“We want to be the first entertainment brand with a billion fans,” Rovio head Peter Vesterbecka told attendees of Seattle's Casual Connect show this week. “That will take us two or three years to do. Next year, we want to be the leading entertainment brand in China.” Rovio, who says its Angry Birds has been the fastest entertainment brand in history to gain 100 million monthly active users, is enthusiastically pursuing the Chinese market, with Chinese-language versions of Angry Birds, a Shanghai office and a store built for the sole purpose of equipping Chinese consumers with Angry Birds-related paraphernalia. It's all part of the plan to make Angry Birds as big a name as Mario or Mickey Mouse.
Above: A fraction of the merch available to the Angry Birds enthusiast
Angry Birds is the third most pirated brand in China, reports VentureBeat, surpassed only by Disney and Hello Kitty. This may be cause for concern, but it's also proof of an untapped market, says Vesterbecka: “You can’t really fight that except by making better products than the copies. Instead of sending lawyers, we are building products.” Angry Birds Magic chips built into genuine merchandise provide added in-game content and an edge over knock-offs.
Above: Vesterbecka gesticulates to avoid being mistakenly loaded into a slingshot
“All of our enterprises have to be insanely profitable,” says Besterbecka, “and so far they are.” The company isn't going the usual route of establishing a presence and following up with new IP: “Game makers buy into their own bullshit. You think you can make hit after hit. We know how hard it is to do that.” Rovio released 51 games before finding success with Angry Birds, a mascot-ready spin on the “catapult physics” genre established by titles like Armor Games' Crush the Castle. Hence Rovio is “betting everything on Angry Birds” in the effort to propel the brand to the same level of ubiquity as characters like Mario. Do you think their strategy will pay off?
Jul 21, 2011