Rovio's incredibly popular Angry Birds game is about to take the next technological step with the Magic edition for Nokia phones. The secret here? You have to bang two NFC-enabled phones together to unlock game levels.
Angry Birds is so popular, there's even been some scientific prying into exactly why flinging digital birds at pigs is so addictive. Rovio's also smart about exploiting the games' success, and has been expanding it across platforms and trying clever tricks to promote the game and keep the cash rolling in. But its latest move is perhaps the most technological it's made yet, and ties right into the future of mobile tech.
The upcoming Magic edition of Angry Birds, you see, is specially for Nokia phones running the recent Symbian Anna code. Symbian may be a dying platform, and Nokia's moving away from it to adopt Windows Phone 7 for its future smartphones—but plenty of folks still have bought one of Nokia's newest Symbian phones, all of which have NFC tag technology embedded. Magic has 20 levels, but only the first five levels are enabled at first. To unlock the next five levels you have to find another NFC phone owner, and tap your two units together—another friend with an NFC phone is needed for the next five, and for the final five too. You don't have to locate someone with a compatible unit (i.e. a Nokia C7), as Nokia and Rovio have "hidden" NFC tags in public places, which probably have a tie-in to an advertising campaign.
But the principle is sound: Rovio is trying to create a small-scale, very personal "social network" of sorts, which encourages Angry Birds fans to meet up and tap their phones together. It's smart PR, and adds an unusual high-tech tweak to the game that could entice more players to take part.
Yet it's also a bit more than this. We've seen an increasing number of companies using NFC to add a new level of physical interactivity to their products—and while at this early stage the extra functionality isn't amazingly high-brow, or even very high tech, it portends the upcoming wave of NFC tech we expect to hit this year. It's like a gateway trick: Once the general public is used to tapping their phones together, or against a Rovio poster in a local shopping mall to play Angry Birds, they may be more amenable to paying for items in stores by laying their NFC phone down at a checkout.
[Image via Flickr user yaniv golan]
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