Angry Birds Star Wars II hits app stores worldwide on September 19th, and will take players through the story of the three prequel Star Wars movies, the company said. New character additions will include the villainous Darth Maul, and the soon-to-be-villainous Anakin Skywalker. And for the first time ever in an Angry Birds game, players can choose an option to "Join the Pork Side" and play as one of those despicable little pigs.
"Angry Birds Star Wars was a blockbuster hit for us and Lucasfilm with over 100 million downloads since its release," said Jami Laes, EVP of games at Rovio Entertainment, in a statement. "We are thrilled to be able to introduce the exciting next chapter in the Angry Birds Star Wars saga."
Following an extended licensing agreement made with toy maker Hasbro last month, the game will also come with interactive action figures called Telepods, which will unlock new characters and powers when placed on the device’s screen. That’s in addition to an entirely new line of merch that will be unveiled at San Diego Comic-Con in July.
As Rovio explained to Fast Company in our December feature story, the toys, apparel, and other miscellany that accompany each game launch are increasingly becoming its primary bread and butter—now 45% of its total revenue, up from 40% last year. Angry Birds Star Wars II is sure to boost that figure, as Rovio continues to gain from latching on to the ubiquitous Star Wars movie universe. Following its partnership with Lucasfilm, the engine behind the franchise, the Angry Birds games have soared to more than 1.7 billion total downloads.
But other download-hungry apps are nipping at Rovio’s heels. Candy Crush, the crazy-addictive game by U.K. publisher King.com, has been on a tear in all major apps stores. While Angry Birds Star Wars currently sits at #3 on the U.S. iTunes store’s top free apps, Candy Crush is the #1 grossing app on both iTunes and Google Play. According to AppAnnie, which tracks app rankings, the original Angry Birds game—recently revealed by Apple to be its most downloaded paid app of all time—has slipped to the #17 spot.
That’s more reason for Rovio to hinge its longevity on more than just hit games. Fully aware of the fickleness of the app market, it has not only set out to build a sprawling entertainment franchise—it recently broke 400 million views of its in-app cartoon series, and has a movie slated for July 2016—but it has learned from service-oriented companies like e-commerce giant Amazon and taken steps toward becoming a platform for other app developers. Last week it released an adventure game called Tiny Thief, created by Barcelona-based studio 5 Ants, through its "Rovio Stars" publishing arm. (The game was praised by critics as a decidedly un-Angry Birds experience.)
"We still live in a hit and miss business," Rovio CEO Mikael Hed told Fast Company last year. "Before we can strike another Angry Birds, it might take several tries, or it might not." In the smallest of chances that Star Wars II won’t be a hit out of the gate, the Rovio empire will surely continue to thrive.