Angry Birds to get location-based "Magic"

If you thought Angry Birds was the simplest of all games, think again. Rovio, the software company behind the Angry Birds franchise, is hoping to take the game to the next level with new location-based functionality.

Rovio is set to launch “Magic Places,” a feature that allows a small number of users to unlock additional levels when they tap two NFC phones together or tap a NFC tag at a particular location. Currently, Magic will only work on certain Nokia phones with a particular NFC chip, keeping the feature all in the Finnish family.

It works like this: when an Angry Birds player arrives at a certain location, he or she can use a GPS-enabled smartphone to unlock special game content like new characters and levels dependent on the venue.

Probably the coolest thing about the feature is the ability to unlock using the ultimate Angry Bird: the Mighty Eagle himself, the most powerful bird in the game.

Rovio has said it hopes to transform Magic into a broad platform built into all its products, creating a stronger link between the game and the real world through NFC, GPS, and other technologies.

Product manager Ramine Darabiha told Gigaomthe idea behind Magic Places is to turn a solitary gaming experience into something you do in the real world. The idea isn’t to turn every location into a Magic venue, but rather to use selective locations to enhance game play and create somewhat of a quest within the game.

“We’re using this as a way to encourage people to go and find new places and new content,” Darahiba said. “It will be a distribution point for us.”

Rovio plans to launch Magic Places across various Angry Birds games later this year in partnership with an unknown U.S. retail partner to be announced in the coming weeks.

The idea to build a more engaging platform seems like a promising departure from the game’s current marketing strategy: an in-your-face show of branding power might with games, toys, and even a cookbook. Rovio is also expanding the business by announcing its own carrier billing system for virtual goods within games.

So far, Angry Birds has seen 200 million downloads worldwide.