Rovio's Peter Vesterbacka was pretty outgoing at GDC a few weeks ago, claiming that "it all works" when it comes to ad-driven business models on the App Store. But he might be relearning that lesson the hard way right now -- after an update to Angry Birds HD on the iPad added a "News" section in the replay screen that advertises other Angry Birds products, some users have gotten their feathers ruffled. That "News" section takes a while to load, and it must come up every time a level needs to be restarted, which means some players have raised their voices and voting fingers on the official iTunes listing.
There's a few issues here -- first, we've seen in the past that most users don't actually mind ads in iPhone apps, as long as they don't mess up the flow of the app. It sounds like Rovio didn't quite plan this one correctly. Users who need to replay levels a lot (like those trying to max out their star totals) are seeing the ads quite a bit and losing that loading time every time, which creates frustration. Second, this is a free update to a paid app, and users who had already paid the US$4.99 for it are now frustrated that they're seeing ads, even if they are just for other Angry Birds products.
So what's Rovio to do? The company has had success already with ads on the Android version of the app, but that was originally a free download. Given that the iTunes ratings are definitely suffering (the latest version only has 2.5 stars, as opposed to all versions' 4.5 stars), Rovio will probably have to put its ads elsewhere, either in the main menu of the app or out of the paid app completely. It seems like Vesterbacka and company have finally found a model for Angry Birds that doesn't work that well.