The Piggest Game Ever

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Byline: Alex Klein

Will Angry Birds prove a one-hit wonder?

The world's best-loved cartoon birds have good reason to be angry. They're about to be replaced.

On Sept. 27, Rovio--the Finnish studio behind the biggest mobile game in history--will launch "Bad Piggies," a spinoff starring the birds' sworn enemies: chubby green pigs. For the tech sector, it may be the year's most-watched second act. Rovio's fuming fowl took in $106 million last year alone--and not just from their apps, which have been downloaded more than a billion times and count David Cameron, Justin Bieber, and Salman Rushdie as fans. There are Angry Birds shirts, plush toys, pistachio nuts, theme parks, film spin-offs, and more, all from a bite-size game that cost some $140,000 to make.

Still, "there's a fatigue setting in for Angry Birds," says Scott Steinberg, CEO and lead analyst at TechSavvy. "Fans are clamoring for something new."

And there's the rub. Gaming has long been a flash-in-the-pan business, and even companies with blockbuster hits have been hard pressed to do it twice. Consider the fate of Tetris, the addictive Soviet megahit launched in 1984. Despite the initial craze, the game's dozens of spin-offs--Welltris, Hatris, Super Tetris--never caught fire. "People got a little Tris'd out," says Steinberg. Q*Bert, an early-'80s cousin to Pac-Man and one of the first arcade stars, never spawned a successful sequel, and its developer, Gottlieb, folded in 1996. …