Home   >   Features

Hall of Fame: Peter Vesterbacka

From C64 code distribution to Rovio's Mighty Eagle via HP
Hall of Fame: Peter Vesterbacka

Starting out in simple monochrome in the days of Snake and WAP, the past decade has seen the mobile games industry kaleidoscope into a glorious, multi-billion dollar sector that's driving global innovation.

So it's high time we celebrate some of the people who helped make that journey possible - something will be doing in its regular Mobile Gaming Hall of Fame feature.

Peter Vesterbacka is the Mighty Eagle of Rovio Mobile, the creator of the wildly successful Angry Birds franchise and over 50 other games.

He manages the company's marketing and business strategy, including expanding Angry Birds into a broader entertainment franchise. He is also the founder of Some Bazaar, a new approach to building and growing new businesses.

Prior to Rovio, Vesterbacka worked for HP in several communications-industry-related roles.

While at HP, Peter founded the HP Mobile E-Services Bazaar, a global innovation and corporate partnership program that Booz Allen Hamilton declared an industry benchmark.

Peter is also co-founder and the original initiator of MobileMonday.

Pocket Gamer: What were your favourite games as a kid?

Peter Vesterbacka: My first computer was a Commodore 64. I played a lot of games back then, but some that I remember playing quite a lot were Pac-Man, MULE, Archon, Raid on Bungeling Bay, Forbidden Forest, Pogo Joe, Zork and many that I don't even remember the names of.

It was a wide variety of games and genres, so a pretty healthy diet.

When did you realise you wanted to make games as a career?

Not yet ; )

I haven't really ever thought about a career. I have always believed that you should do things that you enjoy and love doing. And as Confucius said a long time ago, if you love what you do, you will not have to work a single day in your life.

And as I love games, I always tell people I stopped working years ago.

What was your first role in the industry?

That's a tough one. I think my first game business was with a high school friends. Instead of a lemonade stand that kids in the US apparently do, we sold the listing of a game in BASIC he made for the Commodore 64.

Distribution has come long way since then.

What do you consider your first significant success?

I tend to get easily excited about a lot of cool new things. When looking back at what I really enjoy doing and have been doing over the years, it's really around building branded global communities.

One of the first ones was the HP Bazaar that I launched when at HP in 1999.

Rovio is one of the startups that came out of that in 2003. I also met Ilkka [Paananen, Supercell CEO] back then, when he was launching Sumea with his friends, so I could say the HP Bazaar was successful in getting me involved with what were to become some of the most succesful gaming companies on the planet.

When did the potential for mobile games become apparent to you?

I don't remember the exact time, but sometime in the early 1990s, well before Nokia did Snake. I saw the potential of text messages very early and that phones could be used for lots of stuff that most people didn't realize at the time.

Of course it took a bit longer than I thought for the potential to become real.

Rovio got started in 2003, way before the iPhone and app stores, way too early when looking back now. But timing is tough, the golden rule of venture capitalist goes something like this: "too early, too early, too late".

What do you think is the most significant event in mobile gaming?

No doubt, the launch of the App Store.

It gave everybody easy access to distribution, and finally a way to reach the fans directly. The mobile games business changed overnight. No longer was it about which big company made the most games, but which company, big or small, made the best games.

This is all obvious now, but wasn't at the time.

What are you most proud of? Any regrets?

Most proud of? My two kids. No regrets.

Which mobile games have you most enjoyed recently and why?

I really like our new, unreleased games, but can't say much about those, as it would spoil the surprise.

Besides our own games I really like classic games such as Plants vs. Zombies 2 and Kingdom Rush on my iPad during long flights.

What are your predictions for the future of mobile games?

I'm a huge fan of what Miyamoto & co have been and are doing at Nintendo. I hope we'll see more of that quality franchises emerge on mainstream mobile platforms as well.

I think we'll see more great entertainment brands get started on mobile and then go everywhere; after all it's very clear that our mobile devices have become the first screen. TVs etc are secondary as far as content consumption is concerned.

In which area do you hope to make a difference in future?

Education. I want to make learning fun - all kinds of learning.

I want to give the world education. There's a bit of work left to do to achieve that, but I think we will succeed and that it will change the world.

You could say that it's crazy ambitious, but I think it's a good kind of crazy ; )

Thanks to Peter for his time. You can follow him on Twitter at @pvesterbacka

And if you have a suggestion for someone you think should enter our Hall of Fame, please email jonathan [dot] morris [at] steelmedia [dot]