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Peter Vesterbacka, whose company Rovio makes the immensely popular Angry Birds game, has a big vision for the future of mobile gaming.
Vesterbacka leads business development for Rovio, and he already outlined some of his vision earlier this week when Rovio announced $42 million in new funding led by Accel Partners. But he was even more expansive today, at a panel I moderated at the South by Southwest Interactive conference in Austin.
Innovation in gaming has clearly moved into mobile and social, Vesterbacka said, largely because those companies are more “nimble” — it’s easy to develop and release new content quickly. In fact, he said as mobile gaming (including games on tablet devices like the iPad) continues to grow, console games are “dying”. Vesterbacka scoffed at the traditional model where companies charge $40 to $50 for a game that’s difficult to upgrade. (Nokia’s Tero Ojanpera, who was also on the panel, countered that there’s still a place for consoles, because gamers aren’t going to plug tablet devices into their televisions.)
Of course, those $40 and $50 games are more likely to bring substantial revenue than Angry Birds (which is available in a free version and one that costs 99 cents), and that seems more sustainable for companies spending a lot of money building high-quality games using cutting-edge technology.
When it comes to the business model for mobile gaming, Vesterbacka acknowledged, “No one has figured it out yet.” But when a game can become as wildly popular as Angry Birds (Rovio just announced that it has crossed 100 million downloads), Vesterbacka said there’s clearly a business opportunity. He added that the key for Rovio is to continue experimenting and not become attached to any particular model.
By the way, when people talk about this trend, they often paint it as a competition between casual games like Angry Birds and the hardcore games found on the consoles. Vesterbacka said he’s tired of the phrase “casual games”. He complained that no one talks about “casual movies”, and he argued that an Angry Birds player can be just as involved and addicted as any other gamer — Vesterbacka said he has seen players throw their phone across the room when they din’t quite beat a level.