Rovio has made no secret of the expectations and belief it has in its Angry Birds franchise, when The Angry Birds Movie 2, the sequel title to its 2016 box office hit, lands in cinemas later this year, kickstarting what it believes will be a revival of the Angry Birds brand at retail.
In fact, the company has gone on the record – and more than once – to highlight just how much it is investing in an all-new content slate and consumer products programme, rounding out what it states “is its biggest and most exciting roll-out of products and programming to date.”
2019 will mark the year in which all of its efforts over the past three years, amid declines in its licensing division (off-set by the success and major gains made in its mobile gaming division, by the way) owing to the spike in sales its consumer products saw in 2016 (at the height of The Angry Birds Movie’s box office success and retail impact), come in to fruition, once again.
Underpinning the latest innovations Rovio is driving, all in the lead-up to the launch of The Angry Birds Movie 2 this year, is the company’s newest advancement in the augmented reality space, with the launch of the Angry Birds Explorer app, officially launched to the app store only last week. The app challenges players to unlock content via hidden codes in the real world, codes that will be found hidden among the shelves of Rovio’s licensed Angry Birds products as consumers – and shoppers – navigate the aisles of Angry Birds product. If that doesn’t yell of a certain confidence in its product roll-out this year, then we don’t know what does.
Licensing.biz catches up with Rovio’s head of brand licensing, Simo Hämäinen about the new consumer experience.
Can you talk us through the Angry Birds Explore concept? There seems to be a number of different exciting aspects to it, how is this all brought together under the Explore app?
Angry Birds Explore is a platform for augmented reality experiences that Angry Birds fans can unlock by finding special codes in the real world. These codes will be found on our licensed products, on in-store displays, and elsewhere. Once scanned, the codes unlock unique AR experiences such as mini-games, an AR art studio, and other fun activities implementing augmented reality.
It’s all about extending our fans’ experience with our physical products into the digital Angry Birds world. There are also plenty of fun AR experiences to discover in Angry Birds Explore without scanning anything.
As a digitally native company, we have always been interested in the tech side of things and combining the physical and digital. With things like Telepods in the past, and then with Bird Codes used around the first Angry Birds Movie, we experimented with ways to augment player experiences in our games, but Angry Birds Explore is more of a hub for AR experiences than strictly a game of its own.
We are currently assembling a fantastic bunch of partners and some really fun games and experiences with AR tech, so it’s going to be a great way for Angry Birds fans to deepen their experience with the brand and with the products.
Why is now the right time for Angry Birds to be launching this retail concept? How does this mark a step change for Rovio’s approach to retail and licensing partnerships?
We have been a front-runner in physical/digital for quite some time, but the technology involved has changed. With more advanced mobile devices and things like Apple’s ARKit, AR technology is really starting to become more accessible to the average consumer in a meaningful way. That gives us a great opportunity to create awesome experiences for our fans through licensed products and in the retail environment. Retailers are constantly looking for ways to improve the shopping experience, and with Angry Birds Explore, and we can help them with that.
Now with The Angry Birds Movie 2 on the horizon, we’re working with more licensees who are looking for new ways to bring their products to life, and AR is a really engaging way to do that. We plan to make Angry Birds Explore an ongoing platform for more AR games and activities through the release of the movie and beyond.
How did this concept come about – what are you looking to achieve with the Explore app?
One pillar of Rovio’s strategy is to always be exploring emerging technologies and platforms. We knew we wanted to do something with AR that would tie together the physical and digital Angry Birds worlds. From there it was just working with our partners to discover what was possible and refine the experience.
We want to get people interacting with the Angry Birds world as much as we can. For the fans that are already playing the Angry Birds games, this could be something that enriches their experience even further. For those who maybe haven’t played the games, this could be their entry point to the characters, world, and humour. We would also like to see Angry Bird Explore users seeking out codes to scan in the real world.
We will have AR codes in hundreds of millions of Angry Birds licensed products, and in multiple retail campaigns.
What has the reaction been like from product partners and potential partners to this concept?
With our roots in games and tech, our partners always expect us to employ a tech element in tandem with our physical products. I don’t think there were any surprises there. However, the use of AR has been something that partners have been very excited about and Angry Birds Explore delivers on that promise really well as it has been specifically designed for licensing partners and retailers to bring their products and aisles to life.
So with everything that Angry Birds Explore is delivering – is this a defining moment for the relationship between licensing and retail? Will you be setting a precedent for the retail experience?
Retailers are constantly looking for ways to improve shopping experiences, and AR can be one of the solutions for the “Retailtainment” need and buzz. Licensees also want to expand their products to the digital world, and we have helped them to do that for years.
With Angry Birds AR codes appearing on hundreds of millions of individual products and in multiple retail campaigns, we’re doing this thing on a larger scale than we have ever done. We want to make this as big as possible and create a platform for AR experiences that will be around for years to come.
Has the tech itself been developed in-house or who have you partnered with for it?
Zappar has been our long-term partner when it comes to AR. We have worked with Zappar on Angry Birds Action during the first Angry Birds Movie’s release, and also with some books featuring AR elements before that so we continued that relationship with Angry Birds Explore as well.
What brands and retail partners have you got lined up for the concept?
We are really excited to announce what partners are taking part in Angry Birds Explore, but please stay tuned. We will be revealing more about this at the Las Vegas Licensing Expo in June, and more partners will be announced leading up to The Angry Birds Movie 2, and beyond.
We aim to have most of our licensed products involved in the programme. That includes all the major categories from toys to apparel and food and drink, so there will be plenty of opportunities for Angry Birds fans to discover new codes and new AR adventures on Bird Island.
What’s next for the Explore app and what Rovio is bringing to experiential retail?
We want to see Angry Birds Explore become a long-living platform, and through that, we can experiment with new ways to guide the user journey. How can we drive footfall to retail locations? How can we add to their experience while they are there? How do we enhance the user experience with purchased products? These are all questions that we are excited to answer with Angry Birds Explore.
We are living in very exciting times with Angry Birds, as we have the strongest content roadmap we have ever had. It kicks off with The Angry Birds Movie 2 in August 14, continues with a celebration campaign for the 10th Anniversary of Angry Birds in December and then continues into 2020 with our first ever long format Angry Birds animation, a few touring live shows, and an unscripted television competition show.
Angry Birds Explore will play an important part in supporting all these tentpole events and the associated licensing programs by bridging them to the digital Angry Birds universe through fun and cool AR experiences.