JP/Dina IndrasafitriSome might frown upon reading the title on Peter Vesterbacka’s business card: Mighty Eagle, the print beside a picture of a beak.
An organization’s top brass can go by many names, such as chief marketing officer, chief marketing director and so on, so Mighty Eagle might well be just another one.
The choice of words is much less puzzling when one becomes familiar with the company Vesterbacka works for. Finland’s Rovio Entertainment Ltd. is the company behind the smash-hit game Angry Birds.
It took only a few months after its release in 2009 for the puzzle game featuring wingless birds with knitted eyebrows to steal millions of touch screen device users’ hearts.
“Mighty Eagle” is also a character with extraordinary powers in the game, which involves the piqued birds trying to defeat green, google-eyed pigs who keep stealing the former’s eggs.
Within two years, Rovio announced that over 500 million had downloaded Angry Birds across various platforms, making it “the most downloaded game in the history of gaming, with no signs of slowing down,” the release on the company’s website said.
Angry Birds being “the next Pac Man” hardly suffices as the company’s target. “We want to be the next Mickey Mouse,” Vesterbacka said confidently last week after the launching of Nokia’s Asha 300 in Jakarta. The phones are equipped with Angry Birds, of course.
Given the ambitious targets and already impressive achievements of Rovio, it’s probably acceptable that Vesterbacka gets to have a unique take on the company’s top titles, but the rockstar-like experience goes beyond that. He also wore a flaming red hoodie with a picture of an angry bird during their launch, when other speakers were dressed in office attire.
One might ask when it stops becoming a privilege, though. In December of last year, the online version of The Telegraph published a photo of his wife wearing an Angry Birds gown to the Finnish palace.
Vesterbacka said the game has had quite an impact on his life, “from my clothing to my travel but I don’t think it changed my life in any dramatic ways in other regards. Still have a wife, two kids. I travel more than I used to. But it’s not like a massive change.”
His passion for work seemed endless as he described his plans for Angry Birds in the future, such as using Facebook to connect players and developing more merchandise.
“I think its exciting, it’s fun ... It doesn’t really feel like work,” Vesterbracka said.
It might well be almost all fun and games for the man who has been into video games since he was young. He still remembers playing classics such as Pac Man on his Commodore 64, and of course Super Mario, which he said he plays with his children nowadays.
“I love playing games … In every business you have to be passionate about what you do and I am passionate about games and entertainment,” Vesterbracka said.
His enthusiasm for entrepreneurship and marketing is another reason to love his job. Although he studied marketing, he said his actual learning about marketing and branding is from his 20 years in the industry.
In his spare time, Vesterbacka coaches at Sauna, a local startup accelerator in Helsinki. He is also a founder of Mobile Monday, a community platform for the mobile industry.
Education in general intrigues him. “The way we will change the world at Rovio, and that is something very important for me as a person as well, is [through] education. Then you get more tolerance, people will understand better … we started working on educational projects. There is no reason why we can’t make learning fun,” he said.
Among Vesterbacka’s advice for those trying to make it in the creative business are “attention to detail” and, for game developers especially, equipping oneself with marketing skills as well as those needed to make a good game worth marketing.
During his days at Hewlett Packard, he started the branding of HP Bazaar, an innovation center for mobile e-services. “Everybody else needed competence centers and all those boring things. I said ‘let’s call our program the HP Bazaar’, and then everybody asked what is HP Bazaar … we wanted to capture the atmosphere of a bazaar,” he said.
Living in Finland’s capital Helsinki also plays a part in fostering his passion for the creative. According to Vesterbacka, the country produces some of the best marketers and design experts and Helsinki itself is a good place for the creative industry.
“[Living in Finland] makes you a little bit crazy. It’s cold and dark, but I think it’s a good environment for companies like Rovio, Nokia. There are a lot of crazy people in a positive way. We do things differently,” Vesterbacka laughed.
According to him, Rovio itself has the typical atmosphere of Finnish companies, with a fair amount of egalitarianism. The working method usually involves small teams that are quick on their feet.
Vesterbacka recalled that the company was founded by three winners of a developers’ competition he organized. He advised the winners to start a company and make games. Six years and 51 games later, Angry Birds happened.
“What we want to be now, we want to be good at what we do and also [have] a great working environment, and people can be empowered to do things. People can make mistakes but again we learn from our mistakes. I cannot emphasize that too much. A learning organization … we learn new things every day,” he said.
Vesterbacka has had several stumbles in his journey as well. However, he said that one has to dare to make mistakes to be successful.
Accepting and even encouraging mistakes is something atypical for Finnish culture, he said. But such is the attitude that he is trying to instill in Rovio and also for the local owners of startups that he met with that day.
“If you are not failing, you are not trying hard enough,” Vesterbacka said.