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TechBits: ‘Angry Birds’ game migrating to TV on Roku player

SAN FRANCISCO - The addictive video game "Angry Birds" will be migrating to television screens this summer.

SAN FRANCISCO - The addictive video game "Angry Birds" will be migrating to television screens this summer.

The move is being made possible by Roku Inc., which will be adding Angry Birds to the menu of more than 250 entertainment options available through its set-top box for streaming video and music over high-speed Internet connections.

The Angry Birds game will come installed, free, on a new version of Roku's streaming box that also will include a controller.

That means the owners of the more than 1 million Roku players that already have been sold in the past three years will have to buy the new model if they want to play Angry Birds or other video games expected to be added during the next year.

Roku and Angry Birds game maker Rovio are announcing their partnership Wednesday, but aren't saying how much the new model will cost or on what date in the summer it will go on sale. A basic Roku player costs $60.

It will be the first time that Angry Birds can be easily played on a big, high-definition TV screen. Since its release in late 2009, Angry Birds has been confined to smartphones, computer tablets and, recently, personal computers.

Those limitations haven't grounded Angry Birds. More than 200 million devices have downloaded a version of the game, which requires its players to sling wingless, glowering birds at a bunch of pigs.

"We believe that a lot of our fans will buy the Roku just to play Angry Birds" on TV, said Peter Vesterbacka, Rovio's chief marketing officer. Rovio will get an undisclosed percentage of Roku's revenue from its new game-playing device.

Roku CEO Anthony Wood is counting on Angry Birds to attract a flock of new customers. He expects to sell 2 million of the streaming devices this year on Roku's website and through major retailers such as Best Buy Co. and RadioShack Corp.

The projected surge in sales is expected to help lift Roku's revenue to about $150 million this year from $47 million last year. Wood wouldn't disclose whether privately held Roku is profitable.

Netflix's streaming service, which boasts 23.6 million subscribers in the U.S. and Canada, is by far the most popular selection on Roku. That's not a surprise, given that Wood began working on the device specifically for Netflix Inc. A $6.3 million investment by Netflix helped launch Roku's device three years ago.

Netflix, which is based in Los Gatos, Calif., has since cut its ties to Roku, which is based in nearby Saratoga, Calif.

All the major video game consoles also stream Netflix.

   - Michael Liedtke, AP Technology Writer

Latest from 'FarmVille' maker looks to grow empire

NEW YORK - The creator of "FarmVille" and "FrontierVille" is ditching the "ville" suffix for its latest Facebook game, "Empires & Allies."

The game from Zynga, which launched Wednesday, is a mix of the classic strategy game "Risk" and "CityVille," where players oversee virtual cities. Unlike the company's other games, which give points for helping neighbors, "Empires" lets Facebook users play against one another.

"You can do altruistic things like helping out your friends, or you can attack them," said Amer Ajami, executive producer of the game. "We give you honor points or infamy points."

Like Zynga's other games, "Empires" is free to play. For small amounts of money, you can buy virtual items such as battleships, submarines, army cadets and groups of rifle-wielding solders. Zynga says this strategy has allowed it to be profitable. Wedbush Morgan estimates the company will bring in at least $850 million in revenue this year.

The new game comes amid growing chatter of an initial public offering for Zynga. The San Francisco-based company is not commenting and has not yet filed any IPO papers. If it comes, Zynga's public debut would most likely eclipse that of LinkedIn Corp. The professional networking service more than doubled its stock price in its first day of trading on May 19, a pop that recalled the dot-com boom of the late 1990s.

"Empires & Allies" is more complex than Zynga's other games, in which players do little more than constantly click on things to get ahead. The goal this time is restore your island it to its former glory and to build up enough troops to fight the villains of the Dark Alliance. It's Zynga's first combat strategy game.

"Empires," which is launching in 12 languages including Norwegian and Korean, is Zynga's biggest international launch yet, Ajami said.

"We want to introduce as many people to the game as possible," he said.

- Barbara Ortutay, AP Technology Writer