The business and culture of our digital lives,
from the L.A. Times

Category: Rovio

Roku 2 comes in 3 flavors, plays Angry Birds with Wii-like remote


Roku has sold more than 1 million of its TV set-top boxes, with the main attraction being Netflix streaming. But with the new Roku 2 device, the Saratoga, Calif., company is betting on another hugely popular item for its killer app -- Angry Birds.

The Rovio-built game has been sold more than 200 million times across different smartphones and tablets, and Roku is hoping it'll cause more consumers to pick up a Roku 2, which was released on Tuesday in three different models and price points, ranging from $59.99 to $99.99.

So, how does one play Angry Birds on a little black box (that looks a lot like the Apple TV) that fits in the palm of a hand? With a bluetooth motion-sensing remote (that works a lot like the Nintendo Wii remote).

Roku2_remote_rf_motion2 The top-of-the-line version of the Roku 2, known as the Roku 2 XS, sells for $100 and includes the motion control remote and a copy of Angry Birds already downloaded and ready to play, as well as USB and ethernet ports not available on the cheaper models.

The $79.99 Roku 2 XD's bragging right is the ability to play 1080p full-high-definition video, which its more expensive sibling can do too.

And then there is the $59.99 Roku 2 HD, which is limited to playing back 720p resolution video.

All three of the boxes use an Internet connection to tap into Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video on Demand, Pandora Internet radio, Vimeo and nearly 300 other "channels," the company said on its website.

But the big news here is still casual gaming, said Anthony Wood, Roku's CEO, in a blog post.

"Angry Birds is just the beginning," Wood said. "Between now and Christmas you'll see the games selection on Roku grow dramatically. My goal is to grow Roku into a major low-cost family oriented gaming platform, with games in the $5 range rather than $30 range.

"Just like Netflix is shaking up the video world, and Pandora is shaking up radio, Angry Birds and their friends are shaking up the gaming establishment. We're trying to help as best we can."

Rumors have been circulating for months that the next version of the Apple TV could add games too. It'll also be interesting to see how the Boxee Box responds to casual gaming on the Roku.


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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Images: (Top) The Roku 2 and (bottom) the Roku 2's motion-sensing remote. Credit: Roku

Apple App Store, iPhone 4, Angry Birds earn Guinness World Records

  ITunes Apple's App Store, the iPhone 4 and a few iOS games, have been awarded Guinness world records,  including the iPhone 4 being named the fastest-selling portable gaming system.

"The release of the iPhone has not just changed the mobile industry, but the video game world too,"Gaz Deaves, Guinness World Records' gaming editor, said in a statement. "With the never-ending App Store selection and an intuitive device, Apple has created a gigantic new space for itself in the casual games genre that literally brings entertainment to users wherever they may be."

The iPhone 4 was named the fastest-selling portable gaming system by Guinness after selling an estimated 1.5 million handsets on the first day it was released on June 24, 2010.

"For comparison, the PSP shifted 200,000 units on its launch date in 2005, and the DS took a week to move 500,000 consoles in November 2004," Guinness said in a statement announcing the records.

The PSP, from Sony, and the DS, from Nintendo, are both portable video game systems, but neither is also a smart phone.

Guinness also said Apple's App Store is the most popular application marketplace.

"With over 6.5 billion downloads since its launch in July 2008, the Apple App Store is the most popular downloadable app service in the world," the world-record-tracking organization said.

About 259,470 apps were available for purchase or free download as of September 2010, while about 50,000 other apps that were once available in the App Store have been discontinued, Guinness said.

"Of the apps currently available, 61 are flatulence simulators, a genre that includes such masterpieces as Fart Machine, Fart Ocarina and iFart - Epic Rip Edition," the organization said.

The App Store is also the largest downloadable video game store, with about 37,362 games available for download as of last September, Guinness said.

"By comparison, PC games download service Steam offers around 1,110 titles, the Xbox Live Indie Arcade has slightly more at 1,300 and the Japanese Virtual Console store for Wii offers 576 titles covering a good chunk of the back catalogues of both Sega and Nintendo," the group said.

The App Store was also given a world record for the largest launch lineup of any gaming system with more than 145 games available on July 10, 2008.

Angry Birds was recognized at the top paid-for App Store game in most countries, having sold more than 6.5 million downloads of the iOS version of the game since it was first released in December 2009.

Plants vs. Zombies, "with more than 300,000 paid downloads in its first nine days on sale in February 2010" was noted as the world's fastest-selling iPhone/iPod strategy game. The game is also the world's highest-grossing strategy game launch in the history of Apple's App Store, Guinness said, generating about $1 million for developer PopCap in just over a week.

The Tap Tap Revenge game series, from game developer Tapulous, was cited as the most popular game series in App Store history, "having been downloaded more than 15 million times since the first game in the series was released in July 2008," Guinness said. "Market research firm ComScore reports that the games have been installed by 32% of all iPhone/iPad users."


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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles


Nook Color Android update adds Angry Birds, Nook Friends social network


Barnes & Noble's Nook Color gained a few new features on Monday that push the device more into the classification of a tablet computer and not simply another e-reader.

Among the additions is a store for buying applications, which Barnes & Noble is calling Nook Apps; apps for email, calendars and contacts; support for Adobe Air and Flash; and a new Nook social networking app.

One thing that isn't changing, however, is the price -- $249 for the 7-inch touch-screen device, which features 8GB of storage.

The updates come as the Nook Color is being switched over to a newer version of Google's Android operating system, called Froyo. Unlike the Honeycomb software, which was designed specifically to run on tablets, Froyo was designed for phones but is on many tablets, such as the Samsung Galaxy Tab.

But while the Nook Color can now run Android Froyo, it won't be running all Android apps. Instead, Barnes & Noble is asking developers to optimize their apps for the Nook Color and submit them through the Nook Apps store, rather than simply allowing users to download apps from the Android Market.

As of Monday, 125 apps were available in the Nook Apps store, including Angry Birds, one of the more popular games available on tablets and smartphones nowadays. Other apps include Pandora Internet radio, the game Uno, the cooking app Epicurious and the as-seen-on-iPad news app Pulse.

Barnes & Noble is also taking a stab at building its own social network among Nook users called Nook Friends.

Using a Nook Friends app, Nook users can see what their friends are reading, read reviews of books, loan books to each other, share quotes from a book, list their progress in a book and recommend a title to a buddy.

In another nod to social networking, Nook users can now "like" titles in the device's bookstore app, with the liking showing up on a person's Facebook page.

The Nook Color updates, which are free, are being pushed to users via Wi-Fi beginning this week or available for manual download at


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Barnes & Noble says e-books outsell physical books online

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-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Image: Angry Birds running on a Nook Color tablet from Barnes & Noble. Credit: Barnes & Noble

Amazon Appstore is live; Angry Birds Rio for Android is free on day one


Amazon opened its Amazon Appstore for business on Tuesday morning, and in a bid to bring in Android users, it's giving away a free download of Angry Birds Rio for Google's OS.

Normally, Angry Birds Rio would have a price of 99 cents, but Amazon is looking to lure Android owners to its online storefront by offering a different paid app for free each day.

For the store's day, Angry Birds Rio is the free app, but it may or may not remain free beyond its debut, said Aaron Rubenson, category leader for the Amazon Appstore.

And so far, Angry Birds Rio for Android is exclusive to the Amazon Appstore (The iOS version is available in the Apple App Store and iTunes for 99 cents).

R6__DetailPage_BubbleBlasterAmazon is hoping its Appstore, which currently sells only Android apps, will challenge Google's Android Marketplace as the main spot to get applications for Android phones and tablets.

The Seattle-based online retailer is also slowly rolling out a unique "Test Drive" feature for many apps sold through the Amazon Appstore over the next few days, Rubenson said.

If an app has a Test Drive available, users will be able to launch a demo version of an app, running on Adobe Flash within a user's Web browser. The demo will allow them to try the app before buying it, though the demos will be limited and won't replicate certain phone features such as an accelerometer or a camera, Rubenson said.

R6__BubbleBusterFog On day one, Amazon has about 3,800 Android apps available for download, each of which have been tested and approved by Amazon employees as virus-free, an effort Amazon has been working on since January, when it began taking submissions to the Appstore.

And although the Appstore launched Tuesday, squarely in competition with the Android Marketplace, it also opened amid legal gripes from Apple.

Last week, Apple filed a suit against Amazon over the Amazon Appstore name, arguing that it's too close to Apple's App Store, which sells apps for the iPad and iPhone in its iOS operating system.

Amazon launched an Amazon Appstore app for Android devices as well, which allows users to download apps from the retailer directly on their Android phones or tablets.

App purchases will be made using the same Amazon account consumers use to buy books on Kindles and other items on

For each Android app sold through the Amazon Appstore, Amazon will take a 30% cut of revenue, the same cut the company takes for e-book sales.


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Amazon to take on Google's Android Marketplace with its own app store

Google ratchets up Apple rivalry with Android market

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Upper images: Screenshot of the Amazon Appstore on Credit: Amazon

Middle image: An Android app sold on Amazon with a Test Drive option. Credit: Amazon

Lower image: The Test Drive feature in action. Credit: Amazon

Angry Birds birthday cake takes baked goods to a new level

It's Angry Birds, complete with the little green pigs and collapsible blocks, but this game isn't found on a smart phone or a tablet.

It's a cake. A playable Angry Birds birthday cake (as seen in the video above).

Using a slingshot, players can hurl icing-covered not-so-happy birds toward pillars and planks stuck in frosting, replicating the play of the smart phone and tablet game itself.

RovioTweetonAngryBirdsCake The Angry Birds cake was baked/built by Mike Cooper, one of the writers at the tech blog, for his son Ben's sixth birthday.

Cooper also wrote a step-by-step tutorial on how to make the dessert.

The game company behind Angry Birds, Rovio, tweeted about the project, saying, "Very cool! Might be the first playable Angry Birds cake ever."

Cooper wrote in a blog post that baking outlandish cakes for his children has become a family tradition, and his son is a huge Angry Birds fan, hence the project.

"With my little boy Ben turning 6 years old over the weekend and appreciating his love of Angry Birds, I thought I'd have a shot at making him a playable Angry Birds birthday cake with working catapult and iced birds as ammunition," he wrote. "It took 10 hours to make and 2 minutes to destroy."


Angry Birds Rio game Super Bowl ad features embedded code for unlockable level

Bubble Ball game, designed by 14-year-old, knocks Angry Birds off top spot in App Store

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Video: Playable Angry Birds birthday cake. Credit: via YouTube.

Angry Birds Rio game Super Bowl ad will feature embedded code for new level


Angry Birds' Super Bowl ad this Sunday will be the first to be broadcast with an embedded code.

The code will unlock a secret level in the Angry Birds game, normally inaccessible to players, according a report from Reuters.

The 30-second commercial will spotlight the upcoming Angry Birds Rio game app for smart phones and tablets, developed by game company Rovio, which is hyping the upcoming Fox animated movie "Rio."

The Angry Birds Super Bowl ad is set to run during the fourth quarter of the matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers, being played in Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

The game, Super Bowl XLV, is airing on the Fox Broadcasting Network.

The unlockable level will also take Angry Birds users to a Rio sweepstakes, which features a prize of a trip to the "Rio" movie world premiere in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on March 22 -- the same day the Angry Birds Rio game launches, Reuters said.

The "Rio" movie hits theaters April 15.

For those who miss out on the commercial and the special level game code, the ad will be posted on YouTube after it airs, the report said.

The news of the Super Bowl ad and the embed code was first announced by Advertising Age, Reuters said.


Angry Birds Rio app to be released in March

Bubble Ball game, designed by 14-year-old, knocks Angry Birds off top spot in App Store

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Image: Angry Birds Rio game app advertisement. Credit: Rovio


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