Rovio’s Mighty Eagle on Taking His Angry Birds Into the Real World

Published on November 9, 2012
by Ina Fried

While many gaming companies are working to move all-digital, Rovio is looking at ways to increase its real-world presence.

Already, 30 percent of sales come from physical goods. “In a few years, more than half of our business will be physical,” Rovio marketing chief Peter Vesterbacka said during a panel discussion at the Open Mobile Summit on Thursday.

That’s not to say the company isn’t devoting a lot of time to its game-making. This year has already seen the Angry Birds flying into space, along with the release of Birds spinoff Bad Piggies, and Amazing Alex, a non-Angry Birds title. And, on Thursday, the company released Star Wars Angry Birds.

The goal is to create physical goods that drive more time spent with the video games, and vice versa. In all, the company hopes to have a billion fans interacting with Rovio’s characters in two or three years’ time.

“We are looking at food, drinks, stuff that you will use everyday,” Vesterbacka said. The model in this area, he says, is Coca-Cola, which serves up a billion servings of its soft drinks each day. If they can do that with a physical product, Rovio should be able to do it with the Birds.

“Again, people think that we are crazy,” Vesterbacka said, clad in his usual red Angry Birds sweatshirt.

So, what of projects that blend the physical and digital worlds? Augmented reality would seem to be a natural fit.

It is indeed an area that Rovio has been investigating.

“We have done a lot of work on that in our labs,” Vesterbacka said in an interview Thursday. The challenge, he said, is doing something that isn’t just a technology demonstration.

“A lot of stuff has been too gimicky,” Vesterbacka said.

Vesterbacka was coy on whether what he had in mind was something that would put real people inside the game, or something that would expand the game play into the real world.

“We’re getting close,” he said. “It’s not trivial to get it right. We are probably like 90 percent there. The last 10 percent is like tough.”

Reaching the company’s ambitions requires Rovio to continue adding new types of talent. The company has grown to roughly 500 workers, up from 220 just a year ago. Among the new hires is an expert in theme parks, aiming to help the company in its quest to build “activity parks” throughout China — the second-largest market for Rovio, and its fastest-growing one.

The parks are another of the company’s ventures into the physical world. In part, Vesterbacka said Rovio is trying to do its part to encourage kids to exercise their minds and bodies.

“We think that’s almost our responsibility,” he said. But he notes that Rovio isn’t doing the parks as a philanthropic venture. “It’s not only the right thing to do, but it is an amazing business opportunity.”

I’ll have more from my chat with Vesterbacka in a follow-up post. In the meantime, here’s a look back at AllThingsD’s coverage from our visit to the Angry Birds roost in Finland earlier this year:


Return to: Rovio’s Mighty Eagle on Taking His Angry Birds Into the Real World