Finnish company's chief marketing officer reveals how one iPhone game blossomed into a global brand as large as Twitter, and plans to survive for 100 years with a Disney-like strategy.
Today marks the second day of Pocket Gamer Connects, a London-based mobile games conference.
Tommy Palm, games guru at King discussed Candy Crush this morning and was followed by Rovio CMO – and mighty eagle – Peter Vesterbacka, who opened up on how the Angry Birds studio has spread its wings and transformed into a worldwide brand:
"If you look at Rovio and what we've done over four years, there are now two billion copies of Angry Birds out there.
"I thought I was super-ambitious in 2010 when I said we'll make $100 million and everyone else thought I was crazy, but it's very important people thought I was insane for saying $100 million back then."
He backs up the two billion downloads with monthly active data, saying: "Download figures tell you nothing about engagement, but we still have 200 million people playing Angry Birds every month, the size of the Twitter audience."
With tongue firmly in cheek, he adds "Candy Crush's half a billion installs is a good start.
"Becoming a brand is very, very important. For every Angry Birds there are many not-so successful games. If you're serious about games you need to be serious about marketing and branding.
"We started as a mobile games company ten years ago and created 51 games before Angry Birds – it's not easy to stand out and say something like, I'm going to take on Coke and make a soft drink company, nobody in their right mind would.
"With Angry Birds we built the fastest-growing brand ever. 9/10 people in the US know the brand and 93 percent of the Chinese population knows the brand.
"At Mobile World Congress last year, I met a Korean gentleman in his sixties who didn't speak much English. I was wearing my Angry Birds hoodie at the time and he walked towards me making the catapult gesture to communicate – we're building a brand that trades language.
"Another demonstration of the power of the brand came when a friend of mine was working on solar-powered solutions in a village deep in the African countryside. On the wall of a store was a huge ad for Coke, and right next to the brand that Coke likely paid for was a painting of a great big red bird by one of our fans.
"Brand will continue to become more and more important as huge acquisition costs rocket because there are just a few companies that can afford to pay for them.
"We're not building Angry birds for a hundred days but for a hundred years.
"Mario is a great role model for anyone in games, it's been built for almost 30 years now. Hello Kitty is 40 this year and Mickey Mouse was launched in 1928 as a black and white cartoon and that company is now building theme parks based on the character on every continent.
"We launched an iPhone game in 2009 and now 45 per cent of our business comes from physical products, including drinks – we're giving Coke a run for their money.
"There are tens of thousands of physical consumer products everywhere and activity parks on all continents – we even launched one in Florida with NASA and launched a game in space.
"Things like that sound crazy at first but they can be done. We even took over Red Square in Moscow, branded it with it with Angry Birds and threw a party there for 40,000 people – now friends believe i can do anything. We also had a party at the Kremlin for 6,000 students.
"What started as a little game is a major brand and franchise. Our friends at Disney are still a bit ahead but our trajectory looks good.
"We're just getting started."