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Hannah Whittaker

November 5, 2011 in Motivation, Transformational Change

Science, Magic, and an Angry Bird…

The recent headline declaring Angry Birds as the first game to achieve 500 million downloads less than two years after it was released, will perhaps be of little to surprise to the millions of addicted fans across the world.

What might be even more impressive is the story of success that has brought the Finnish developers, Rovio, a long way since the company was on the verge of going bust only two years ago. The business plan had begun to unravel: it was previously based on big hits, and Rovio hadn’t come up with any. At that point, Niklas Hed, one of the cousins who runs the company, knew they had to create the perfect game. This would entail simply doing every other little thing exactly right, and keep on doing it.

The Heds had developed 51 titles before Angry Birds. Some of them had sold in the millions for third parties such as Namco and EA, so they decided to create their own intellectual property. The app store was the integral portal, so they decided to develop their own iPhone games. In order to do this they needed to conquer the super-competitive App Store, so they did their homework.

Eight months and thousands of changes later, and after nearly abandoning the project, Niklas watched his mother burn a Christmas turkey, distracted by playing the finished game. “She doesn’t play any games. I realised: this is it.”

Discovering that the profile of the iPhone consumer was everybody, the game would be for everybody, unlike the more niche titles that they had previously produced. Rovio came up with other criteria: the title had to be expandable to other platforms, there should be no tutorial, loading times should be minimal, so that you could play happily for just one minute, and it needed an icon which would stand out in the App store.

Rovio also designed an innovative business model. Consumers pay for the initial download and Rovio keeps the game fresh with updates. On Android, they saw that paid content wasn’t working, so went with an ad-supported model. It now earns them more than £600,000 monthly.

In December they introduced the Mighty Eagle, a bird you can buy as an app that clears any level. Priced at 89p, it has been downloaded two million times and cost Rovio next to nothing. This February, the company launched the Bad Piggy Bank, a mobile payment system that allows users to buy in-game purchases at the touch of a button, without having to enter credit card details.

The Angry Birds story is a fascinating example of the sparks that can be produced when innovation and dedication to detail combine to produce explosive results. We Cheeky Monkeys know this as science and magic – the special combination of which creates the most stratospheric success. The Hed cousins harnessed their own science and magic at the lowest point to propel them into their new age.

If your business needs to change, ask yourself, what does science and magic mean to you? How will you use it to raise your business profile? In words relevant to this tale, how will you become a Mighty Eagle?

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