Rovio, the Finnish entertainment company behind the Angry Birds franchise, will officially announce today its next game, Bad Piggies, a physics puzzler in which the pigs from Angry Birds move from bit-part villains to center-stage heroes. “We consider this the launch of a new franchise,” says Petri Jarvilehto, executive vice president of games at Rovio, while he demonstrates the app for me on his iPhone in Rovio’s expansive (and expanding) eight-floor offices in Espoo, Finland.
I’m in Espoo to get an exclusive first look at Bad Piggies, which will cost $.99 on mobile and is slated to hit iOS, Android, PC, and Mac on September 27, with Windows phones and others to follow soon. (Pricing for the desktop versions is still being confirmed.) The game is set in the same universe as its counterpart, but it indeed feels like an effort by Rovio to parlay the pigs, which have a loyal following of their own, into a completely new brand for the company.
The swine are stranded on a desert island and have to build vehicles and contraptions to make their way to the delicious eggs that they can’t seem to get enough of. Though there is a three-star mechanic at work, there are no birds in sight, and the pigs are bouncy, jovial, and downright likable–a far cry from the snorting, antagonizing characters from the Angry Birds installments.
“I played it all last week during my holidays, and I was just loving it,” Niklas Hed, cofounder of Rovio, tells me at the company’s offices. Ever the perfectionist, Hed is already running down a list of final touches he’d like to see in the game before its launch. “It’s hard to explain,” he says. “You have to get the details right and iterate it so that it feels good.”
The game, which took about a year to complete, has the same addictive, pick-up-and-play quality that has helped the Angry Birds games soar past one billion downloads and pick up 200 million active users per month. There’s not much intense thinking required: An intuitive interface guides the player in assembling the vehicle, and if it crashes before collecting all three stars, the player is taken right back to the start screen. Many argue that this ease of play was lacking in the company’s last effort, Amazing Alex, which shot to number one in the App Store upon its release in July but has since drifted to #69.
Since the massively successful Angry Birds game first hit the App Store three years ago, observers have wondered about how Rovio could develop a second franchise. While the company has successfully expanded its business from mobile games to toys, animation, candy, books, and numerous other initiatives, it has yet to strike gold again when it comes to replicating the global success of the Angry Birds game and its characters. “It feels like when we’re launching anything, some shadow of Angry Birds will be hanging over it,” says Ville Heijari, vice president of franchise development.
Rovio, whose consumer products now make up more than 30% of its revenue, already has plans underway to use merchandise to promote Bad Piggies and turn it into a “sub-brand.” “This is a long-term commitment,” Heijari says. “This is the sibling of Angry Birds, and it will get a lot of push over time.”
Last week, the company, which has gained a reputation for teasing its projects, opened Facebook and Twitter pages with the Bad Piggies moniker, and followed up with a short teaser trailer for the game. The pages have already amassed more than 16,000 followers, while the trailer has been viewed more than 300,000 times on YouTube.
Rovio has a big fall planned, so check back with Fast Company in the coming weeks to learn what’s next.