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Thursday October 10, 2013 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Thursday October 10, 2013 MYT 4:41:01 AM
by alex hern
Angry Birds creator Rovio is taking the game to another level.
MIKKO Setala stands out in a room full of Europe’s top venture capitalists. The executive vice-president of Angry Birds developer Rovio is wearing a colourful hoodie emblazoned with the face of Red Bird from his company’s hit game.
If it takes confidence to flout the accepted uniform of money men so brazenly, then it takes even more to claim that Rovio is “the entertainment company of this millennium”. But Setala does a good job of backing up his claim.
Angry Birds (pic), the Finnish company’s flagship franchise, has done well. The original app is available just about everywhere: on all the major smartphone platforms (and several of the minor ones), on two generations of home consoles, two generations of portable consoles, Mac OS X, Windows, and even on a web app exclusive to Google Chrome.
It has spawned six sequels, including tie-ins with Star Wars and the Dreamcast movie Rio, and a spin-off, Bad Piggies.
Setala’s not shy about that success, citing Justin Bieber and “a couple of royals” as fans. The British prime minister, David Cameron, has also outed himself as a fan, claiming to have completed every level.
But the real support for its claim to be a company with a big future comes from everything that Rovio does outside its core games business. The firm has licensed 500 partners to use images of its Angry Birds on 30,000 products – Amazon alone stocks more than 10,000 of them, in categories as diverse as groceries and DIY.
Setala draws comparisons with another firm that grew from a new, limited form to become a powerhouse: Disney. Rovio wants to be the Disney of the third millennium – and Angry Birds could be the firm’s Steamboat Willie.
Disney did not create Mickey Mouse and then pump out black and white short films for the next 90 years, and Rovio has no intention of sticking to the narrow confines of the Angry Birds app. Rovio intends to use the hard-earned brand awareness it has established to move into new areas.
Angry Birds is becoming a movie. An animated feature film – developed by some of Hollywood’s top talent, including David Maisel, the executive who ushered Marvel’s cinematic universe into existence, and The Simpsons writer Jon Vitti – is planned for release in July 2016.
Rovio recently launched Angry Birds Toons, offering animated shorts through the same app, which has been downloaded a billion times. Setala says it scratches the same itch as the game, aiming to be “very consumable when you have a little free time”.
More important than the Toons themselves are the delivery platform. By taking an app that was downloaded to play as a casual game and re-engineering it for video store sales, Rovio suddenly finds itself possessing an install base to rival the biggest players in the business.
And it is not just Angry Birds that is being delivered through the platform. “It can be other people’s content,” says Setala, cheekily proposing that Pixar movies and Fox blockbusters might one day be delivered through the app.
This diversification is important. Although the Angry Birds game is universal in its appeal – the average player is a middle-aged woman, Setala says – the characters are clearly aimed at children.
That is a lucrative audience, but also a fickle one. They can get bored and move on, leaving valuable franchises wasted and useless. By delivering other people’s content as well as its own, Rovio hedges against that risk. That does not mean, however, that it is planning for the death of the birds. Instead, Rovio is aiming at the longevity of Mickey Mouse or Hello Kitty, which has been making money since 1974.
And Setala firmly believes the key to that goal is nothing more than quality. “Delight the people,” he says, “and the rest will follow.” – Guardian News & Media
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Lifestyle, Angry Birds, Rovio, new Mickey Mouse
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