The world, apparently loves slaughtering vile green pigs.
What else would explain over hundreds of millions of people going nuts about a game where flightless, Angry Birds dish out revenge on evil pigs that steal their eggs — picking their brains on every strategy they can think of, using logic, gameplay, skill and brute force (thankfully, within the parameters of the game)?
Yes, this is the world of Angry Birds. And, over 600 million users worldwide and 26 million each day, live in this world, unleashing foul fowls at their enemies — the ubiquitous green pigs — using something as basic and primitive as the 17th century hand-powered projectile weapon — a slingshot.
Firstpost spoke to Henri Holm, senior vice president (Asia) at Rovio Entertainment Ltd., the makers of the hugely popular game, about about what lies behind the worldwide success of the Angry Birds franchise. We also get you the real numbers behind the game (which Holm says, reflects only part of the popularity of the game). Here are excerpts from the interview.
Which of your games in the Angry Birds franchise is the most popular?
All of the games support each other and really, there are so many parameters to why one game would be more popular than the others. The original classic Angry Birds has so much following, built through different ages, different levels of difficulty and various puzzles.
It is also our policy to measure success with engagement. In terms of how people respond to the launches, story telling, daily activity and various such things.
But, if you have to rank them and talk in terms of absolute popularity, it is the original Angry Birds classic. For a beginner you must go and play classic. It is the most important, most successful and most recommended platform because it tells you the basics of it. It lays the foundation for the different games and teaches you the fundamental strategies necessary to move higher up levels.
What do your numbers stand at? How long did you take to get to 10 million downloads for each of your four games in the franchise?
When we started off the game, our target was a 100 million downloads. At the time it seemed crazy and we didn’t know if and when we would reach it. But in March 2011, we reached that number in terms of downloads. It was a very good feeling to have reached our target number but while we celebrated, we upped our target for downloads to one billion.
If you think of it, the jump distance from a 100 million downloads to one billion is a lot, but we have made it part of our core strategy and work towards it everyday. And, the results are already showing.
Within eight months of the 100 million mark, in November last year, Angry Birds came halfway to achieving the one billion downloads number by reaching the milestone of 500 million downloads.
If you want to just gauge its popularity, here are a few numbers. The franchise has 200 million monthly active users and 26 million daily active users. The popularity of the games and the speed at which it catches on, too, has exponentially increased. The original Angry Birds game — the classic — took 166 days to get to 10 million downloads, Angry Birds Seasons got to that number in 79 days; Angry Birds Rio reached 10 million downloads in 8 days and Angry Birds Space got to 10 million downloads in just took 3 days.
Tell us a little about your latest, Angry Birds Space game?
Angry Birds Space was actually launched from the International Space Station, in a collaboration with NASA. We want our whole brand to be about the experience and so when we thought of launching Space, we wanted to make gamers feel that the experience of being in space is a “cool” thing. The Space game also very importantly gave us a chance to talk about, promote and encourage science, maths, astrology and space itself. We want our users to be curious and creative.
Like all our other content, we wanted Angry Birds Space to be locally engaging and globally relevant — which I think it has achieved to some extent.
With Angry Birds Seasons — and to an extent Angry Birds Rio — we see some localisation creeping into your content. Is that a long term strategy? Where does India figure in this?
Angry Birds Seasons takes the furious fowl through the world’s celebrations to enjoy Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day and even the Moon Festival. When we localise, our objective is always to be global and bring that experience to the world. As far as India is concerned, we don’t have it on our road map immediately but we are in touch with prospective partners and are always looking for feedback from the market.
Like from what we hear, we want to take the idea of the Indian content, culture festivals, seasons, etc. to the world. We want to take the Indian experience to hundreds of millions who live outside of India and know about it; and also to those that don’t know about it but are curious and want to be part of it.
Angry Birds Rio was so driven by the animation film Rio. Who would have thought that the Rio Samba track would top music charts? A soundtrack from a mobile game being on the charts — was unheard of.
You have eight books published as part of the franchise. And I noticed that while none of them are fictional story books, they are more activity laden. Was this an intentional strategy?
Yes, we have eight books and they are all doing extremely well. I can’t give you numbers because we don’t reveal market analytics, but I can tell you that when we released our first book, Bad Piggies’ Egg Receipes we had a long waiting period to purchase the books. We believe in boosting not just the core business, but also our company name and our brand recall — which we do in various ways like merchandising, social media, etc.
When we released Bad Piggies’ Egg Recipes our thinking was, “How many families buy a cookbook and cook together?” Our games are family entertainment and so we wanted the book to be a family affair too. In that sense, we thought the cookbook was just the kind of book to achieve that.
And, yes, none of our books are story books. Our other doodle books, colouring book, numbers book, poster book and sticker book are all activity driven to engage and stimulate the readers. We want to find and encourage creativity from the audience and hope our books do that.
What lies ahead for the franchise? Are there plans of any more Angry Birds-esque franchises from the Rovio stable?
Yes, we have plans to have more games and franchises like Angry Birds. But for the time being, we are going to continue doing crossovers with various media and organisations like we did with The Simpsons, Rio, Superbowl and Formula 1. We will continue to engage our social media users — over 452 million subscribers of our YouTube channel, over 19.1 million of our Facebook fans and over 427,000 of our Twitter followers.
Our strategy as always is going to be creative play, simplicity, attention to detail and quality and to be present on all and every platform that our fans are at. In that respect Chrome and Facebook present a very important part of the platforms that are needed to reach out to the fans. Even if someone doesn’t have access to their own internet connection or a smartphone, our fans should be able to still connect to the content and entertainment we offer sitting in a cyber cafe.
While 500 million downloads of Angry Birds, may be just a small fraction of the over 7 billion people that inhabit this earth, the enraged fowl is only set to gather more followers, proving that Angry Birds as a franchise is definitely no vile green pig-head.