Rovio today is launching a new free-to-play Angry Birds game — called Angry Birds Action! (exclamation point theirs) — and it's actually pretty good. In lieu of a slingshot, the new iOS and Android title takes place in a top-down 3D world where the birds "dash" into objects, ricocheting like pinballs, breaking everything in sight in their quest to save eggs. The multicolored birds are still present with their respective abilities, although their appearances have been altered this time around to more closely align with the upcoming Angry Birds film.
But Angry Birds Action! (again, exclamation point theirs) isn't just a game; it's also an app designed to interact with an almost overwhelming wave of upcoming Angry Birds merchandising using a QR code-like system that Rovio is calling "BirdCodes."
Here's how it'll work. Angry Birds-branded merchandise from companies like McDonald's, Pez, H&M, and Lego will feature specific BirdCodes that the app scans using the phone's camera. Each company involved has a unique 30-second mini-game (e.g. shooting pigs out of the sky using a slingshot and Pez pills). You have to scan the code again each time you want to play, though, which Rovio is upfront about saying is designed to incentivize people to make return trips to retail stores or buy the relevant Angry Birds merchandise to take home. (Outlets like Walmart or Toys 'R' Us will have BirdCodes on display that unlock power-ups.)
Rovio says more than 1 billion BirdCodes have been printed for distribution around the world. Here are some actual examples:
- McDonald's Happy Meal boxes, drink cups, and paper liners for trays (all of which play whack-a-mole)
- Pez candy dispensers (shoot pigs out of the a slingshot and Pez pills)
- Lego building sets
- H&M apparel — in one example we saw, the BirdCode is located on the left shoulder blade of an Angry Birds-clad t-shirt
Everything is lined up to coincide with next month's premiere of The Angry Birds Movie, which of course will also work with Angry Birds Action (no exclamation point this time, but just know it's there in spirit). An "inaudible digital watermark" will play behind the credits, which will unlock "a whole new area of the game to explore" as well as play a new clip that'll serves as a "different ending" to the film, reportedly.
While the Angry Birds games are still pulling impressive numbers — a representative told us that the franchise currently has about 100 million monthly active users — it is no longer the mobile juggernaut it was in the halcyon days of mobile gaming. In 2014, merchandising revenue fell 43 percent. Since then, the company has cut more than 260 jobs and replaced its CEO Pekka Rantala after he held that position for just one year. Under the new CEO Kati Levoranta, Rovio has been streamlining operations to focus on games and media. At the time, Levoranta said that they are preparing "to make the most of the release of The Angry Birds Movie." Angry Birds Action, which does just about everything it can to blur the line between all parts of the Angry Birds world, is a big part of that push.