To appeal to fans of the original Angry Birds, which was delisted in 2019, Rovio released a remake called Rovio Classics: Angry Birds in March 2022. Rovio Classics: Angry Birds cost $0.99 and didn’t include any IAPs. However, after Rovio determined that this paid app was pulling downloads away from Rovio’s other Angry Birds apps, the company renamed it to Red’s First Flight on iOS and delisted it on Android in February 2023.
There are two main explanations for why the paid version of Angry Birds may have been taking downloads away from F2P apps: 1) players who searched for the F2P apps but found a paid app instead were scared off and left the app store without downloading anything or 2) players were intentionally choosing the paid version over free-to-play versions.
Rovio has claimed the first explanation, while some critics have claimed the second. Supporters of the second explanation have argued that the potential spend is much higher in the F2P Angry Birds apps than in the paid version, so Rovio doesn’t want a significant number of players choosing the paid version. But while it’s obviously in Rovio’s interest to argue that they’re just making it easier for players to find the apps they’re looking for, it’s likely that both explanations have some truth.
Regardless, data suggests that downloads for some of Rovio’s F2P Angry Birds apps decreased following the release of the paid version, albeit by a relatively small amount. Since delisting and renaming the premium app, downloads in these F2P titles appear to have rebounded.
In 2019, Rovio delisted the original Angry Birds mobile app (Angry Birds Classic) and other older titles, upsetting many fans. The company said the apps were removed for “testing purposes” but didn’t give further explanation.
Two years later, Rovio apologized in an open letter to fans. They clarified that the apps were removed because their outdated technology and designs made them difficult to keep up to date with platform standards. The company also promised they would bring the classic experiences of their early apps back to players in the future.
On March 31st, 2022, Rovio made good on their promise with the release of Rovio Classics: Angry Birds, a remake of Angry Birds Classic (image). The app was priced at $0.99 and didn’t include microtransactions or pop-up ads, in contrast to Rovio’s newer catalog of free-to-play titles.
Rovio Classics Delisted and Renamed
On February 23, 2023, just one year after releasing Rovio Classics: Angry Birds, Rovio delisted the app from the Google Play Store and renamed it Red’s First Flight on iOS (image). In a statement, Rovio said the decision was made “due to the game’s impact on [their] wider games portfolio.”
The statement caused some in the media to speculate that the existence of a cheap premium title likely pulled players away from the company’s free-to-play apps, which have a much higher potential spend. They argued that players preferred a version free of microtransactions and ads. But Rovio says that’s only half-right.
According to Ben Mattes, Rovio’s head of Angry Birds strategy, the paid app hurt discoverability for their free-to-play apps. Talking to Axios, Mattes explained that users would search for Angry Birds and find the paid classic version at the top of the results. Users who didn’t want to pay upfront would leave and download nothing, which resulted in fewer downloads for all Angry Birds apps.
Mattes says they’ve spent nearly a year trying to solve the problem. They previously renamed the app Rovio Classics: AB and removed the term “Angry Birds” from the app’s metadata, but that didn’t bring downloads back to their other apps.
If the renaming on iOS is successful, Mattes says they could relist the Android app as Red’s First Flight. If it doesn’t work, he says they could delist the app from iOS as well.
Analyzing Rovio Classics: Angry Birds Downloads
Since launching in March 2022, Rovio Classics: Angry Birds (now Red’s First Flight) has had about 600K US downloads—roughly 0.6% of all US Angry Birds downloads. For context, Angry Birds 2 had about 68M U.S. downloads during this period, Angry Birds Friends about 18M, Angry Birds Dream Blast about 8.5M, and Angry Birds Journey about 3.7M.
0.6% is not a huge number, but it’s not insignificant either. Taking into account Rovio’s assertion that the paid app’s presence in search results was causing players to leave app stores without downloading any app, it’s possible that Rovio Classics: Angry Birds was affecting 1% or more of F2P Angry Birds apps’ total download volume—more than enough to justify an intervention by Rovio.
The data also supports Rovio’s claim that they’ve been unable to reduce Rovio Classics: Angry Birds’ discoverability in the past year. After a big spike following the app’s release, downloads stabilized and remained relatively constant until the title change on iOS and delisting on Android in February 2023. If Rovio was trying to make the app less prominent in search results, it doesn’t seem to have worked prior to the most recent renaming and delisting.
The app’s recent title change to Red’s First Flight appears to be reducing downloads on iOS. There was a short spike in downloads following the name change, after which iOS downloads dropped to their lowest point since the app’s release. Beginning on March 22 (one month after the name change), iOS downloads were 15% lower than during the month leading up to the name change.
Rovio Classics: AB (now Red’s First Flight) U.S. Downloads
Was Rovio Classics Stealing Downloads?
The answer is a resounding maybe. Angry Birds Journey, Angry Birds Friends, and Angry Birds Dream Blast all appear to show some decrease in downloads on at least one platform in the three-month period following the release of Rovio Classics. However, it’s difficult to measure the extent of any negative impact because Journey and Friends had big download spikes immediately prior to the release of Rovio Classics, likely due to UA pushes.
Angry Birds 2’s downloads are much larger and more dependent on promotional events than the other Angry Birds apps, so there’s no clear impact from the release of Rovio Classics.
Angry Birds Journey U.S. Downloads
Angry Birds Friends U.S. Downloads
Angry Birds Dream Blast U.S. Downloads
Angry Birds 2 U.S. Downloads
Impacts of Delisting and Renaming
A better metric for assessing the impact of Rovio Classics: Angry Birds on other Angry Birds apps is to look at what happened when it was delisted on Android. Here, the data is pretty clear: delisting the paid Angry Birds app produced significant U.S. download growth on Android in Dream Blast, Friends, and Journey over the next three months. Comparing downloads in the most recent 30-day period (4/30/23–5/29/23) to the 30-day period immediately following the delisting, Angry Birds Dream Blast’s downloads increased by 28%, Angry Birds Friends by 21%, and Angry Birds Journey by 55%.
Angry Birds 2 does not appear to have been as affected, although it’s hard to say for sure given the volume and volatility of that app’s downloads, as we described above.
Angry Birds U.S. Android Downloads
The data for iPhone downloads during the same period is much less conclusive. Although downloads for Rovio Classics: Angry Birds decreased following its name change to Red’s First Flight, there was no corresponding increase in downloads for the other Angry Birds apps equivalent to that seen on Android. In light of these lackluster results, we won’t be surprised if Rovio delists its paid Angry Birds app on iOS in the near future as well.
Angry Birds U.S. iOS Downloads