[Guest Post] Angry Birds is A BRAND

3 mins read
July 1, 2011

Editorial: talk about startup, we can’t separate it from “branding”, and this time Narenda Wicaksono will tell us his experience attending CommunicAsia and his view aout Angry Birds and branding.

In CommuncAsia 2011 last Sunday in Singapore, Indonesian developer from Agate Studio, GITS Indonesia, Kompas, and ITB had the opportunity to attend a seminar with one of the official in Rovio Mobile as the speaker about “The Making of Angry Birds”, after that the developer from Indonesia had lunch together with him whom share stories about the company.

Born from a Mobile Developer Competition

In 2003, three students from Helsinki University of Technology, Niklas Hed, Jarno Väkeväinen, and Kim Dikert participated in a mobile game developer competition held by one of Finland mobile company. At that time they won the competition with their game called “King of the Cabbage World” and in the end they decided to make a startup called “Relude”. “King of the Cabbage World” sold to “Digital Chocolate” and change name to “Mole War”. It became the first real time and multiplayer supported game in the world! Eight years ago.

Self Satisfaction

In 2005 receive an investment from Angel investor and change name to Rovio Mobile. At first, Rovio Mobile worked on custom development (on-demand application). Their projects were mobile games with the same level as Need for Speed for Mobile. So many challenges to worked with on-demand application, in the end they stuck with one thing, “self satisfaction”. Beside they only have “a onetime payment”, this kind of business is not a sustain one. Several publisher did offer them a royalty option, but the percentage is not equal with the total revenue from the released game.


Bored from being a ‘tailor’, Rovio Mobile start to release their own products. In December 2009 Rovio Mobile release their 52nd game, that is the Angry Birds. I won’t explain further about the game. We all know that this game is a phenomenal game. Hundreds of million dollars have entered Rovio Mobile pockets, 25% revenue from paid apps, 30% from ads, and the rest is from merchandise. Rovio Mobile own 30% of total revenue from AdMob each month, it’s quite an achievement for a company with only 120 employees. In March 2001, Rovio Mobile got a fresh 42 million dollars funding from Accel Partners, Atomico, and Felicis Ventures.

Gameplay is a power, but character is more

What makes Angry Birds a big hit? First, a statement that gave me a goosebumps “Gameplay is a power, but character is more”. We can see all the details from the character such as icon, the birds, pigs, and the audio. We recognize immediately the sound of the birds in Angry Birds when someone playing nears us without even looking. I ask why birds and pigs? He said that because when Angry Birds launched, bird and pig flu was plaguing Europe. It also important to get the moment where something often speaks by the society can be turn into a commodity.

Angry Birds is a brand

In the plan of making of Angry Birds, the approach that was taken by Rovio Mobile is not just another mobile game, not just another product, but instead “Angry Birds is a brand”.  Very strong words that made me stupefied. When startup in Indonesia racing their each other off to sell their company with products that have no evident business model, I saw that Rovio Mobile approach is way ahead of us.

Collaborate with a Handset Brand

Angry Birds Magic will be given for free preloaded in Nokia N9. Angry Birds Magic will be the first mobile game and commercial application in the world with a NFC.  Rovio Mobile decided to use the word Magic to reduce the complexity in customer eyes when they hear “Near Field Communication”. What is the meaning of technology when it became resistant when use. Rovio Mobile will release merchandise dolls with NFC chip in it to unlock few levels in Angry Birds Magic. A brilliant monetization!


To all enthusiasts, indie developers, even startup, let me share 4 main points:

  • Taking advantage of the Momentum! When all kind of principal show their support for you, do not waste the opportunity by sharpen your skills, show off in a competition, or receive a marketing support.
  • Never Give Up! Angry Birds is not the first game, not the tenth, not even the thirtieth from Rovio Mobile. Angry Birds is game number 52nd! No pain no gain guys.
  • Gameplay is a power, but character is more! All sample code to make a game is repository available in any platform. Even in a physic engine like it used by Rovio in Angry Birds can be bought in a fairly affordable price. No need to be a “rocket science” to make application nowadays. An appeal for developers, please collaborate with designers to give the best details in your application.
  • Making a brand, this approach surely different than just making another product. A complex and comprehensive approach will be a part of an interesting discussion when this kind of approach taken.

I hope for an event like Mobile Game Developer War can be a trigger for startup Indonesia that give birth to a worldwide brand with millions of people in the world as it user. It will be much better if the character came from a local culture icon.


Narenda Wicaksono, is a developer and also a specialist in infrastructure technology. He was the Most Valuable Professional and Technical Evangelist in Microsoft. Founder and advisor at Nokia Indonesia Community Enthusiasts and Indonesia .NET Developer Community. Currently working in Nokia Indonesia, focus to be an advisor for mobile developer in Indonesia.



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