GDC 2011: Rovio's Vesterbacka on implementing Angry Birds' 100 million download strategy

#gdc11 Making a 21st Century Tetris

GDC 2011: Rovio's Vesterbacka on implementing Angry Birds' 100 million download strategy
"We're only one year into the Angry Birds experience. We're a bit more popular at GDC than last year," joked Peter 'Mighty Eagle' Vesterbacka, the market-come-biz dev guy of Finnish developer Rovio

He was giving a talk entitled Angry Birds - An Entertainment Franchise in the Making at the GDC Smartphone Summit.

Long love

"We underestimated the development cost," Vesterbacka said, of Rovio's 52nd game project since it was founded as a mobile studio in 2003.

"It was good it took eight months to make in between doing work-for-hire projects, because that gave us time to polish everything. A lot of love went into that game."

Surprisingly though, Angry Birds isn't the company's most successful game, at least in terms of installs. The Bounce series is on 250 million Nokia devices, albeit via pre-installs, so not particularly lucrative from a financial point of view.

Big deal

Rovio's strategic plan is to get the franchise as close to that number as possible: something it calls its 'Tetris Strategy' in terms of hitting 100 million downloads across as many platforms as possible.

In this way, Vesterbacka argued mobile games, in terms of treating games as a service or an experience with updates, and hooking up with traditional media brands, are now driving the entire industry.

"Mobile is clearly the centre of gaming for the entire business," he said. "What's happening in mobile is going to be happening in other gaming sectors."

More channels

When it comes to specific revenue streams for Rovio, other details provided included a big update to the Mighty Eagle in-app purchase, which is the 99c smartbomb and stops you getting stuck on a level.

At the moment, around 40 percent of new Angry Birds' users are buying the IAP; something Rovio wants to increase to 50 percent of all users.

"We have big plans for how we're going to update the Mighty Eagle to make it more relevant to players," Vesterbacka explained.

There will also be another update for the Angry Birds Seasons in terms of a St Patrick's Day on March 17.

While, outside of the game, sales of plush toys are also going well with two million sold to-date.

"We have high hopes for merchandising," he said. "And we will be doing a lot more deals such as Angry Birds: Rio." That game been made in conjunction with Fox's forthcoming animated movie.

Contributing Editor

A Pocket Gamer co-founder, Jon is Contributing Editor at which means he acts like a slightly confused uncle who's forgotten where he's left his glasses. As well as letters and cameras, he likes imaginary numbers and legumes.