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Mobile Marketing

App Developer Conversations: How to create and extend app franchises

Robi Ganguly  //  October 1, 2012  //  6 min read

In this week’s App Developer Conversations we discussed Rovio’s recently released game: Bad Piggies and explored how app developers can create and extend franchises.

We had a couple key observations:

  • Rovio’s ability to promote its other games with a tremendously large installed base is significant.
  • In general, app developers are really just starting to wrap their heads around building a relationship with their customers, but it’s clear that those who are doing it well can really grow their business.

Watch to find out more and be sure to see the other two segments from this week:

  • PlacePlay talked in more detail about iOS6 – one week in
  • MobileDevHQ talked about hard core games and if they’re appropriate for mobile

App Developer Conversations is a weekly video series with Ian Sefferman of MobileDevHQ and Ryan Morel of PlacePlay covering current topics of interest for app developers. If you have suggestions for future conversations, please let us know!

The Transcript
Robi: Hello. Welcome to Part 2 of App Developers Conversations this week. I
am here with Ryan Morel, of PlacePlay, and Ian Sefferaman,
MobileDevHQ.

Angry Birds is Rovio’s big hit, but now Rovio is coming out with Bad
Piggies, and they are trying to see if they can extend this franchise
into something else. I think it makes sense to talk about how a
publisher can really build a franchise, and how you can take an
audience from one app, or one series of apps, to other apps. Let us
kick it off with you, Ryan. You played the game, what do you think?

Ryan: I think it is fun, at least the 2 or 3 levels that I played. It is
interesting enough that I will play maybe a couple more and either
stop or keep going. I think that the nice thing that it has, and was
really smart on Rovio’s part, was making the pigs the central theme,
the central character of the game. I think we saw that despite Rovio’s
massive marketing muscle, which is massive. Amazing Alex, probably for
Rovio’s standards, is a massive flop, so using a character from the
Angry Bird’s franchise may a ton of sense for them.

You played a level or 2.

Ian: Yes. It is a good game right. It is fun, relatively simple, it will
be a good time waster for when you are sitting on a bus, or at the
airport, or something like that. I totally agree, using, leveraging
the franchise of Angry Birds is super-smart. I am always amazed at
walking into, I am ashamed to admit it that I have walked into a
Walmart in the last few months, Walking into a Walmart and seeing
Angry Birds toys and things like that. This just totally leverages
that. It is straight out of . . . Rovio has done a good job at
pretending they are a movie studio that does not make movies. They
say, ‘We are going to act as if we are Paramount, and Paramount knows
exactly that, whoever makes it, that Pirates of the Caribbean is a
monster franchise, or Pixar knows that Toy Story is a monster
franchise, if we need to extend that franchise, we extend that
franchise, it makes us like killing in the short term. That is a long
term play because you can do it over and over again. From that
perspective, it makes a ton of sense. It is something that I do not
think a lot of . . . EA has done it with Madden, things like that,
that is just a continual franchise, but not a lot of the casual games
have been able to do that, and I think it is really interesting to see
somebody do that.

Robi: How did you find out about it? Did you read press, or were you told
about it in one of their apps?

Ryan: I read about it.

Robi: OK.

Ryan: They do, Rovio pushes their stuff hard. If you go into any of their
iPad or iPhone games and you press pause, you will see ads for their
other ones. Clearly, a lot of people are finding out about it through
that advertising. I think it will be, I think it is an interesting
little test to see how many people will convert from Angry Birds to
Bad Piggies versus Angry Birds to Amazing Alex, whether or not that
becomes a barometer for their ability to produce non-Angry Birds
content. Angry Birds has shown no signs of slowing down. It has been
3 years, but you would assume that eventually it will. Do you not
think so?

Robi: Probably. It is not always top of the charts though, which it was for
a good period of time. I think what is interesting is their using a
bunch of their inventory instead of for advertising external stuff,
advertising their internal stuff. We, at Yahoo!, call that house
advertising and it makes a ton of sense, especially you are as big as
they are.

I think what is weird, to me, is that Rovio has not really done a lot
else to really build up their franchise. They have the ability to
subscribe to a newsletter and some of the apps. I do not know if you
have ever clicked on that. It takes you out to a webpage, which is
just really dumb. You are leaving the app and it does not really look
good on your phone, so I would be surprised if that was very
meaningful to them. Do you not think they could be more sophisticated?

Ian: Yes, absolutely. They are sophisticated in some of the stunts that
they do. I remember the Space Needle, that was super-smart, covering
the Space Needle with a sling shot and putting a big bird on there was
really interesting. I think they way that they branded that stuff,
doing that type of marketing is smart. I think they have not done a
good job of the traditional digital marketing, building a community
around this franchise.

Robi: Right.

Ryan: Right. Do you think that, I would guess that the reason is that they
just have not needed to. By the time they need to, it will be too
late.

Robi: That is the thing. If I was them, you got the dollars in your wallet
and the ability to invest; I would be investing as much, if not more,
than I was in new games and new opportunities, and making sure that my
ability to take people from one game to the next, to the next, was
really smart and intelligent. I was taking that audience and I was
moving them around my assets, and making sure that they knew about
what else I was doing. I think that is one of the places we see most
developers being really behind the marketing ball, where we think in
app messaging and the ability to really take your audience and talk to
them about the right things, you drive significant results. It is
instructive of where we are in the market, that a company a successful
as Rovio, is still pretty early and somewhat primitive in thinking
about this.

Ryan: I think it could be just a result of the natural extension of the
console-days. With mobile, it is really the first opportunity and the
first platform that companies have that cannot ‘own’ the customer,
despite the fact that Apple technically owns it.

Robi: Right.

Ryan: Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo have always been the gateways.
Although, Apple is now, there are still meaningful opportunities to
connect outside of the app experience with the App Store, Facebook,
their website, and all the different things you are talking about, but
just no one is doing it. EA is trying to build Origin. I cannot
remember the last time I heard anyone talk about it besides me. Could
they do a better job? The answer is obviously, yes, because eventually
someone’s going to. [inaudible: 06:43]

Robi: Anything else on this topic?

Ryan: I would just ask if you think, if either of you think Rovio has a
shot at doing something really successful, outside the Angry Birds
franchise?

Robi: I think that they probably could, if they were to take my advice.

Ian: Hire Rovi, and we can win.

Robi: Exactly. Founders@Apptentive.com. Seriously, I think if the fact of
the matter is that if they start to invest in turning their apps into
channels, to build a real meaningful audience, and it is not just
about the ads that they are using, but it is actually saying, ‘We are
going to turn this into a marketing funnel. We are going to get deeper
engagement from people.’ Then you can move folks, but otherwise, you
have to have a lose association that looks close enough to the Angry
Birds franchise and it is using the same characters, then of course,
somebody will click then go download your app. What do you think?

Ian: I think you are right on. It is interesting to me that, I think, EA
is a household name. Rovio is not, Angry Birds is. From that
perspective, it becomes hard. Angry Birds is the company, so branching
out of Angry Birds is a little bit more difficult, where as EA is the
company and EA has Madden, Tiger Wood’s Golf, and things like that. I
think they got to fix that problem first.

Ryan: The assumption that you can take a hardcore experience and put it out
into mobile and see the same levels of success, is naive and
borderline retarded. At least what I have seen in most the hardcore
games . . .

Robi: Stay Tuned for Part 3 of this week’s App Developer Conversations.
Thank you guys.

About Robi Ganguly

Robi Ganguly is the Co-founder and CEO at Apptentive. He is passionate about giving customers a voice via mobile. Follow Robi on Twitter @rganguly.
View all posts by Robi Ganguly >

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