Rovio: Saved by the Birds
It’s not often that an app store mobile game is made into a Hollywood movie, never mind two. After three students at Helsinki University compete and win in a mobile game completion in the early 2000s, they found their own company named Rovio, a Finnish word that translates to “pyre.” The first 6 years were rather like living on a pyre: not very stable and rather dangerous. They released game after game only to be met with dismal results.
Fast-forward to 2009. The company lost most of its staff, had fifty-one failed games under their belt and were edging towards bankruptcy. Out comes Apple’s iPhone, relatively new and gaining steam. The company’s last chance to redeem itself, they got to work.
The only designer left, Jaakko lisalo started sketching animals, something he always loved doing since childhood. He kept it simple, drawing a simple round bird with a beak, some angry eyebrows, and using primary colors to fill them in. They started adding more layers to the game. Realizing they needed an enemy, Lisalo drew a cartoonish pig that his mother said he had been drawing for years. They added a slingshot to make the game more intuitive to players. Combing all these pieces together, they created Angry Birds – a game that continues to dominate the cultural zeitgeist to this day. They released the game and within three months in the Apple Store, it went viral.
Rovio’s story reminds aspiring entrepreneurs that the romantic idea of overnight success umbrellas over years of failure, tweaking and dedication.