I realize the irony of a member of the specialist press saying this, but I have a real problem with game franchises being so omnipresent you can't escape them.
Whenever I talk about oversaturation, Angry Birds is one of the first franchises that springs to mind, simply because developer Rovio has squeezed so much out of something that -- to my mind, anyway -- wasn't that good in the first place. But more on that in a moment; first an announcement.
There's a new Angry Birds game on the way. And it's a kart racer.
Yes, really -- although followers of the Angry Birds Facebook page all seem to care more about the chemtrails conspiracy theory than the announcement of the new game itself. Never change, Facebook.
Details on the new game are non-existent right now, save for the fact that it appears to have been developed in partnership with Red Bull. It might end up being a good game -- and, for once, it's a genuinely new direction for the franchise to go in -- but I can't help but feel that this is just one game too many in a franchise that has always, to my mind, been somewhat overrated, and beloved for little more than its simplistic accessibility rather than its actual quality. It is, in other words, a triumph of marketing over substance.
The original Angry Birds game was a barely competent physics puzzler with an inconsistent physics model -- something of a hindrance for a physics puzzler, you might think, but apparently not -- and a selection of characters that lacked any real distinguishing features beyond being different colors. Somehow, Rovio has managed to spin that simple (and, admittedly, highly accessible) idea into a media empire encompassing numerous games -- very few of which genuinely improve on the original game's formula and flawed mechanics -- along with toys, other merchandise and even the possibility of a movie and/or TV series in the future.
It feels, more than anything, like each new Angry Birds product is an attempt to shoehorn an established franchise into a new format rather than taking any sort of creative risk. It makes no thematic sense for the Angry Birds to be in a kart racer -- they can't fly because they haven't got any wings, so how the hell are they going to drive a kart? It just feels like a desperate attempt to keep the series relevant -- but then, it didn't really make any sense for the Angry Birds and Star Wars universes to come together, either, and that did just fine for itself.
So why won't Rovio do something new? Probably because its past attempts to branch out a little have been met with indifference. Look at Bad Piggies, for example, which is still technically part of the Angry Birds empire, but which doesn't have Angry Birds in its name, or the rather good Incredible Machine-style Amazing Alex: they're rarely mentioned by press or public, despite being, in many ways, much more interesting games than the mainline Angry Birds series.
The people who buy Angry Birds games identify with the Angry Birds brand rather than the Rovio brand. which means it makes good business sense for the developer to continue churning out Angry Birds games, even where it makes very little thematic sense to do so. As such, I can't really blame Rovio for continuing to go where the money is; I'm just a bit sick of those bloody birds.
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