The Spaniards behind the sequel to runaway hit Angry Birds
New game Amazing Alex is due to be launched this summer
Noel Llopis and Miguel Ángel Friginal came up with original app called Casey's Contraptions
The mystery has been solved: the next game from Rovio, the Finnish creator of the wildly popular game Angry Birds, will be called Amazing Alex, and it will be released in the summer.
The game was originally designed by two Spaniards who are living in the United States. Rovio bought the idea and decided to launch it as its own. Amazing Alex is set to take over from Angry Birds, which has become the world's most popular - and arguably the most addictive - game for touchscreen smartphones, with over a billion downloads.
For now, no one knows exactly how much Noel Llopis and Miguel Ángel Friginal, two independent video game developers - or "indies," as they like to call themselves - have been paid by Rovio for the idea, and both "would rather wait for the official launch before providing details about the deal," they said in an email. But whatever they have earned, it is likely to enable them to keep working on new games for a long time.
The Finnish firm has been under pressure for a while now to come up with a new hit, in an attempt to replicate the success of Angry Birds. And then it saw the Spaniards' game, which was originally entitled Casey's Contraptions and was released last June, after nine months' development.
In the game, a child named Casey guides the player through different settings: his school, his room, the courtyard... In each of these spaces, the goal is to create chain reactions with dozens of toys and objects. For instance, a pair of scissors cuts a rope that holds a bucket that hits an automated boxing glove, which punches a soccer ball that flies out and bumps into a slingshot, which in turn activates a toy car that races toward a piggybank at the bottom of a cardboard box. And so on and so on, screen after screen.
The game, which was only available for the iPhone and iPad, did well but didn't sell anywhere near as successfully as Angry Birds. As such, Rovio saw a perfect opportunity to continue the success of their big hit, and didn't hesitate to contact Llopis and Friginal with a view to buying their idea.
"I think Rovio liked the game because it is very creative and has a unique personality," said Llopis. "You're not just handling objects - they're Casey's toys, and the stuff he finds at home. Besides, it is based on the laws of physics [like Angry Birds], and you can share solutions and all kinds of contraptions with friends."
As well as renaming the game, Rovio is adapting the design and the story to fit the company's philosophy, and will launch it in a few months. "The gameplay is a perfect fit in our arsenal, with its approachable, fun and highly addictive take on the physics puzzler genre," Rovio's vice-president of franchise development, Ville Heijari, told Gamasutra.com.
"We had never thought about selling Casey's Contraptions," explains Llopis on his blog. "It was a big surprise when Rovio approached us with an offer. [...] We were understandably very attached to the game we had just released, but they eventually made us an offer we couldn't refuse." Neither Llopis nor his colleague Friginal are working with Rovio on adapting the game. "This was a great opportunity to pass the baton to Rovio, and be able to focus on new creative projects."
Llopis, a 39-year-old engineer who was interviewed by EL PAÍS in 2010 when his iPhone application Flower Garden became a hit, was born in Alicante, raised in Asturias and has been living in the US since the age of 17. He lives in Carlsbad, California, and worked for 10 years for a videogame development studio before branching out on his own.
His Flower Garden application, which lets users plant, water and fertilize virtual flowers, earned him net annual revenues of $80,000, more than enough to devote his time to the development of Casey's Contraptions.
His colleague, Miguel Ángel Friginal, 37, from Zaragoza, began engineering studies back home but never finished them. "I've always been pretty much self-taught," he says. He worked as a graphics designer and web developer until he moved to the US with his wife and set up his own studio, Mystery Coconut. He lives in Tacoma, Washington. "No-one in my family thinks that this is a real job, but that's just because they haven't seen the fat checks (neither has he)," he jokes on his webpage. Now he can show them a check with a fair few zeros.