Angry Birds, a mobile game developed by the Finnish company Rovio Entertainment Ltd. became an international bestseller within months of its launch in late 2009. Two years later, Rovio was not solely focussing on the said game for mobile platforms, but had also diversified its business model into cookbooks, animation videos and other licensing arrangements with various brands. Mikael Hed, CEO of Rovio, aimed at turning Rovio into the next Disney and hence planned to create a special movie with the same title. Was Rovio Entertainment on the right path to building an international media empire?
Gupta, Sunil, and Dharmishta Rood
Harvard Business School (512-033)
Case questions answered:
- What were the key factors behind the Angry Birds’ success?
- Explore the Angry Birds’ business model.
- What is your opinion about Rovio’s in-app payment solution for Android devices?
- Was Angry Birds a fad that would fade away or was Rovio on a path to build a media empire?
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Case answers for Angry Birds
1. What were the key factors behind the Angry Birds’ success?
Angry Birds’ success is first of all based on the following two factors related to the experience of the two founders of Rovio — Niklas and Mikael Hed — in the mobile gaming industry:
- Understanding of the mobile game market: Early on, the two cousins Niklas and Mikael Hed understood that the mobile phone market was in the middle of a revolution with an increasing relevance of smartphones and the App Store. Consequently, they realized that getting visibility in the App Store was an important driver of success. Furthermore, their focus on the iOS platform automatically helped them to also do well on other platforms.
- Experience with previous mobile game developments: Especially from previous failures, for example with the game “Darkest Fear”, Niklas and Mikael learned that it is crucial to publish a game only if it is perfect and not as soon as possible as negative reviews have a devastating impact on an app’s sales performance. Also, this experience helped them to identify their new successful strategy with a focus on casual games. Exactly, this focus significantly increased the reach of the game which is one of its key success factors.
This experience served as an important foundation when developing Angry Birds. The success factors specifically related to the game are the following:
- Usability of the game: Several design parameters of Angry Birds (e.g. no tutorial and self-explanatory, low time to load the game, easily recognizable icon) ensure that it is easy to learn, efficient to use and easy to remember as well as contains few errors. As stated by Nielsen, all those factors enhance the usability for users and are therefore among the key success factors of Angry Birds. Moreover, the focus on creating a game that provides users with goals and rewards is an important success factor of Angry Birds. Structuring the game in two layers, one for the casual and one for the skilled user, additionally allows the company to target a broader audience than traditional games which also enhances its reach.
- Marketing strategy: Niklas and Mikael realized early on that “making the game was easier than launching it successfully”. As a consequence, they developed a two-step launch strategy for Angry Birds to ensure a successful launch: Making the game number 1 in small European markets first to get proof-of-concept in order to then approach Apple to get featured in large markets such as the UK and the US.
- Continuous engagement: The focus on continuously engaging its users is especially crucial for the sustained success of Angry Birds and is characterized by three different measures: First, providing users frequently with free updates (games as a service, not as a product). Second, relying on positive word-of-mouth. And third, connecting to fans via social media. As a consequence, Rovio manages to grow Angry Birds’ user base at one of the fastest growth rates among all technology companies which is especially remarkable in light of the fact that the company does not…