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Angry Birds CEO on the success of the franchise and what's coming next

Rovio Entertainment's Kati Levoranta discusses the Angry Birds empire and her desire for more women to enter the gaming industry.

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Kati Levoranta helms the successful Angry Birds empire. 

Rovio

Few mobile games have had as large a cultural impact as Angry Birds: With 4.5 billion downloads, the game of slingshotting cartoon birds at pigs from Rovio Entertainment has spawned two movies, more games and lots of merchandise since its 2009 release.

Kati Levoranta, CEO of the Finland-based Rovio Entertainment, seeks to use the success of Angry Birds and the game development studio as an example of the need for diversity at the highest levels of the tech and gaming industry. 

"For our industry to continue evolving, it's critical that a career in gaming is made accessible to anyone, regardless of their gender or background," Levoranta said. Ultimately, it's not even about social responsibility, she added: "It also comes down to creating successful products and experiences for both females and males, which rely upon diverse workforces who understand the world through their different life experiences." 

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Rovio Entertainment CEO, Kati Levoranta

Rovio/ Screenshot by Shelby Brown/ CNET

Flying high 

Though Rovio makes multiple games including Sugar Blast, Battle Bay and Fruit Nibblers, the Angry Birds franchise is its most popular. The basic concept of Angry Birds -- slingshotting birds into unsteady structures and smashing cartoon pigs for points -- made it easy to repurpose into Star Wars and Transformers versions. 

The Angry Birds sequel -- Angry Birds 2 -- came out in 2015 and featured a new bird named Silver, along with the ability to use spells instead of power-ups and gameplay in multi-stage levels. Levoranta said the sequel app is the company's top performer in regards to revenue and the number of players. 

The Rovio team has several games in different phases for development for 2020, Levoranta said. The company has also used the success of Angry Birds and Angry Birds 2 for social good: In 2019, to celebrate the original game's 10th anniversary, the company donated $100,000 to UNICEF's Education in Emergencies fund. Rovio has also partnered with language learning app Duolingo and introduced the company's Duo owl mascot into Angry Birds 2 as a branded spell.

"Considering the reach of our Angry Birds brand in the present day, it's incredible to think how much has happened over the last decade," Levoranta said.