Game On - Peter Vesterbacka at Zeitgeist Americas 2011

Uploaded by zeitgeistminds on 27.09.2011

How did this thing -- these little birds change the world? How did this happen? >>Peter Vesterbacka:
Yeah, so, actually, everybody always thinks that it was, like, an overnight success. And
these guys made a game and then, you know, people started downloading and all of that.
But, actually, Rovio has been making games since 2003. And this was our 52nd game.
>>Sal Masekela: Really? [ laughter ]
>>Peter Vesterbacka: So, yeah. It took a while. So it's, like, overnight success that took
a couple years. [ Laughter ]
>>Peter Vesterbacka: Yeah, basically, we kept believing. We, actually, did a lot of games
for EA and GameHouse and Nokia and all that. So this was one of the first ones we did for
ourselves. So yeah. >>Sal Masekela: I read today that, as of the
middle of the month, 350 million downloads? >>Peter Vesterbacka: Yeah. And there's a few
more now. But -- >>Sal Masekela: Sorry.
>>Peter Vesterbacka: Yeah, good start. >>Sal Masekela: Yeah, that's not a bad start.
350 million. Did you have any idea remotely that it would become something this crazy?
>>Peter Vesterbacka: I don't think anybody on the team thought it would be this huge.
We had a pretty good indication that it would be different than a lot of our games because
Niklas, one of our founders -- you know how it is. You make a new game, and then you want
to show friends and family, like, look what we did? At Christmas 2009, he gave his phone
to his mom and, "Okay. Why don't you have a look, this new Angry Birds game that we
made?" Typically, what happens, when you give a game to your mom, that looks at it and,
nice, give the phone back. With Angry Birds, he didn't get the phone back. So that's a
pretty strong indication that there might be something in Angry Birds.
>>Sal Masekela: Wow! Where did the idea, the premise come from?
>>Peter Vesterbacka: Yeah, so we, actually, were in a position after, like, 51 games where
the company was struggling. And we really had to come up with something. And then we
decided to take a totally different approach. Very, very analytical, looking at what makes
a great game. Analyzed a lot of games, mobile, web, everything. And then Jaakko Iisalo, who
is one of our game designers -- >>Sal Masekela: Say that again.
>>Peter Vesterbacka: Jaakko Iisalo. That's from Finland, so yeah. Or Jaakko for short.
But, anyway, he'd been drawing these bird characters for years. And then he came up
with a game designed around those birds. And everybody loved the bird characters, but couldn't
really figure out the game. But we decided that, okay, we have to build a game around
the bird characters. And then we had 12 people. And took eight
months to build the game. So the pigs were introduced during that process. And very late
in the process we, actually, introduced the slingshot. So, originally, we just were flicking
these birds and all of that. And they didn't really -- people couldn't figure it out. So
then we added a slingshot. And then you instantly know how to play. So it's -- yeah. Took a
while. And it was good that it took a while, because we had time to really polish the game
and make it what it is today. >>Sal Masekela: The slingshot that changed
the world. >>Peter Vesterbacka: Yeah. Yeah.
>>Sal Masekela: You could be the only game that's played by most heads of state on the
planet. I read that President Obama is a fan. >>Peter Vesterbacka: Yeah. he had the BlackBerry.
Now it's the iPad. But yeah. >>Sal Masekela: Prime Minister of Russia.
>>Peter Vesterbacka: Yeah. President of Russia, he plays that.
>>Sal Masekela: Australia. >>Peter Vesterbacka: Australian Prime Minister.
Yeah, she plays as well. To be clear, she doesn't have a lot of time to play, just to
be clear. >>Sal Masekela: I imagine, if you're one of
the leaders of the free world and you're stressed out about some politics, it's a good way to
get your frustrations out. If I'm the president and I've just gotten out of a session with
John Boehnor, I'm going to definitely play some Angry Birds.
>>Peter Vesterbacka: Yeah, yeah. We just heard our games are changing our world. If they
can cure people, why can't we cure bigger world problems? And I totally buy into this
Nobel peace prize goal. So let's go for that. [ Laughter ]
>>Sal Masekela: What do you say to the people who criticize a game like yours that totally
makes an addict? I mean, I'm an addict. My finners sometimes just stays cranked to the
side from the slingshot. I don't know if you have some sort of 12-step group.
>>Peter Vesterbacka: Not yet, but we've been asked for it.
>>Sal Masekela: What do you say to the people who say that we're creating time wasters in
these games? >>Peter Vesterbacka: You can always -- there's
a lot of things that waste time. So that's nothing new there. But I think that what is
really, really important that we get so much fan mail from, especially from grandparents,
that this is kind of like one of the things that really, you know, lets them connect with
their grandchildren, that they can play this together. And we get that every day.
And also, like, at this conference, so much like "my wife never plays games, but she plays
Angry Birds." And, you know, just heard that people play Angry Birds in bed together. So
that's fun. [ Laughter ]
>>Peter Vesterbacka: But, anyway, so it connects people, clearly.
>>Sal Masekela: Now, your background -- before Rovio you were at HP, correct?
>>Peter Vesterbacka: Yeah. >>Sal Masekela: I read there was a contest
or something that you participated in that sort of helped you get to this place to build
the platform. >>Peter Vesterbacka: I was at HP for a long
time, so know the corporate life as well. I organized the competition to create the
best mobile multiplayer game back in 2003. And that was when the first Nokia smartphones
appeared way before the iPhone. So there's stuff before that. Anyway, so Niklas and the
two founders, two of his friends, were actually starting at the Helsinki University of Technology.
So they took part in the competition, won, and came to me and said, "What do we do now?"
I said, "Why don't you start a company that makes games? It's, you know, easy." And then
51 games later Angry Birds. So that's how it happened.
>>Sal Masekela: Wow. So movies, incredible merchandise, like that stuffed animal that
I'm going to steal from Tony Hawk because -- yes. It's on!
[Off mic] >>Sal Masekela: I can't -- I don't have kids.
I can't fight you on that. What's the future? Tell me -- movies, obviously,
is next. >>Peter Vesterbacka: Yeah, I think that's
-- we haven't viewed ourselves as a games company. When we, actually, went for this
Angry Birds strategy, the idea was to make games for the iPhone and smartphones until
we have a hit. And then kind of, like, take it everywhere to all the screens. So that's
kind of, like, what we've been doing with Angry Birds. And for us it's, actually -- we
only care about two things: Our fans and our brand. So right now we're taking our brand
everywhere. So we started with games. Then we have the
merchandising. So we sold a few of those toys. Smaller. But, anyway, a million a month so
far. And then we're also doing a lot of other merchandise.
So that's going very well. And animation. We bought an animation studio.
We're going to produce a whole bunch of animated shorts. We already have 170 million views
on YouTube which is -- >>Sal Masekela: That's it?
>>Peter Vesterbacka: Yeah. But we're only getting started. It's not like Bieber numbers,
but we'll get there. >>Sal Masekela: I don't know. 170 million
is pretty strong. You should partner up with --
>>Peter Vesterbacka: It's more than most of the Hollywood studios. But, again, that's
not, like, an amazing benchmark anyways. So we want to be the first entertainment brand
with a billion fans. So that's, basically, what we're building.
>>Sal Masekela: A billion with a B? >>Peter Vesterbacka: Yeah. And, once we reach
that, then two. But yeah. A billion is a good start.
>>Sal Masekela: You should probably try to set some goals for yourself.
[ Laughter ] >>Sal Masekela: Sounds like you're not really
thinking outside the box, at all. >>Peter Vesterbacka: I think it was a really
good to listen to the discussion before. Also that, for us, I mean, we -- when we talk about
fans -- so we really talk to our fans every day. Twitter, Facebook, and then, you know,
BABEL, renren in China, all the different social networks around the world.
So it's something that most of the current entertainment brands don't do. So I think
that's a huge difference. And, of course, that also allowed us to build Angry Birds
into what is probably the fastest growing brand ever. And we spent zero on advertising.
>>Sal Masekela: Zero? >>Peter Vesterbacka: Nothing. Yeah. That's
all word of mouth. Angry Birds. Why are the birds angry? Color red. When we launched,
no other app had a red icon in the app store. Those are things we thought about. How do
we get the game out without having a marketing budget? So it's, again -- kind of like the
big thing that we have done is really changed the way these things are marketed and how
you build brands. >>Sal Masekela: Wow! That's really cool. My
favorite part of the game is the boomerang toucan. He's fantastic. I think you should
have a level just with the boomerang Toucan. >>Peter Vesterbacka: The boomerang bird and
the toucan is very interesting. A lot of people love that, and a lot of people hate the toucan.
We actually made a short animation for our summer update where we actually made the boomerang
bird very popular. So we explained his background and kind of like his challenges. So that's,
yeah, part of the story. >>Sal Masekela: Your job does not suck, sir.
Pleasure. >>Peter Vesterbacka: Yeah, it's great.
[ Applause ]