MANILA, Philippines – Brand building and giving back to fans.
These are what Jarkko Rajamäki, VP for Ad Operations of Rovio Entertainment Ltd. – the group behind the smash-hit mobile game Angry Birds, believes as keys in surviving the cut-throat competition in the game category of the Apple iOS and Google Android universes.
Rajamäki said while an unforgettable game experience is foremost in making a successful franchise, the Finland-based Rovio team believes that thinking of other enterprises to support the main "Angry Birds" brand is key in prolonging its staying power.
“The key things behind our success are focus on the brand, thinking of different business to support different products and brand,” said Rajamäki during the 2012 Mobile Marketing Congress on Wednesday.
Angry Birds is one of the few games in the mobile platform to have inspired a wide array of profit-driving businesses – from simple merchandises such as plush toys to a huge endeavour such as a theme park in booming China.
Rajamäki said to date, Rovio’s consumer products arm has so far given license to some 30,000 Angry Birds merchandises.
Rovio has also explored other ventures such as advertisement, animation, digital services and book publishing since the game was launched in 2009.
“Those events, we see that they all support each other. In some cases, it’s the consumer products that support the game. We don’t see them as a kind of a standalone silos,” he said.
Rajamäki said due to Angry Birds’ wide reach, some people first learn about it through merchandises instead of the actual game.
He also touted Rovio’s strategy of partnering with 20th Century Fox’s 2011 hit animated movie "Rio" where a game version of the film was made.
"The movie Rio, we thought it’s a pretty good fit so [we did] the game. It is an example of advertising where the users are paying for the ad," he said.
"Some people ended up seeing the movie because they liked the game."
Just recently, Angry Birds teamed up with yet another strong franchise, George Lucas’ Star Wars, to create its latest iteration to its massively successful game – the Angry Birds Star Wars.
The latest Angry Birds flavor became Apple App Store’s most downloaded app around two hours after it became available on November 8.
Rajamäki said Rovio’s success is nothing without its huge fan base, which grew due to the company’s continued pursuit for innovation.
He cited the case of 5-year-old American fan Ethan, whose game level design was turned into a real Angry Birds level, as an example of placing importance on the supporters of the game.
“The key driver for us is always the fans. We always think how to involve fans in building the brand. And pretty much, every single day, when we try to come up with something new, we think: “What is there for the fans? How can we make user experience better? How can we engage our fans better? How can we offer new content to our fans?” he said.
“[The fans] are always the center in everything we do, everything else is secondary. You don’t think about monetization until you get these things right.”
Exploring the mobile platform
Rovio continues to explore the mobile platform, which industry experts say is expected to become the main arena for game developers in the coming years, as evident in the dwindling sales of game consoles and the rise in sales of mobile touchscreen devices offering cheap to free quality games.
“We don’t see any reason why we won’t continue because smartphone penetration in the world is going to skyrocket, probably hitting 1 billion next year,” Rajamäki said.
“The designers that we have, they are very thrilled to have the opportunity… to come up with storylines. I don’t see that there will be lack of ideas. The challenge, in our case, is that the bar has been set so high.”