Today we had the chance to chat with Saara Bergström, Social Marketing Manager at Rovio, about their hugely successful franchise Angry Birds. I am confident that this game needs no introduction, so feel free to scroll on past me and get straight to the juicy bit!
Christopher Kerr: Hi Saara
Saara Bergström: Hi!
Christopher Kerr: Firstly I feel I should congratulate you on the success of Angry Birds, I believe the franchise has just reached 1 billion downloads, and that is quite frankly unbelievable!
Saara Bergström: Thank you! We certainly are thrilled to reach that number and more than numbers it's great to see that our fans love the game. It's quite amazing to get to 1 billion in such a short time, but it really shows that our strategy of putting fun and fans first really pays off here
Christopher Kerr: I'm still struggling to believe it quite frankly. Of course, when you first began working on Angry Birds, the 'iDevice' or Smartphone gaming was nowhere near as big as it is now. Looking back at when you first started working on the franchise, did you have any idea that the game would be this successful?
Saara Bergström: Well of course you never really know 100% if something will become a world-wide success like Angry Birds or something smaller. It's a combination of many things: great idea, solid user experience, game character design, platform choices, marketing direction and many other things, perhaps a bit of luck with the timing too. When Jaakko Iisalo, Rovio's lead designer, showed the first concept for Angry Birds we however knew that there's just something unique with the combination of the characters and gameplay. When we had a playable prototype ready and asked our friends and relatives to try it, we definitely realized this is an amazing game since people trying the game would refuse to give the phone back and would just want to continue playing. It's easy to pick up and hard to put down, we realized
Christopher Kerr: If you had to single out one thing that was paramount to the success of the franchise, what would it be? For me it has to be put down to the fact that the franchise is so damn marketable.
Saara Bergström: That’s a tough question since the Angry Birds brand as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts. If I had to pick just one thing, I think it would be the characters. The characters, the birds' personalities, and the fact that it is very easy to identify with them is a huge contributor to why the birds have become so popular, why they are so marketable and in addition a constant source of inspiration to people. For example the whole fan art scene around the Angry Birds is pretty amazing
Christopher Kerr: The community surrounding this game is really something. After the success of the original Angry Birds, I would imagine the sequel Angry Birds Space practically marketed itself. But what was it like trying to get the first game noticed? Was it just something that happened naturally as the downloads kept on coming, or was there more to it?
Saara Bergström: It got to the top of the Appstores in small countries, Scandinavia for example, and people started noticing it from the charts. That led to us being featured on the UK app store. It really was the word of mouth from people downloading and trying the game out that got us there. Also, we've kept our fans close from the beginning and our teams have always had a really open dialogue with the players, so it was quite organic
Christopher Kerr: Do you think it will be possible for yourself, or any other developer, to replicate the level of success that Angry Birds has had? Or will the franchise remain a phenomenon in that regard? In short, is trying to be the next Angry Birds a realistic goal?
Saara Bergström: Of course! Obviously, as mentioned there are many factors to it and by replicating each step of Angry Birds' success will probably not cut it today since times have changed. However I'm sure it is entirely possible if you just have the right ingredients in place and make the right choices
Christopher Kerr: Angry Birds Space has recently been released and it has been another success story. Naturally I'm not expecting a sequel to be on the cards just right now, but looking at the future of the franchise where would you personally like to see it go?
Saara Bergström: There still are many of things we haven't seen from the Angry Birds. We do have great plans in store for the future. I think the main goal is to still continue executing our strategy of bringing fun and delightful products to our fans in different forms.
Christopher Kerr: is it possible to give any hint as to what these plans may be? A taster of sorts for those avid fans.
Saara Bergström: Not at this point, sorry. The plan is hatching and we'll announce any new news when the time is ripe
Christopher Kerr: Do you think we are likely to see Angry Birds hit other platforms in the future?
Saara Bergström: Our approach has been to be on "all screens" from the beginning, so we are always on the lookout on where we should go next. The availability of Angry Birds on different platforms is quite wide-ranging already, but I don’t think we are done yet on that front.
Christopher Kerr: Well I look forward to seeing what you have in store for us. With Rovio being the self-made pioneers of mobile gaming, I am sure everyone is wondering what else we will see from you in the future. So apart Angry Birds, do you have anything else exciting in store for us?
Saara Bergström: Yes, exciting things in store for sure. A preview to the next exciting new thing can be found here: amazingalex.com
Christopher Kerr: Do you ever feel any pressure to continue to create games as successful as Angry Birds?
Saara Bergström: We are pretty confident that our focus on fun is the key to success with any casual game or any other forms of entertainment for that matter.
Christopher Kerr: On a slightly unrelated, but equally interesting note, what is your favourite game of all time?
Saara Bergström: Ah, that's a very tough question! I've always been a platformer fan and a fan of casual games. I've been hooked on everything from Super Mario Bros to Tetris. On mobile I play all kinds of casual games but I have to say that Angry Birds Space is currently the game I've been playing the most and not because of work, but because I genuinely think the gameplay is fresh and there's enough challenge for me.
Christopher Kerr: Well that's fair enough. Is there anything else you want to add?
Saara Bergström: No, I think that's all from me. It was nice talking to you.
Christopher Kerr: It was a pleasure chatting to you. Thanks for your time Saara.