How Rovio Fought Off Bankruptcy to Make Angry Birds

By Alexis C. Madrigal

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Right?

For the maker of Angry Birds, everyone's favorite time waster, it actually took 51 tries before they created the perfect casual game. Wired UK has an excellent profile of how the company battled back from bankruptcy to become one of the hottest entertainment companies in the world. It's more inspiring than you'd expect.

First they had to save a company in crisis: at the beginning of 2009, Rovio was close to bankruptcy. Then they had to create the perfect game, do every other little thing exactly right, and keep on doing it. The Heds had developed 51 titles before Angry Birds. Some of them had sold in the millions for third parties such as Namco and EA, so they decided to create their own, original intellectual property. "We thought we would need to do ten to 15 titles until we got the right one," says 30-year-old Niklas. One afternoon in late March, in their offices overlooking a courtyard in downtown Helsinki, Jaakko Iisalo, a games designer who had been at Rovio since 2006, showed them a screenshot. He had pitched hundreds in the two months before. This one showed a cartoon flock of round birds, trudging along the ground, moving towards a pile of colourful blocks. They looked cross. "People saw this picture and it was just magical," says Niklas. Eight months and thousands of changes later, after nearly abandoning the project, Niklas watched his mother burn a Christmas turkey, distracted by playing the finished game. "She doesn't play any games. I realised: this is it."

I've long thought casual games are like pop songs. Everyone knows roughly what they're supposed to sound like, but getting everything just right is stupendously unlikely. Since nearly every single casual game or pop song won't be a hit, the key skill seems to be the right ear (or fingers) to feel when something isn't good, but great. Or maybe you just have to get lucky.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/03/how-rovio-fought-off-bankruptcy-to-make-angry-birds/72250/