too many birds

Rovio is starting to look desperate. The company today announced that it has partnered with Hasbro to make a game combining the Angry Birds and Transformers franchises in the worst thing to happen to the anthropomorphic robot cars since Michael Bay was hired to film their reboots.

“Angry Birds Transformers provides fans worldwide with a fun, new story and characters, and innovative ways, like our TELEPODS platform, for consumers to engage with the brand,” said Hasbro’s CMO, John Frascotti, in a canned statement. “We collaborated with Rovio to create opportunities for kids and families to experience Autobirds and Deceptihogs across multiple formats and entertainment platforms, for a completely immersive branded experience.”

Even ignoring the fact that legions of fans retched after reading “Autobirds and Deceptihogs,” this mashup seems like yet another example of Rovio’s willingness to whore itself out for some easy cash at the expense of the franchise upon which its entire (crumbling) empire was built.

Rovio blamed its recent woes — a 50 percent decline in profits and falling revenues from its merchandising business — on its efforts to create a feature-length film based on Angry Birds. That sounds insane enough on its own, as a game about flinging birds at pigs hardly presents enough drama to create a summer blockbuster, but this mashup makes it seem even crazier.

Angry Birds has become less about its titular avians and more about grafting whatever Rovio’s business team dreams up onto an existing franchise. The idea is to create more and more flick-and-destroy games that are only loosely related to either their source material (Angry Birds) or their grafts (Star Wars, Transformers), and are really little more than prolonged advertisements for original franchise.

Transformers was built to capitalize on that kind of advertising. Its comic books, television shows, and films were all created to help Hasbro sell more action figures. But Rovio isn’t trying to convince people to download Angry Birds — it’s trying to build a complete franchise around the characters from that game, yet it’s making them all but meaningless with games like this.

Various mashups show that Angry Birds can serve as a mold into which Rovio can inject any other franchise to convince people to download its games, but they also make the games less important as standalone products, which makes them all but meaningless to Rovio’s long-term plan of creating a franchise that will justify its own high expectations and increasing hubris.

Unless this means that the next Transformers film will consist of someone playing an Angry Birds game instead of Michael Bay fooling around with lens flare and explosions and plot holes wide enough to drive Optimus Prime through. Then this is the kindest thing Rovio has ever done, and we should all go see the eventual Angry Birds movie just to say “thank you” for that.

[illustration by Hallie Bateman for Pando]