5 Lessons Learned from Angry Birds Launch on Android

Angry Birds just passed 2 million downloads on Android (s goog) after launching Friday, making it the fastest downloaded app on Android Market ever. The rush to get the free ad-supported app slowed down servers on app store GetJar, which had first-day exclusive distribution rights.

The successful launch says much about the game, which has sold 7 million paid copies on iOS (s aapl) and was previously released in a lite Android beta version, and also about the state of Android Market. Here are five things we learned:

There is a lot of pent up demand for great games on Android. Granted, the free price certainly helped goose sales. But the speed with which people downloaded the title was stunning, suggesting that Android users haven’t had many can’t-miss game titles to turn to. Even though it’s the second largest app store, GetJar was overwhelmed by the response, which slowed down its servers, prompting developer Rovio Mobile to open up sales of Angry Birds on Android Market later in the day Friday. GetJar was originally supposed to have a 24-hour exclusive window. It shows that Android is a viable gaming platform, it just needs more top-notch titles.

Paid apps on Android Market are still not the favored way to go for many developers. While Rovio plans on releasing a paid non-ad supported version of Angry Birds, it said via its Twitter account that the market for paid apps on Android is “not yet the model on Android,” partly due to the fact that paid apps are still being rolled out in many countries. Going with a free app allowed Rovio to hit the global Android user base. And the approach fits with the behavior of users, who are more apt to click on mobile ads than iOS users. It’s all part of Rovio’s very methodical approach to each market it sells in. It’ll be interesting to see how paid sales of Angry Birds do. But until the Android Market has wide distribution in more countries and a better checkout system, free apps are the way to go for many Android developers.

Having multiple app stores can help with distribution. It sounds obvious, but for developers, having an option like GetJar could be a big help down the road in getting apps out. While there is only one way to sell apps in iOS, Android could sport any number of stores. That could create some chaos but in the case of Angry Birds, it gave Rovio a way to publicize its app apart from Android Market. Having more storefronts that can feature your app could be good for developers who are still finding it difficult to spur sales on Android Market alone. And it gives developers some flexibility if one store is overwhelmed by downloads. The GetJar exclusive also highlighted the growth of GetJar, which touts itself as the second largest app store in the world. With exclusives like Angry Birds, GetJar has suddenly gained a lot more exposure with many Android users.

The tide of quality games toward Android is shifting. With the release of Angry Birds, along with Fruit Ninja last month and Doodle Jump back in March, Android now has three of the top ten games from the Apple App Store. There’s still a ways to go but it suggests that developers may be ready to capitalize on the Android opportunity after saying as much for a number of months. Peter Relan, chairman of Aurora Feint, which operates the OpenFeint social gaming platform, told the Wall Street Journal he started bringing games such as Fruit Ninja to Android a month ago including Fruit Ninja because developers said they were ready to make the move, provided they got the promotion and distribution help from OpenFeint. There are still issues to deal with like a culture of free apps on Android and the need for better discovery and payment methods, but Angry Birds may prove to be a turning point for better games on Android.

Android fragmentation is a serious issue for developers. In its tweets, Rovio Mobile said it began working on the Android version of Angry Birds in the spring. But the company said it took a long time to test for all the different Android devices to ensure they worked well. “Main challenge with Android is the amount of different devices. They are all different. Takes forever to test,” the company said tweeted. In the end, there are still devices like the HTC Hero and Sony Ericsson X10 that appear to have problems running the game. By comparison, porting over Angry Birds to webOS (s hpq) earlier this year only took a “few hours.” This could be a growing problem for Android developers as the number and variety of devices proliferates.


Related research from GigaOM Pro (subscription req’d):