25 ways of downloading Angry Birds

June 3, 2011: 12:33 PM ET

Rovio has a blockbuster franchise just as notable for its flock of revenue streams as its wildly addictive game play.

FORTUNE -- You don't have to try very hard to spot Angry Birds in their natural habitat -- online -- because they are as ubiquitous as a Manhattan pigeon.

Since launching as an iPhone app in December 2009, the franchise has been downloaded 200 million times -- double the number reported just three months ago -- and is available on 30% of all new smart phones. Its sole virtual good, the "Mighty Eagle," which clears the entire screen of enemies, has been purchased by more than 50 million users since December; three million plush toys have been sold, and in China, the growing franchise is considered one of the top three brands alongside the likes of Disney and Hello Kitty. The feather in Rovio's cap? Talks of an Angry Birds movie, of course.

It's the kind of market saturation most app makers -- content makers of any kind, really -- only dream of. But it's one largely invisible to Rovio's actual customers. That's not because they're too busy slinging birds across their screens to care. Rather, Rovio's genius has been to appeal to game players across a wide variety of platforms, demographics, price points and interest levels. By putting a fun user experience with arresting game play at easy reach to all manner of players, Rovio has shown how the audience fragmentation traditional media companies are fearful of can be turned from a liability to an asset.

"Our business is very much based on volume, which makes for example distributing the Android version of the game free with advertising profitable," says Ville Heijari, Vice President of Franchise Development for the game maker.

There are actually at least 25 different ways to get Angry Birds. Rovio has cast a net so wide it spans multiple platforms: Apple's (AAPL) iPhone and iPad, Google's (GOOG) Android and the multitude of "interface layers" each carrier uses to differentiate itself, Hewlett Packard's WebOS (HPQ), Nokia's (NOK) Symbian, even Barnes & Noble's (BKS) Nook and Sony's PlayStation Portable and PlayStation 3.

Then there's Angry Birds proper and the more recently-released Angry Birds Rio, which swaps out smug neon enemy swine for marmosets. There are paid, free, and ad-supported versions, seasonal and non-seasonal updates. In fact there are so many variations and revenue pipelines, it's hard to keep track. So here's a table of everything Angry Birds right now:

Angry Birds
iPhone -- a $ .99 paid version and a free "Lite" version you can upgrade
Android -- free, ad-supported
iPad -- a $2.99 paid version and a free "Lite" version you can upgrade
Mac -- $4.99 paid version only
Windows -- a "Lite" version you can upgrade for $4.95
Chrome -- free
Symbian -- a $1.99 paid version and free "Lite" edition you can upgrade
PlayStation Portable --  $.99
PlayStation 3 -- $ .99
Nook Color -- $4.99
WebOS -- a $1.99 paid version

Virtual good: the "Mighty Eagle," for $ .99

Angry Birds: Seasons, with updates for Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's Day and Easter
iPhone -- a $ .99 paid version and a free "Lite" version you can upgrade
Android -- free, ad-supported
iPad -- a $1.99 paid version
Symbian -- a $1.99 paid version and free "Lite" edition you can upgrade

Angry Birds: Rio
iPhone -- a $ .99 paid version and a free "Lite" version you can upgrade
Android -- $. 99 via Amazon
iPad -- a $2.99 paid version and a free "Lite" version you can upgrade
Mac -- $4.99 paid version only
Windows -- a "Lite" version you can upgrade for $4.95
Symbian -- a $1.99 paid version and free "Lite" edition you can upgrade

Memorabilia -- The 3 million plush toys sold, from $4.99 stuffed birds to a $35 iPhone case.

Bad Piggy Bank -- an SMS-based payment system the company is still testing that will make it possible for users to pay for games without the need to register or use a credit card. (The amount is just added to a mobile user's monthly bill.)

The result is a Byzantine monetization scheme with price rungs that are nonsensical on the face: Why for instance pay $4.99 for the desktop and Nook Color editions when the the iPad version is $1.99? Why shell out $ .99 for the iPhone app when the Android one is free?

According to Peter Vesterbacka, the company's Chief Marketing Officer or "Mighty Eagle," pricing is based largely on how competitive each app store is -- the more apps there are in a particular app store, the lower the price will probably be. Which is why the iPhone version goes for $ .99 while the Windows Phone 7 app will sell somewhere in the ballpark of $2.99 when it hits later this month. (As of March, Apple laid claim to 500,000 iOS apps, while Microsoft (MSFT) had some 9,000.)

As for the Android app, there's a reason it's on the house. The company's business side, which spends a lot of time figuring out the best distribution models across platforms, figured out that while paid content worked for say, the iPhone, it hasn't taken off on Android, which is why they went the Google AdMob route. The coupling of unobtrusive ads with what Chris LaSala, Google Director of Mobile Partnership, describes as Rovio's ability to leverage the smartphone, is why Angry Birds is such a smash. That's why, despite the free download, the Android app rakes in more than $1 million in sales each month, second only to the iPhone version.

That scheme is really just starting to pay off. Contrary to some reports that the company has already made over $70 million in sales since launch, that isn't the case. In 2010 the company made less than $10 million, and during the first quarter of 2011, the franchise brought in only $20 million -- well short of the reported amount. ("Our concern wasn't making money then, but focusing on really improving the brand," says Vesterbacka.)

But moving forward, those numbers should climb significantly. Rovio expects to make between $72 million and $143 million this year, a very conservative estimate the company implies could easily be surpassed based on the number of products in their pipeline, including a just-announced multi-million dollar partnership with Roku where Angry Birds, Seasons, and Rio will come pre-installed on set-top boxes and a dedicated channel that will air animated shorts from the company's just-acquired 20-person animation studio. (Though he won't confirm it, Vesterbacka says he wouldn't be surprised if the much-talked about Angry Birds movie is developed in-house, as a result.) Also in the works: a Facebook-friendly multiplayer-focused version of the game for Facebook, a Symbian-exclusive version with near-field communications (NFC) -- which will give players the ability to unlock new stages by simply tapping devices together -- and two heavily-customized versions of the games for the Chinese market.

And look out for an entirely new breed of annoyed avian: By the end of 2011, there will be two new Angry Birds entries sporting gameplay entirely unlike the current crop, possibly including features like geolocation, which Vesterbacka admits the company is tinkering with, to draw foot traffic to stores and restaurants -- opening up yet another revenue stream for Rovio.

"I think we're learning how far this can go, and what all the contours can mean," says Rich Wong, a partner with Accel who led the venture capital firm's investment in Rovio this past spring. "It's still very early days, but I would simply say that brands that become authentic consumer franchises can be monetized in a very broad range of ways and have very long lives."

So while it's still early going for Rovio, the company from day one seems to have created a gameplan to slingshot Angry Birds into profitability and growth, all by making sure gamers can slingshot birds into pigs (or marmosets) on nearly any screen they can find.

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About This Author
JP Mangalindan
JP Mangalindan
Writer, Fortune

JP Mangalindan is a San Francisco-based writer at Fortune, covering Silicon Valley. Since joining in 2010, he has written on a wide array of topics, from the turnaround of eBay to the evolution of net neutrality. A graduate of Fordham University, Mangalindan has also written for GQ, Popular Science, and Entertainment Weekly.

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