In late December 2010, it smashed a mobile app record with over one million downloads in a single day. Most recent stats declared that the entertainment mobile app game, Angry Birds, is played over 200 million minutes a day around the globe, and since its debut in early 2010, the game has seen over 50 million downloads at Apple’s App Store. If one counts downloads across all platforms, Angry Birds comes in with about 700 million downloads.
The brainchild of entertainment game developer Rovio Mobile of Finland, the game evolved from a group of drawings by one of the game developers. The angry-looking bird, with no visible wings or feet, captured the hearts of the development team and so began the development of a game around them. As the game began to take shape, the developers felt that the birds needed some manner of adversary. During 2009, there was a “swine flu epidemic” traversing the world, so the team settled on pigs for an adversary. Rovio, which was founded in 2002, spent over 100,000 euros on the initial stages of development.
“The original was very different but everybody loved the birds,” said Peter Vesterbacka, the Chief Marketing Officer at Rovio. “Over eight months, Angry Birds became the game we know today.”
Soon after its initial debut, Rovio found themselves scrambling to adapt the software because the entertainment game could not be played across some platforms, including Android.
“Apple will be the number one platform for a long time to come, from a developer perspective,” Vesterbacka commented in late 2011. “Android is growing, but it’s also complexity at the same time. Device fragmentation is not the issue, but rather the fragmentation of the ecosystem. So many shops, so many different models, the carriers messing with the experience again, and paid content just doesn’t work on Android.”
The game was a huge success when it launched and ad revenues began streaming into Rovio. By February of 2010, Angry Birds was the number one download at The Apple App Store. In addition, Rovio developers began designing a version of Angry Birds for Facebook in early 2010. The challenge of translating the entertainment game across platforms was an enormous task for Rovio and the Facebook version took over a year to plan and execute.
Things were not always so smooth for Rovio since its 2003 founding. Vesterbacka and his two founding partners tried 52 such games without a hit and barely a bite. The trio was nearly broke when they began to recognize that their future lay in mobile smartphone devices. They saw the technology as having a major impact on the future. That was where they knew they had to be.
With Angry Birds, however, they felt that they were on to something as the game was relatively simple to understand yet nearly impossible to become an expert at. It began to drive people to distraction. Even co-founder Niklas Hed’s mother was not immune. The story goes that, in one instance, she was so involved with the game that she burned their Christmas dinner.
In March 2011, Rovio secured a $42 million funding injection that it hoped to use to further develop their Angry Birds entertainment phenomenon. In early 2011, Rovio was reporting revenues of over 50 million euros, but the founders felt that raising investments was the key to their survival. The $42 million was spearheaded by Accel Partners, and even the founder of Skype, Niklas Zennstrom, got in on the action. He believes that Rovio will revolutionize the industry and many feel they will have the impact of Disney in the future.
In April 2011, Time Magazine named Vesterbacka one of its 100 Most Influential People.
“Console gaming is dying,” declared Vesterbacka. “We are building an integrated entertainment franchise where merchandising, games, movies, TV, cartoons, and comics, all come together like Disney 2.0. Look at how Disney got started. You can see the same pattern today, only everything is happening much, much faster.”