Dr. Skinner, your birds are angry

Rovio has announced that Angry Birds Space was downloaded 10 million times in less than three days. In fact, the game has been downloaded half a billion times since it was released three years ago. It’s amazing that the Angry Birds phenomenon is still so powerful, but not surprising when viewed through the lens of behavioral psychology.

Shortly after the original Angry Birds iPhone game was released in December, 2009, IGN posted a review:

“It’s a very simple formula, but thanks to precise controls (you drag your bird back in the slingshot to determine power and throw angle), great puzzle designs, and excellent atmosphere, Angry Birds is outrageously addictive. (Really, I am sleepy today because I played this until three in the morning.)”

The thing that kept reviewer Levi Buchanan awake until 3:00 wasn’t flying birds, but an intermittent, unpredictable schedule of positive reinforcement.

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