Interview with the creators of Angry Birds: especially for (part 1)

Ville HEIJARI, vice president of Rovio Ent., the company that created the super-hit Angry Birds, told us about what is important for a good game, how long it took them to develop and how the company plans to develop further.


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Surely you have already answered so many questions that it is difficult to ask something that no one has asked yet… But maybe there is a question that you have always wanted to answer, but no one has asked it?

I don’t know, I think we’ve always tried to be open and talk about what we do. And yet, for example, after my presentation, people asked a lot of questions. Including questions like: “And on what terms do you sign contracts with other companies?” – it is clear that this information is closed.  I don’t know, maybe it would be great if you asked if there is a game that we would like to publish or make. If you look at the App Store, there are a lot of wonderful games there – such as Fruit Ninja, Cut the Rope, etc. It seems to me that the level of the game is determined not so much by the originality of the idea as by the execution. If the game is really worthwhile, then I want to ask myself the question: “Why didn’t I come up with this? Why didn’t our company make it?” This is the best marker. You can always say, of course, that anyone could have done it, but if the game is really well done, you want to exclaim: “Well, why didn’t I come up with it!”.

That is, do you think that the quality of execution is more important than the originality of the idea?You can’t JUST sell an idea.

We have to work a lot on the characters, details. It seems to me that it is impossible to achieve great success only at the expense of an idea. For example, let’s look at Tiny Wings, which has shown good success in the App Store. I can’t remember the name exactly, but there was an indie game for PC with absolutely the same gameplay, very simple and unassuming in itself. And then Tiny Wings appeared – with perfect elaboration of details, beautiful music, funny characters. In this case, the quality of execution is really more important than the idea. Even if there is an unusual concept in itself, but at the same time it does not “catch” people, does not attract them, they will not buy it. When you play games seriously, when you do it for a living, you just need to make them attractive and bright.
And the details are often very important: even if something does not have a specific function in the game, but it causes pleasant emotions, it’s very cool.

OK, let’s imagine that the developer has some interesting gameplay idea, the game is already ready in principle, and now he is faced with a choice: release it now or spend another, say, a couple of months on “polishing”. What to choose?It depends on various factors.

Personally, I would choose the latter. But you need to clearly understand what is happening in the market. If this development is now in the mainstream, then you need to be prepared for the fact that someone can implement and release a similar project before you. If this is an original idea – or even if it is not completely original, but at the same time different from what it is now – it is always better to spend another couple of months polishing and already release a product of the highest quality.

And here all developers face a problem: how to decide that it’s time to stop? There is no limit to perfection!Yes, that’s for sure!

I think that it is necessary to immediately determine the size of the budget, set a deadline – and gradually it will become clear. This will be a kind of trait: okay, we ran out of money, time is also up, and the game seems to look good. Then it’s time!

How long did it take to develop Angry Birds?8 months.

This is from the moment when the idea appeared, to the moment when the game was ready. And, by the way, at least 4 months were spent on “polishing”. The thing is that Angry Birds is not the first game with similar gameplay, but we have everything very well balanced, every detail is thought out. That’s why everything looks so natural and simple.

How many people worked on the project?As far as I remember, initially the team consisted of 4 people; taking into account music and other outsourcing, a total of about 10 people turned out.

And how many people are working at Rovio now?170. About 60% of employees are developers directly.

The rest are engaged in business that requires a lot of attention – issues related to licensing, merchandising, etc.

Are you continuing to work on the Angry Birds brand, on its development, etc., or are you planning to create other games?Of course, Angry Birds is one of the top priorities.

But… you know, there are companies whose products are their brand. For example, who makes Coca-Cola? Coca-Cola Company! In fact, we were thinking about whether we should become an Angry Birds company, known only for one of its products? But we can do so many more interesting things! By the way, we were called Rovio Mobile, and last summer we renamed ourselves Rovio Entertainment – this is a symbol of the fact that we have a global approach to entertainment as such. We can make and release new games and, of course, we will continue to work on the development of the Angry Birds brand: cartoons, videos, toys, etc. This is already like a well–established mechanism – with the advent of new brands, we will integrate them there. I think it’s very cool.

Are you currently working on other games?Yes, but I can’t talk about them yet.

Is it clear, i.e. are you planning to make a few more hits and capture the entire market?))Ha ha!))

I don’t want to sound overconfident, but, you know, when you already have a process in place, when you know how to make a cool app and promote it to the top… I must say that when a company grows, various critics appear out of nowhere, who begin to say that, they say, here you have made one successful title and now you are pumping money out of it, doing business. Of course, we do business, but we do it honestly. Some are trying to accuse us of having only one “full-fledged game” – Angry Birds, and two years have passed since its launch. But what about Angry Birds Seasons and Angry Birds Rio? In addition, we did not just make the game, we continue to support it, improvements, updates, etc. Those who purchase Angry Birds get a lot of constantly updated content. And it’s a lot of work. The alternative is to release a new game every three months, but we chose a different path.

About whether Angry Birds was so “cool” that its popularity was predetermined, or some other factor worked; how the game was prepared for release; which platform brings more money and whether someone will be able to repeat the success of Angry Birds – read in the continuation of the interview.

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