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Rovio Stars: The Angry Birds' New Publishing Initiative Won't Make FPS or Survival Horror Games

Posted by Carter Dotson on June 19th, 2013

Rovio Entertainment, creators of Angry Birds, has a new publishing initiative called Rovio Stars that will see its first titles Icebreaker and Tiny Thief released soon. Kalle Kaivola, Senior Vice President of Product & Publishing at Rovio Entertainment, took the time to answer some of my questions about Rovio Stars.

Why launch a publishing initiative? What advantages will Rovio Stars have over other mobile publishers out there?

Expanding into publishing games was a pretty logical step for Rovio Entertainment to take. In the course of our work we run into a lot of interesting, fun and creative game projects - things we know our fans would love. Why not help the developers of these games to give them the final polish, and let our massive, dedicated fan base know of them? Right now it’s a huge challenge to get your game known in the avalanche of games and apps that are flooding the different app stores - it’s not enough to have a good game if you can’t get the word about it out there.

Rovio Entertainment is in an unique position to do exactly that. We communicate with our fan base directly on a daily basis, and they know they can expect quality fun from us. We also have a huge amount of know-how in creating mobile content, and we have a lot to offer to the developers in terms of helping them put the finishing touches to the project. Under Rovio Stars we do a bit more than a traditional publisher does in helping with the game project, things such as lending our expertise in QA and marketing.

When looking for titles to publish, what are you looking for in these games? Rovio has been one of the chief faces of casual gaming--will Rovio Stars largely focus on casual titles as well?

We are looking for games that have engaging gameplay, memorable characters, offbeat humour, and which are fun and addicting to play. The term casual is a bit tricky in the sense that traditionally it has connotations of simplicity and a lack of challenge, but as everybody who has tried to three star their way through Angry Birds games knows, that certainly isn’t true. It’s safe to say that we won’t be publishing FPS shooters or survival horror in the future, so the Rovio Stars games will casual games in the sense of being suitable and fun for all ages, from kids to grandparents.

Why should people ultimately care about the titles that Rovio Stars will be publishing?

The sheer amount of games on the app stores is a challenge not only for the developers, but also for the gamers - how to find the great game amongst the multitudes? This is where Rovio Stars comes in. It’s the stamp of quality that tells the gamer that the game they are about to buy has the same level of polish, engaging gameplay and quality fun as Rovio’s titles.

Getting To Know AppyNation

Posted by Jennifer Allen on September 13th, 2012

AppyNation is a publisher that's a little different from the rest. Just one glance at the company's website will tell you that. A cheery and vibrant looking site, its main page focuses on the games it has released (such as Fluid Soccer and Ninja Ranch) as much as a look at the indie games movement. Most famously, it has introduced a "Hall of Infamy," focusing on review sites that charge for coverage.

Describing itself as a "revolution in games publishing that favours independence and collaboration between developers and publishers," it all sounds pretty exciting and unique within the virtual wall of AppyNation. Most impressively, it's even been recognized by the British government and described by Culture Minister Ed Vaizey as "exactly what the games industry needs to grow," which is precisely why we decided to delve a little further into why AppyNation is a publisher that's very much worth keeping an eye on.

We checked in with Communications Manager Andrew Smith, previously best known for his sterling work on Snake/Geometry Wars crossover, Hard Lines.

148apps: AppyNation is described as a collective of developers. What makes you different from other publishers?

AppyNation: Exactly that – we’re not some monolithic presence that sits on top of a pile of developers telling them what to do. We are a pile of developers. But, y’know, slightly better organised than that suggests. It means our priorities come from the ground floor, from the trenches of development, from where they really should. We then feed everything we learn from every product back to all of the developers in the group, rather than storing it for our own means. The success of the group is down to the group, not just one or two superstars, and we’re not throwing tons of content out on the off-chance we get one or two mega-hit games. That’s just not how the Nation rolls. Boiled down to one word, what sets us apart from the others is love. Or hugs, the popular internet version of love.

148apps: How do you decide what developers become a part of AppyNation?

AppyNation: We were founded by a group of developers identifying a need for a publisher that’s truly on their side, and we’re still a bit young to be out there hunting down new members – but our doors are always open and we often get enquiries about what we offer and what kind of things we do that set us apart. When we do open our doors, it’s only for committed, talented developers with either a proven track record of quality output, or the promise of wonderful things to come in their near future. We also insist on a very open, flat structure and share knowledge 100%. Nothing is kept secret, no tricks of the trade go unshared, and the ups and downs are shouldered by the group as a whole. Again, this came from the needs of the founding members, after years and years of being taken advantage of and exploited by the more ‘traditional’ publishers out there.

148apps: Is it a conscious decision to stick with UK based developers or are there any expansion plans afoot?

AppyNation: Right now we’re all based [in the] UK, but that’s a circumstantial thing rather than something we’ve decided on. The UK is a hotbed of development talent – we’re so proud of our heritage in this aspect and we have a really bright future to look forward to, but that said we’re always on the lookout for like-minded developers to talk to and work with.

148apps: As founding members of O.A.T.S., we're delighted to see others stand up to app sites charging for coverage, which has been the case with your Hall of Infamy. How did it all come about?

AppyNation: We’re really glad it’s been supported so widely! It all started when a delightful PR lady by the name Charley Grafton-Chuck (who works at Johnny Atom) bemoaned the practice on twitter, and it got us thinking… everyone at the Nation HQ had seen this happen in the past, but had assumed it was dead and gone, nasty thing that it is. Seeing it crop up again in 2012 just seemed crazy. We took it upon ourselves to make a stand. AppyNation really does want to improve the industry for everyone – we fundamentally don’t believe that competition is mutually exclusive to collaboration – and this is just the beginning. We hope to keep publishing informative articles that really get people talking. Debate about issues is the best step towards resolving them.

148apps: There's a real sense of community about the AppyNation site. Was that a conscious decision in the planning stages?

AppyNation: Absolutely! We’re not interested in being a company that sits between the fans and the developers, or a figurehead, or anything like that. We want to be more of a flag that highlights the way to great games, interesting articles and blog posts, and that sort of thing. The developers we’re made up of are the lifeblood of the Nation, without them we’d be nothing. With them, we can do great things – and that’s why we wanted the website the way it is. Glad it worked!

148apps: Fluid Soccer (Fluid Football in the UK) has been your most successful release so far. How is it performing now that it's been out for a short while?

AppyNation: We’ve been so happy with Fluid Football, with nearly half a million downloads so far! A couple of weeks and one update down the road, it’s settled a little in terms of sales, but we’re still seeing thousands every day. The initial success was a great way to make a splash and some headlines, and we’re in a great position now to really grow the fanbase (not just installs, we want passionate fans!), expand sensibly into more territories around the world (naturally it’s been doing really well in football-friendly nations already) and really double down on updates. We’ve got another chunky update coming soon (after the bug fix and IAP Sale updates… which is still going on by the way!) and a very exciting plan for the long term. As long as the fans are there, we’ll be pushing out great stuff for them to enjoy.

148apps: What's the next step for AppyNation? Have you got any other games currently in the works? Able to divulge anything on them just yet?

AppyNation: We’ve got several games in the pipeline, with a really great puzzle game coming up next. I don’t want to tease, but it’s really good fun, a twist on a classic, and we’re all very excited about letting the fans get their hands on it. One thing we don’t want to do is limit ourselves to a particular genre, style, audience or even monetisation model. We firmly believe the game should determine that, and forcing something into such a delicate mix as a good game is asking for trouble – we all know it’s tough enough as it is to make a good game without voluntarily adding more complications. The developers we’re working with are always making great strides, and if the pace keeps up we’re going to be struggling to manage them all properly!

To find out more about the work that AppyNation does, check out its website.