Up next: Angry Birds, the cookbook and movie
Angry Birds games are just beginning for Rovio Mobile. But don't fret, fans--it will keep investing in games, with Angry Birds Magic soon bringing social and location features.
LONDON--When you sell Angry Birds, the casual game that's spread like wildfire from the iPhone to Android to Windows to the Web, what do you do for an encore?
You expand beyond games--as far afield as books and movies. At least that's the plan detailed by Peter Vesterbacka, whose title as leader of Rovio Mobile is "mighty eagle," the name of the game's all-powerful pig-blitzing character.
First came Angry Birds stuffed toys and T-shirts. They've been successful for the company, with 3 million toys and more than 1 million shirts sold so far, Vesterbacka said in a speech here at the Open Mobile Summit.
That's the beginning of what Vesterbacka calls the company's expansion from a gaming company to an entertainment company more like Disney.
"Our first book is coming out--a cookbook," Vesterbacka said.
And last week the company announced it acquired animation studio Kombo.
"We're getting serious about animation. Already produced a series of animated shorts. We're going to make more of those," he said. "We're going to make longer animations. And who knows, one day we're going to make a movie."
The Finnish company's direction is interesting. Where many game developers move on to the next game, Rovio sees the Angry Birds as a financial franchise that's only beginning. Rovio may be a one-hit wonder with Angry Birds, but Vesterbacka is working to make sure it's as big and broad a hit as possible.
"We've only scratched the surface with Angry Birds. We've been making games since 2003. We know how difficult it is to create a hit. A lot of companies create a hit and get carried away: 'We did a hit, let's make the next one.' It's not something you can just repeat," he said. "Some companies can, but they are few and far between--companies like Pixar."
These moves beyond games aren't mere sidelights, he said. "We want to be insanely profitable in every business we enter," Vesterbacka said. "It's not a hobby. It's not like apple TV or anything," he said, drawing laughter from the crowd.
Evidence of the company's prospects, he said, is widespread counterfeiting in China.
"We are already among the top three most copied brands in China. If you walk into a store, you see copies of Disney, Hello Kitty, and Angry Birds. It's amazing. We haven't even been there for a year. It's an example of what we can do starting from mobile," Vesterbacka said. "We'd much rather sell officially licensed stuff in China, but on the other hand, if nobody copied us, [it means] nobody cares."
Expanding beyond games doesn't mean the company won't expand within games, though. That's not a surprise, given that the company's game has been downloaded more than 200 million times as of two weeks ago.
"We will make games that are totally different using the same characters, with totally different gameplay," Vesterbacka said.
The first of these games will arrive before Christmas this year, he said in an interview. And maybe others: "It depends on the market and on what is needed."
The company also is expanding its existing Angry Birds game. It's added 300 levels since the game's initial launch a year and a half ago and two variations, Angry Birds Seasons and Angry Birds Rio. "It's not a completely different game, but it's a bigger and better game," he said.
Next week a more dramatic departure will arrive, a new feature called Angry Birds Magic. Next week, Rovio plans to announce some details with Nokia about how the feature will work with phones equipped with near-field communications (NFC) technology.
Using NFC, two people with the app can bump their phones together and unlock new features and capabilities in the game, he said.
Another part of Magic will be location awareness that also expands what the game can do. He likened the technology to Foursquare check-ins, only with more mainstream appeal.