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Angry Birds: Trying Not to Be Pac-Man

Peter Vesterbacka sat down at TechCrunch Disrupt: Beijing this morning to discuss his company and where it was headed.  Peter’s been spending a great deal of time in China lately since China’s is in love with the Angry Birds.

That love is so much so that copycats and IP infringement abound.  Peter jokingly said he was taking some of these ideas back home for the guys to copy – “pirate the pirates.”  This appears to be a more light-hearted approach than how he was last March before the  Global Mobile Internet Conference.  He certainly still doesn’t approve, but perhaps he has come to the conclusion that it is almost impossible to fight here in China.

Peter touted the download numbers of Angry Birds, which hit 100 million last March.  He said that Rovio built the game to be a hit, though it took 51 games to get to that point.  He believes that all of Rovio’s other games were good, but the platform and the ecosystem didn’t exist to make success possible.  With the iPhone that changed.

Ultimately though, Peter believes in brands.  He sees a strong brand in Angry Birds and declared that Rovio is becoming a “entertainment” company rather than a “game” company.  He often made references and comparisons to Disney. Angry Bird themed products have been rolling out consistently over the last few months, from shoes to stuffed toys.  The success there has been great enough that Rovio will be opening retail stores in China as well as back home.

Pac-Man had its own cereals, shirts, etc., much like Angry Birds is doing, but it is now firmly a relic of the 1980’s only seen on retro gear at this point in time.  When asked if Angry Birds was this generation’s Pac-Man and if Angry Birds will face the same fate, Peter said no.  When pushed for a reason, he said he believed that it was a learning process and Rovio was actively trying to learn from its own mistakes as well as others to avoid becoming irrelevant.  Peter believes that the current ecosystem, with its bigger and faster distribution channels, is so different from the 1980’s that Angry Birds has a real shot at transcending out of the game realm into something much more powerful.

As a final line of defense, Peter said frankly, “Pac-Man didn’t have a movie, Angry Birds will.”

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