Being a successful gaming company is hard. Not only is the competitive landscape vastly overcrowded, but the winds of change pull people from one gaming hit to another faster than you can water your Farmville strawberries.
But for the past four years, one gaming company has miraculously stayed relevant: Rovio.
“We will continue to do spinoffs that play on our brand strength,” said Vesterbacka. “It’s just like Nintendo and its series of Mario-based games. We want to continue expanding Angry Birds to make it a permanent part of popular culture.”
In other words, don’t expect to see Rovio pivot its energy into a brand new game with no relation to Angry Birds. In fact, Vesterbacka seems intent on growing the Angry Birds brand by whatever means necessary, whether its through new spin-off games, education, or entertainment.
Nothing short of Coke-like success will satisfy him.
“We look at iconic brands like Coca-Cola for inspiration,” said Vesterbacka. “If Coke can reach one billion servings each day, there’s no reason why we can be less ambitious. With the growth of connected devices like smartphones and tablets, we want one billion people to be interacting with our brand through games, soft drinks, parks and other products.”
To that end, the company has introduced educational materials and games that involve Angry Birds, as well as merchandise like plush toys, cookbooks, and even band-aids. And that’s just the start of it.
Rovio also has an Angry Birds cartoon series that is distributed through the game itself, transforming Angry Birds from a single gaming app on your phone into a platform for entertainment distribution. The Finnish company even has Angry Birds-themed amusement parks.
One such theme park is in China, where Rovio has made huge inroads and plans to activate parks all over the country. Angry Birds is not only one of the most popular mobile games in China, but it’s also one of the biggest markets for Angry Birds-themed merchandise.
Other, younger gaming companies have tried to mimic the success of Angry Birds with their own runaway hits, but perhaps don’t understand the importance of the brand itself.
“Some gaming companies are clueless about branding,” said Vesterbacka. “They build games to last 100 days and move on to the next one. There’s no guarantee that they will create hits. It’s difficult to find examples of anyone in entertainment that can produce hits successfully.”
Rovio recently went freemium, likely in an attempt to compete with up-and-comers like King’s Candy Crush Saga, which is available for free with the option to pay for special features. But this adaptation is one of the keys to Rovio’s success.
“In five years from now, we could be looking at a completely different way of monetizing games,” said Vesterbacka.