are migrating out of the digital realm.

The wildly popular game Angry Birds, where players can channel loads of avian aggression into a harmless digital diversion, is about to become a board game.

In May, Mattel plans to release Angry Birds Knock On Wood. It's based on the digital version, which has been downloaded more than 50 million times in the past year.

An Addiction

Whenever Chris Clark, an industrial electronics repairman from Birmingham, Ala., fires up his iPhone or iPad, he's on autopilot. His fingers invariably go to the same place — the game folder containing the Angry Birds app.

Clark has easily more than 100 games downloaded to his devices, but after solitaire, Angry Birds is his favorite. He's not the only one: In 2010, Angry Birds was Apple's best-selling iPhone app. It's also available on Android.

Clark plays Angry Birds during downtime at work, on the sofa, waiting in line and just about anytime he can. In other words, he's addicted.

"You keep retrying the harder levels until you get it, and then you're like, 'OK, next! Next! Come on!' " Clark says. "And you just keep going and, you stop when somebody yells, 'Dinner!' or it's time to go to work."

Part of what makes it so addictive, Clark says, is that it's easy. The player basically hurls birds through a slingshot at a castle. Inside the castle, there are ugly green pigs who stole the birds' eggs.

The Joy Of Knocking Things Down

So the object of the game is revenge. There's also the simple pleasure of breaking things.

Mattel kept this in mind when it designed the board game.

"People love building things so that they could go and knock them down," says Raymond Adler, Mattel's marketing manager for games and puzzles.

The game will sell for about $15 in the spring.

"This is sort of our first venture into bringing things from the digital space into the physical space," Adler says.

Keeping A Foot In Each World

He says Mattel still sells tons of board games, but there's a lot more competition out there. Games played on computers, mobile devices and all sorts of gadgets take away market share from Mattel.

"Some of the ways that we're trying to combat that is exactly with things like Angry Birds," Adler says.

It's a way for Mattel to keep a foot in each world. The challenge in going from digital to board game isn't unlike what a screenwriter faces when making a film out of a book.

True to the digital game, there will be a slingshot. Only in the board game version — and this may come as a disappointment to some — the birds will not come apart and explode on impact with the castle, which players build out of blocks.

"The birds stay in one piece so that you can play over and over again," Adler says.

The company wouldn't say how much it invested in the Angry Birds board game, but analysts say it can't be much. After all, Rovio, the company that developed the Angry Birds app, pretty much provided the framework.

"They don't have to go out and develop a whole lot of intellectual property to create a new board game," says Paul Swinand, an analyst for Morningstar. "If it's not a success, it's not going to be a black eye or probably even a loss for them because they probably have very good margins on it."

If it sells at all, it'll have been a good experiment for Mattel — a nice way to dip the company's toes into the world of digital apps.

Still, even Adler says it's pretty unlikely that the Angry Birds board game will ever outsell toys like Barbies and Matchbox cars. But, he says, it's definitely a risk worth taking.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Watch a video about the Angry Birds digital game.
Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

And I'm Michele Norris.

Many of you may know this tune.

(Soundbite of game, "Angry Birds")

NORRIS: It's the intro music from "Angry Birds," a widely popular digital diversion. The game has been downloaded more than 50 million times in the last year, and now a major toymaker is getting a low-tech slice of the "Angry Birds" pie.

Gigi Douban reports.

GIGI DOUBAN: Whenever Chris Clark fires up his iPhone or iPad, he's on autopilot. His fingers invariably go to the same place, to the game folder containing the "Angry Birds" app.

(Soundbite of game, "Angry Birds")

DOUBAN: Clark has easily more than a hundred games downloaded to his devices, but after solitaire, "Angry Birds" is his favorite. He's not the only one. In 2010, "Angry Birds" was Apple's best-selling iPhone app. It's also available on Android.

Clark, an industrial electronics repairman from Birmingham, Alabama, says he plays "Angry Birds" during downtime at work, on the sofa, waiting in line and, well, just about anytime he can. In other words, he's addicted.

Mr. CHRIS CLARK (Industrial Electronics Repairman): You keep retrying the harder levels until you get it, and then you're like, OK, next. Next. Come on. Come on. And you just keep going, and you stop when somebody yells, dinner, or it's time to go to work.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DOUBAN: Part of what makes it so addictive, Clark says, is that it's easy. You basically hurl birds through a slingshot at a castle. Inside the castle are these ugly green pigs.

(Soundbite of game, "Angry Birds")

DOUBAN: They stole the birds' eggs. So the object of the game is revenge. That's something a lot of people can relish in, but so is the simple pleasure of breaking things.

(Soundbite of game, "Angry Birds")

DOUBAN: Mattel knows this. Just ask Raymond Adler, the company's marketing manager for games and puzzles.

Mr. RAYMOND ADLER (Marketing Manager for Games and Puzzles, Mattel): People love building things so that they can go and knock them down.

DOUBAN: So Mattel is putting the finishing touches on an "Angry Birds" board game due to hit store shelves in May. It'll sell for about $15.

Mr. ADLER: This is sort of our first venture into bringing things from the digital space into the physical space.

DOUBAN: Adler says Mattel still sells tons of board games, but there's a lot more competition out there. Games played on computers, mobile devices and all sorts of gadgets take away market share from Mattel.

Mr. ADLER: Some of the ways that we're trying to combat that is exactly with things like "Angry Birds."

DOUBAN: It's a way for Mattel to keep a foot in both worlds. The challenge in going from digital to board game isn't unlike what a screenwriter faces when making a film out of a book.

True to the digital game, there will be a slingshot.

(Soundbite of game, "Angry Birds")

DOUBAN: Only in the board game version, and this may come as a disappointment to some, the birds will not come apart and explode on impact with the castle, which players build out of blocks.

Mr. ADLER: No. The birds stay in one piece so that you can play over and over again.

DOUBAN: And Mattel hopes people do. The company wouldn't say how much it invested in the "Angry Birds" board game, but analysts say it can't be much. After all, Rovio, the company that developed the "Angry Birds" app, pretty much provided the framework.

Mr. PAUL SWINAND (Analyst, Morningstar): They don't have to go out and develop a whole lot of intellectual property to create a new board game.

DOUBAN: That's Paul Swinand, an analyst with Morningstar.

Mr. SWINAND: If it's not a success, it's not going to be a black eye or probably even a loss for them because they probably have very good margins on it.

DOUBAN: If it sells at all, it'll have been a good experiment for Mattel, a nice way to dip the company's toes into the world of digital apps.

Still, even Adler says it's pretty unlikely that the "Angry Birds" board game will ever outsell toys like Barbies and Matchbox cars. But, Adler says, you just never know, and as big as "Angry Birds" is, he says, it's definitely a risk worth taking.

(Soundbite of game, "Angry Birds")

DOUBAN: For NPR News, I'm Gigi Douban in Birmingham, Alabama. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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