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10 years of Pocket Gamer: Rovio's Wilhelm Taht on moving from 'dumb phone games' to ultra HD graphics

10 years of Pocket Gamer: Rovio's Wilhelm Taht on moving from 'dumb phone games' to ultra HD graphics

As Pocket Gamer celebrates its tenth birthday this month, we're sharing the memories of those who have been in the mobile games industry for as long as we have.

That's back when the iPhone was but a futuristic fantasy, and the closest you could get to social mobile gaming was via WAP.

This time, we're talking to Wilhelm Taht, Executive Vice President of Games at Rovio, arguably one of the biggest players in the early days of the App Store.

PocketGamer.biz: What were you doing in mobile/games 10 years ago?

Wilhelm Taht: 10 years ago, I was marketing dumb phone games at RealNetworks / GameHouse, working hard on trying to build the first mobile game-originated brand "Playman", and on the Trivial Pursuit-licensed games.

What was the hot mobile technology/hardware back then?

The landscape was fundamentally quite different back then, all the way from tech, to distribution, to marketing. Everything was different.

A year later, in 2007, we had hot new topics to discuss, apart from just "try before you buy", including "touch" and "tilt" games. It was all very new and exciting back then, and every year was going to be "the" year of mobile games :-)

Can you remember any games you were playing?

Typically, all the stuff from Digital Chocolate and Mr.Goodliving. J2ME games that were, in my opinion, truly the best in class, developed with quality and fun-factor in mind.

Did you always think mobile games could/would become the widest global gaming sector?

Yes, absolutely!

…no, not really. We had high hopes, and were ambitious. But ultimately the industry needed a few disruptions, which turned everything upside down before getting to ‘biggest of it all’.

Firstly, the introduction of smart phones with stellar UX, then the 70/30 Robin Hood moment of smartphone app stores, and, finally, the introduction of in-app-purchases.

What do you think has been the most significant event in mobile gaming during the past 10 years?

This is controversial, coming from me… but I have to say the release and success of the original Angry Birds.

It put mobile games in the spotlight worldwide, and transcended the medium to live a life outside of the mobile handset. This was remarkable, and remains a remarkable milestone.

Especially as 2016 marks the next milestone for our industry; the first blockbuster movie originating from a mobile game airing in May 2016 in the form of the Angry Birds Movie. Cannot wait!

What have been your favourite mobile games over the past 10 years?

To name a few of the absolute favourites… Turbo Camels Circus Extreme, Playman Summer Games 3, Playman Extreme Running, Doodle Jump, Cut the Rope, Angry Birds (several from the series), Tiny Wings, Papa Sangre II, Pirate Kings, Who Stole Me, Clumsy Ninja and Clash Royale.

There’s many many more, but those are some darn good games.

Looking to the future, what are you working on now?

It’s a secret!

Within the Games Biz Unit, we’ve grown in revenue every year since the release of the original Angry Birds.
Wilhelm Taht

There’s a lot of exciting things going on at Rovio. Within the Games Biz Unit, we’ve grown in revenue every year since the release of the original Angry Birds, and feel we are on a path now to accelerate the growth this year and beyond.

The biggest opportunities at this very moment lie within games on the market Angry Birds 2, Nibblers and Angry Birds Stella POP, as well as games being launched this year.

We are especially scaling up Nibblers and Angry Birds Stella POP at the moment through fairly aggressive profitable performance marketing, which is hugely exciting, and marks the completion for the transition to F2P within Rovio Games.

More generally, what games are you looking forward to?

Rovio's whole slate, to be honest. And many others within the industry.

How do you think the mobile games industry will change over the next 10 years?

10 years is a long time, and some unforeseen disruptions might very well happen, even on the business/commercial front.

Obviously the technology will develop significantly, with Ultra HD/4K level graphics quality probably becoming the norm even for mobile games (whatever that means).

I think looking forward 5 years is 'easier'; I don’t think major disruptions in the business side (F2P) will happen therein. More of an evolution.

Social aspects will become ever more important, and we will see the first $10 billion revenue game. And yes, it will be on the mobile platform.

VR is an obvious thing also to mention. Personally, I’m a believer in VR, but it’ll take longer than anyone expects.

And the final 'winner', I believe, will be the ultra-immersive angle, paving the way for the next generation of 'console level experiences'.

As we march towards ever more powerful mobile devices, we might very well see the convergence (buzz word bingo check) of 'mobile VR' and 'immersive VR'. Perhaps even a convergence of VR and AR within the next 10 years.

Exciting times ahead, in other words!

Finally, do you have a favourite Pocket Gamer memory you'd like to share?

There are simply too many to mention…

I personally go back with the founders 10 years, and have so many fond industry memories to call anyone a favourite. But I'll pick two - one editorial and one event related.

The editorial memory is surely receiving a perfect 10/10 for our game Playman Summer Games 3 at the end of the dumb phone era.

An event related one is actually two phased, both featuring the same individual, and both related to the already legendary Pecha Kucha sessions @ PG Connects.

The moment Mark Sorrell stood still and silent for almost a minute getting a standing ovation from the audience at the end of his Pecha Kucha presentation at the first PG Connects conference back in 2014.

And then one year later, the moment Mark Sorrell realized I had exchanged one of the slides in his presentation to something ‘better'.


Deputy Editor

Ric has written for PocketGamer.biz for as long as he can remember, and is now Deputy Editor. He likes trains.

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