App Attack: The Angry Birds Economy

By March 6, 2012

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In just a few years, the development of mobile apps has turned into a significant economic as well as social phenomenon, according to new data and copious anecdotal evidence.

Bloomberg’s Rich Miller calls that effect the “Angry Birds Boom,” in reference to the wildly popular mobile game by Norwegian developer Rovio, and ties it to wider signs of economic and job market recovery. Miller notes, for example, that there are now three job offerings for every computer and mathematical job seeker on some online help-wanted sites.

Miller also points to a Mandel report (PDF) demonstrating the growth of the app developer market to about 466,000 positions since the release of the iPhone in 2007, a novel field that has bled into other sectors of the economy.

“The incredibly rapid rise of smartphones, tablets, and social media, and the applications – ‘apps’ – that run on them, is perhaps the biggest economic and technological phenomenon today,” reads the report. “On an economic level, each app represents jobs — for programmers, for user interface designers, for marketers, for managers, for support staff.”

Rovio has turned their flagship app Angry Birds into a veritable cash cow — or cash sow, perhaps, given the subject matter — by focusing heavily on the line and its associated expansion packs and tie-in products.

It’s not just software, of course — the recovery has shown diverse signs of picking up in 2012, with the lowest domestic unemployment rates since before the recession and a series of plucky reports from the manufacturing sector following a White House push for renewed domestic production.

While the data constitutes an affirmation of some types of work in the technical world, Bloomberg commenter Jeff Anttila addended a note of caution to the Bloomberg report.

“It’s great that Angry Birds, a video game, contributes a significant amount to the economy of an entire nation, and one of the but it should be a warning sign to countries and companies who outsource, in pursuit of profit and fail to build/invest in new technology, business models, or industry,” Anttila wrote.

But what toll would an Angry Birds economy take on the work force? In September, The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal estimated in a tongue-in-cheek post that Angry Birds was responsible for some $1.5 million in anual lost wages.