Five business lessons from Angry Birds

Size doesn't matter

Angry Birds has become an app phenomenon. There have been over seven million downloads of the game since it was released in December last year. But, proving that it's not about the scale of your budget or the size of your team, Angry Birds was built for under £70,000 by just four developers. It wasn't rushed out in record time either: the app took eight months to build because resource was needed elsewhere.

The firm behind Angry Birds, Rovio Mobile, still only employs 12 developers in total. Co-founder and CEO Mikael Hed believes this helps his firm maintain its edge in the marketplace: "A small team is advantageous when you're operating in a cut-throat market like the App Store, especially when thinking about how intense the competition is there," he says.

The lesson: Don't worry if you're a small business in a competitive space. Great ideas like Angry Birds will always fly.

Be technology agnostic

Rovio Mobile has created several versions of Angry Birds to play on a whole range of devices. The initial release was developed for the Apple iPhone and iPod Touch, but subsequent iterations brought Nokia, Symbian, Google and Palm's devices into the Angry Birds family. Rovia Mobile is also planning PC and Playstation versions of the game. This has not only resulted in increased sales for the games firm, it has also helped diversify risk: if one handset falls in popularity, the app will still have a market on the remaining phones.

The lesson: Spread risk by adapting to various technology platforms. This opens up new revenue streams and snags a wider customer demographic.

Get celebrity endorsement

If someone in the public eye likes your product or service, get them to shout about it. With social networks like Twitter, it's never been easier to source and distribute plugs for your business. Angry Birds fans include celebrities, politicians and sportsmen: David Cameron, Paul Gascoigne and Kylie Minogue are all self-confessed Angry Birds addicts. Keep tabs on your fans and make sure you make the most of testimonials and celebrity endorsements.

Lesson: Celebrities have never been more accessible: social networks allow them to interact easily with fans and followers. If a celebrity likes your business, make sure everyone knows it.

Extend your product

To make the most of their captive audience, Rovio Mobile is bringing out a range of toys next year. There is even rumour of a film version of the game - Pixar collaboration, anyone? Licensing and product extension are great sources of revenue for companies with consumer-facing products. Look into opportunities to create new revenue streams for your business and you, like Angry Birds, could find ever more lucrative ways to cash in on your big idea.

Lesson: If you have a successful product or service, investigate new ways to cash in on its popularity. You might not be able to make a move, like Angry Birds, but a range of branded stationary might go down a treat.

Don't give up

There's no magic formula for creating successful games. Rovio Mobile developed more than 50 other games before hitting the big time with Angry Birds. In fact, one of Rovio's game testers was nicknamed the 'Rovio Killer' because the games he tested always performed so badly. But Rovio mobile's CEO and co-founder Mikael Hed did not give up.

The lesson: You have to break a few eggs to make an omelette. This may mean that a few products or service offerings don't work out first time. Persevere, learn from your mistakes, and you'll come out on top.

The entrepreneur's view

Oli Christie, CEO of mobile app studio Neon Play, agrees that there are many lessons to be learned from Angry Birds, but warns that such runaway successes are rare in gaming, and in business. "Angry Birds has no doubt become the poster boy of iPhone games," he says. "All app developers dream of having an 'Angry Birds' of their own, so we can retire to the Caribbean.

"Sadly though, it's never as simple as that. Without doubt Angry Birds is a superlative game and it deserves its success, but it's not to say that if anyone spends eight months and £70,000 to make a game that it will have such phenomenal success."

"It's a risk and reward issue really. It's possible to get a mega hit, but it's incredibly hard with over 250,000 apps to compete with. Allegedly, only five per cent of developers actually make a profit on their apps and it would be interesting to know how many apps turnover £70,000 or more." Indeed, Rovio Mobile's actual earnings from Angry Birds aren't vast. At 59p per download, minus Apple's 30 per cent cut, the result is simply "Good profits," according to Rovio Mobile's tight-lipped CEO Hed.

"It's good to know that a well-designed app with cracking, addictive gameplay can make it big," concludes Christie. "With a bit of luck, some good marketing and Apple's support, we all still hope that we too can be the next Doodle Jump or Angry Birds."


Angry Birds costs 59p from the iTunes store. Check out the game trailer below.




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