Angry Birds: The Success Story

By Bryan Chan - on 16 Jun 2011, 10:53am

Last week, I had the opportunity of attending two events that really showcased the popularity of a once-simple mobile app known as Angry Birds. The first event was a Developers Forum organized by Cradle and Nokia, whilst the second was a world record attempt organized by Nokia the very next day.

Flying all the way from Finland specifically for both events was Ville Heijari, Vice President of Franchise Development at Rovio Mobile. Officially known as the Bird Whisperer (It says so on his name card), Ville was kind enough to share the success story of Angry Birds, and I believe what he had said would be really useful to technopreneurs, which lead me to write this here blogpost.

At the Developers Forum, Ville began by saying that developing Angry Birds was a tough task. It all began when a Senior Game Designer at Rovio named Jaakko Iisalo showed the team sketches of the birds. Taking inspiration from the swine flu epidemic that was a grave concern at that time, they decided to make the pigs the bad guys. Though they had a clear idea on the concept, it was a hard thing to pitch, as a game that consists of swinging birds that could not fly at pigs, was definitely something hard to sell.

Ville Heijari, the Bird Whisperer of Rovio Mobile

“The trick is to find the right distribution channel for your product,” Ville said. “It’s also a must to spend some time developing your product. We spent just over a year developing Angry Birds.” He then moved on to explain the significance of marketing, where he said that as good a game that you have, it won’t sell itself. Without marketing, people won’t know about your product. With Angry Birds now very polished, Rovio decided to take a risk and spend a lot on advertising the game on the Apple App Store. It was a gamble that paid off.
Ville then said that another important thing needed to create a successful mobile game would be to have identifiable characters – characters that are simple, yet relatable to the audience. Angry Birds has become successful because the characters featured in the game showcase emotions. The birds are angry because the pigs have stolen their eggs, and that’s probably something everyone can relate to on different levels. Ville ended his talk by saying that a product should also ‘appeal to an international audience, and while having a bit of local flair gives the game its own personality, too much will make audiences confused and decrease its overall appeal.’

Angry Birds has identifiable characters and simple gameplay mechanics.

The next day, Ville was also present at Nokia’s World’s Largest Angry Birds Playground, where Nokia successfully organized and obtained a Guinness World Records certificate for having the most people playing a mobile phone game relay on a single device. There, he spoke to us about some upcoming projects currently being planned at Rovio Mobile. One of the most anticipated things would be the possibility of an Angry Birds animated film. This is ‘highly likely’ he said, because Rovio has recently acquired an animation studio named Kombo, and this is right up their alley. He also said that there will be an Angry Birds cookbook featuring lots of creative ways to cook eggs. Here's a cinematic trailer of Angry Birds:

One of the phrases that he emphasized on both days, and one that I really agree with, is to ‘take an idea as far as possible.’ From a small Finnish game development company to one of the most recognized companies in the mobile apps world, Rovio managed to achieve success because of their willingness to take an already successful product and continue to refine it to make it better. The development of Angry Birds is truly something we can all learn something from.

If you’re a technopreneur or someone raring to create a mobile app, you could approach Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd, a company that provides funds for tech-related ventures. It is a subsidiary of Malaysian Venture Capital Management Sdn Bhd, and is officially backed up by the Ministry of Finance. Their website can be found at

Some other facts about Angry Birds:

  • As of May 2011, Angry Birds has been downloaded more than 200 million times (across all platforms and game versions).
  • The free version of Angry Birds has in-game ads and contributes roughly US$1 million of revenue for Rovio.
  • Angry Birds is also available on the Sony PSP and PS3, PC, and Mac. Ports for other platforms including the Xbox 360, Wii, and 3DS are also planned. A Windows Phone 7 version will be released at the end of June.


Bryan Chan

Bryan Chan / Freelance Writer

A guy who really needs to go on a diet, loves to laugh and gets high on life. He loves gaming and wishes he could drive the way he does in video games. He also loves photography but needs a hell of a lot more practice to be good at it.