Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Rovio: Expanding the brand

Angry Birds grows their footprint with three new partnerships

by Martin Palicki

Angry Birds is on the move. As one of the most popular and viral mobile game brands in history, avian allies at Rovio have aggressively brought the Angry Birds IP to different leisure entertainment markets – from the silver screen to the putting green – since its launch in 2009. Angry Birds brand awareness globally is rated at 94% and it offers multiple touch points, including mobile games, movies, animated series, amusement parks, immersive digital experiences and physical products. When we spoke with Rovio in 2020, the team was launching a new branded Angry Birds experience for Topgolf venues located around the world [See “Swings and wings, eagles and birdies,” InPark issue #85].

Now, with the help of their licensing agency IMG, Angry Birds is branching out even further to immersive gaming venues, a touring stage show, and even a café retail experience. “LBE takes Angry Birds outside of the digital world and allows our fans to be part of a bigger story with real-life experiences,” says Katri Chacona, Director of Brand Licensing for Rovio.

Double slingshot power activated!

A natural progression for the brand emerged from Rovio’s introduction to Immersive Gamebox, an interactive gaming venue developer. The two organizations met during IAAPA Expo 2021 and quickly found synergy.

“There was a clear match in energy and passion for us,” says Immersive Gamebox’s SVP of Content, Noah Geelan. “Both teams were able to move with agility, which meant we could bring the adventure to life within months.”

The Immersive Gamebox experience takes place in a three-sided room with blended projected environments on all three walls. A variety of games are available for guests to choose from, a healthy mix of original and branded content, including Squid Game, Shaun the Sheep, and now Angry Birds. Up to six players can occupy one room at a time, and each wears a visor with small markers on the top, used to facilitate tracking during the experience. As guests move around the space, the content responds to them, essentially turning each wall into a giant screen that players can activate through motion and touch.

Designing the Angry Birds experience came intuitively for both Rovio and Immersive Gamebox. “We knew the main structures would make sense on the front wall of the game, in the center of the room,” explains Geelan. “Then it became clear very quickly that we could make the most of the large space inside and turn this into a multiplayer experience.”

How best to take advantage of this? The team created the first ever two-slingshot version of Angry Birds. Players work together in teams of two by using their bodies to pull back each of the virtual slingshots and aim at the central tower (and its pig inhabitants). They touch the wall to release the bird into the game and touch it again to activate the bird’s powers. Though players are working together, everyone has individual scores. Leaderboards track overall rankings. “After COVID, people were looking for more experiences, so what better way than to give them the opportunity to play Angry Birds in a completely new way with their friends,” said Chacona.

The game works thanks to Immersive Gamebox’s proprietary technology that responds to players’ movements and touch in each smart room. Patent-pending lidar sensors essentially turn the walls into giant touchscreens. Cameras in the corners of the room track the markers on each player’s visor, enabling three- dimensional motion tracking. By combining this tracking with projection mapping and surround sound, Angry Birds becomes a fully immersive experience.

Guests work in collaboration to slingshot Angry Birds, destroy the towers and earn points. Photo courtesy of Immersive Gamebox

The value for both Angry Birds and Immersive Gamebox is mutual. “We have found that third-party IP is great for bringing existing players back to try out a new game,” says Geelan. “It’s also an opportunity for the IP to engage their customers in a new and different way.”

Currently there are four different game modes for Angry Birds. As of press time, one more Angry Birds experience is slated to launch soon, called Egg Storm. The new addition includes an active mini-game where players run around the room to catch as many eggs as they can in the time limit. Players must stay inside the allotted space – stepping out will result in a penalty – while avoiding the pigs flying around the room who are trying to steal the eggs. Guests can team up with some of the Angry Birds flying around the space, activate their superpowers, and help catch more eggs before time runs out.

Angry Birds debuted at Immersive Gamebox locations in the US and the UK in June, with more locations planned in Germany, Ireland and the UAE later this year. Immersive Gamebox operates a concession model, meaning venues don’t have to be standalone facilities. They can also be integrated into FECs, theaters, theme parks and more.

Enter birds, stage left

Announced earlier this summer, Rovio is partnering with Kilburn Live to develop “Angry Birds Live: The Slingshot Adventure!” Planned as an interactive theatrical show, guests will have the opportunity to affect action on the stage with (naturally) a slingshot. “We are going to allow the audience to catapult objects onto the stage during the performance that will impact the outcome of the show,” says Mark Manuel, CEO of Kilburn Live. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Courtesy of Kilburn Live

The play will feature popular characters from the Angry Birds films. Red, Silver and Leonard will take audiences on a journey as they explore a new world, with plenty of adventures along the way. Kilburn Live engaged the Hollywood writing team of Bennett Yellin and James Johnston to write the show’s script. Yellin and Johnston said interactivity was key in the development of the show. “We made sure to incorporate a generous supply of moments into the plot where audience members – as well as some pre-selected kids – get to go onstage and directly assist the characters and help move the story along,” reported the duo. “No two shows will be exactly the same!” The writing team says adults will love the show as well; their approach is to “write smart, not write down,” combining physical gags for kids with some more sophisticated humor for adults.

Yellin and Johnston are approaching the production as a new adventure, and the pair is excited to be working with the characters: “Rovio is understandably very proud of their iconic brand and have maintained a quality control that we admire and hope to continue.” The show is expected to start touring in North America by the end of 2023, with plans for international productions in the future.

Sweet tweets

Fans will soon be able to visit the iSwii by Angry Birds Retail Café thanks to Rovio’s partnership with developers SCG. Located in the Tangram mall development in Flushing, New York, the café will primarily provide sweet treats, though the final menu is still in development.

SCG was led to Angry Birds via IMG. “We were seeking a global IP that has a balanced development approach to its targeted consumer, staying relevant, through its DNA of being a global leader in gaming, but also through other media portals such as television, streaming, and major motion pictures,” explains SCG Executive Director of Asset Management Robert Leck.

Angry Birds café: A concept rendering for the new iSwii by Angry Birds Retail Café coming soon to Flushing, New York. Image courtesy of SCG

The café is planning a special exhibition on cake decorating, with a pastry chef decorating pastries with popular Angry Birds characters. According to Leck, additional interactive experiences are also in development. “We are working with IMG, who is making many great introductions to key creative suppliers who are helping to bring our ideas to life,” says Leck.

SCG selected the location in New York for the mix of global consumers and local visitors expected to visit when the facility opens before the end-of-year holiday season in 2022. “Angry Birds appeals to a wide age range and gender-neutral audience,” says Leck. “That multicultural and familial community is exactly our target market. This will be our first café in North America. We are very excited about this, and of course we feel it will be the first of many iSwii by Angry Birds Retail Cafés that will open around the world.”

Furthering the brand

Along with guidance from Bay Laurel Advisors (headed by George Wade, a specialist in licensed attractions), Rovio’s global licensing agency IMG has helped expand the Angry Birds IP into the LBE marketplace.

Bruno Maglione, President of Licensing, IMG, says, “Angry Birds is not only one of the most popular mainstream mobile games ever, but it is also one of the most recognizable brands in the world, loved by people across generations and territories. We’ve worked to identify the right opportunities for the brand so that we can deliver memorable and authentic experiences to Angry Birds’ loyal fans as well as newcomers discovering the franchise for the first time.”

“The Angry Birds brand is over 10 years old now, so we are starting to see some of our fans starting to have their own kids and are introducing them to the game and characters,” says Chacona. “We know that as a multi-generational brand, we need to continue expanding into new marketplaces and media. Different experiences target different demographics. We have a wide range of products for different audiences – games for older audiences, movies and TV series for families and children, and LBE experiences for everyone.” Rovio wants to ensure that consumers don’t have only one touch point with the brand. Building the different programs tied to Angry Birds and the fanbase serves to elevate the entire brand collectively.

“We are an active licensor and want to actively work together with the licensees to ensure we get great end results that represent the Angry Birds brand the best way and delight our fans,” says Chacona. “The birds have personalities, and there’s a rich world they inhabit. Our fans know amazing amounts of detail about all of this. It’s really important for us to make sure that all Angry Birds experiences are true to the brand and fan expectations.”

The company continually looks for more ideas to incorporate Angry Birds into visitor experiences, and is actively seeking partnership ideas from both operators and industry designers. To that end, Rovio and IMG will be attending IAAPA Expo in Orlando this November. Interested parties are encouraged to set up meetings in advance with Luke from IMG, [email protected] • • •

Core Angry Birds

Rovio hasn’t forgotten that the brand started with a game, and their main business continues to grow mobile games and build value in that core Angry Birds concept. At the start of 2022, Rovio released the first slingshot mobile game in seven years, called Angry Birds Journey. The game takes on more of a movie-style appearance, with more detailed and stylized animation.

Last spring, Rovio re-released the original Angry Birds game, refreshing the classic look to add more visual elements, but with the same game levels and mechanisms for mobile phones. They launched the game as a premium model as it had been originally launched in 2009, enabling access to all levels with one payment.

Angry Birds Summer Madness debuted this year, the first long-format, animated series that is distinguished from other, short-format pieces and the two feature-length films attributed to the brand. The series introduced the characters as teenagers who spend a wild summer filled with explosive antics, improbable pranks and adventures at Camp Splinterwood. The show was released in January exclusively to Netflix, with two additional seasons of the series added in June and August.

The Angry Birds Topgolf experience continues to grow, with more venues added regularly. Currently there are 47 Topgolf venues in the US and one each in Germany, Dubai and Bangkok that feature the Angry Birds game.

In 2021, Licensing International awarded the Angry Birds Topgolf game a “Best Licensed Product” in the category of digital apps, software and video games. Also, North American Transform Awards recognized the collaboration with gold in the “Best Brand Experience” category. With over 72 million minutes of gameplay across US venues, Angry Birds continues to be the second most-played game at Topgolf.

Finally, Rovio has started working with partners on sustainability initiatives for the Angry Birds brand. Angry Birds Friends brought the birds together with Popeye to teach on sustainability issues in the ocean, and plastic use. The group also worked this year with the Playing for the Planet Alliance to get 15,000 trees planted in locations around the world, and collaborated twice with the World Health Organization in 2021 as well.

The Angry Birds characters have captivated and entertained people around the world. Image courtesy of Rovio
Martin Palicki
Martin Palicki
Martin Palicki owns and publishes InPark Magazine. Started in 2004, InPark Magazine provides owners and operators the perspective from "in"side the "park." Martin has also written for publications like Sound & Communications, Lighting & Sound America, Attractions Management and others. Martin has been featured in Time Magazine, CNN.com and Folio. Martin lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.

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