Rovio’s Angry Birds Taps NFC to Let Players Unlock Virtual Goods in The Real World

We’re continuing to see interesting experimentation at the intersection of gaming and the real world with titles this year like CrowdMob’s Mob Empire, Grey Area’s Shadow Cities and Churn Labs’ Gnonstop Gnomes.

Now the king of mobile gaming, Finland’s Rovio Mobile, is throwing its hat into the ring with Angry Birds Magic — a platform that lets players unlock new content, levels and virtual goods through NFC (near-field communication).

Players will be able to either tap their phones against friend’s devices or go to special locations to access new content or virtual goods in the game. The initial version of the technology will likely unlock the Mighty Eagle, a virtual good Rovio recently introduced that’s like a super bird that can wipe out an entire level when a player is stuck or frustrated.

Like some of the features the company has recently introduced, the plan is to make Angry Birds Magic a platform that third-party developers can use to also add NFC abilities to their games. Given that Rovio has been a sought-after partner in launching emerging platforms like the Chrome Web Store and Amazon’s Android Appstore, it’s not hard to see how real-world businesses like retail chains might want to offer exclusive Angry Birds content as a way to drive foot traffic to their locations. But Rovio is stressing that it wants to find appropriate partners that are still fun and don’t degrade the brand.

Rovio, which has been heavily focused on extending the Angry Birds franchise into other mediums like film and plush toys, is also planning on launching a cookbook filled with egg recipes. It also recently acquired a Finnish animation studio, which could pave the way for an animated series. The company has the cash to see through its vision with $42 million from Atomico Ventures and Accel Partners.

While we’ve seen location-enabled social apps like Foursquare and Instagram take off, mobile gaming has yet to see a true, breakout hit that’s location-enabled. Booyah’s MyTown, which was a Monopoly-like check-in game was an early forerunner in the space. Since then, Grey Area raised $2.5 million for its location-based fantasy RPG Shadow Cities and the social gaming veterans behind CrowdMob have been stealthily experimenting with a Mafia Wars-meets-Foursquare title called Mob Empire. Churn Labs, which is the Sequoia-backed incubator from AdMob founder Omar Hamoui, also has a cute gnome-themed game where friends can trade off virtual gnomes and take pictures of them around the world.

Interestingly enough, if Magic took off, it would make Rovio more of a competitor to non-gaming companies like Sequoia-backed Bump, which offers an app that lets users trade contact information, photos and other media between devices.
Here’s a demo video of the version of Angry Birds Magic that lets players trade levels between devices: