Since the debut last spring of Angry Birds Land at Särkänniemi in Finland, a total of 10 Angry Birds themed attractions have opened around the world. Rovio Entertainment director of location-based entertainment Dan Mitchell tells us more about his mission to bring the brand from the digital world into the physical world.
Why did Rovio decide to enter the theme park and attractions market?
It really started as just another way for us to engage with our fans. Following the opening of Angry Birds Land at Särkänniemi, Rovio started fielding a huge number of enquiries, both from park operators saying ‘Hey, how we can we get one too?’ and also from fans, keen to see one in their country. So they went about formalising things and setting up a division to deal with location-based entertainment, which is where I came on board. I had heard about Särkänniemi and the great things that Rovio was doing there. When the opportunity presented itself to be involved in the start up of all this, as I had been as part of the team at Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Japan, it seemed to good an opportunity to miss. Rovio is a great company to work for.
Why have you chosen playgrounds as the main component to most of the Angry Birds attractions so far?
Some of that is because it’s a lot easier to engage people when they aren’t spending a lot of time queuing in line for attractions. We’ve heard great stories about husbands playing Angry Birds with their wives, children playing with their grandparents, and so on. It’s a family experience that people are doing together anyway, and we wanted to create shared experiences in the park too.
How important is it to gets kids active as part of the Angry Birds park experience?
It is important for us to have this blend of digital and physical in everything we do, and we feel good about encouraging healthy, active play with Angry Birds Activity Parks. But even in the gaming world there is a lot of great new technology coming out, things like “exer-gaming” and active play that takes us beyond what you may think of as traditional gaming.
How have some of the parks and attractions that have opened Angry Birds attractions benefited so far?
In some of the classic ways you would expect – attendance increase, overall length of stay, guest satisfaction, but also if you look at Särkänniemi it provided a ‘halo effect’ that provided a great uplift for the whole park. As a Finnish company, it was great to have the first attraction in our own backyard.
What criteria do you look for when choosing sites/partners?
We look at all the basics, such as site selection, attendance, financial viability, their core management strengths, but then we look at the fit between the brand and their company culture. The Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, for example, is at the hub of all the great attractions in Central Florida, but for us is was a great fit because beyond active play we also have a desire to be involved in education and learning, and here we were able to align ourselves with NASA’s role within science, technology and engineering. With each new location, we are refining our strategy. We want to be accessible to all our fans, so in addition to these gated admission attractions, we also have some free- to-play parks as well.
New Angry Birds attractions are being rolled out quite quickly. Do you have an optimum number of attractions per region?
Certainly there needs to be a balance. On one hand, we would like to be as successful as our game is; to reach as many fans as possible. But there obviously needs to be some sort of exclusivity from region to region, which makes sense from an operator’s standpoint.
What support can park operators expect when they sign up for an Angry Birds attraction?
One of the main things is our huge fan base, we now have over 1.7 billion Angry Birds downloads. We are continually updating our property all the time, and our partners will benefit from those updates and refreshes. We launched an animated Angry Birds television series earlier this year, and now we are working a full-length feature film. The great thing with Angry Birds is that it truly a globally-recognised brand. There are some great IPs [intellectual properties] out there, but when you start narrowing it down some of them actually have quite limited reach. Our brands are very attractive to operators looking to reach a global audience.
How important is the merchandising?
Merchandise was the way in which our fans first became active with Angry Birds in a physical sense, so it’s important for us as a company, but of course for park operators it is a great revenue stream. We have got some really great iconic characters.
What other attractions are currently in development?
It doesn’t just have to be playgrounds; there a lot of great things coming onto the market that are interactive, including older technologies with digital overlays, digital climbing walls, interactive booths with gesture-based gaming etc. We will do more traditional theme park rides and attractions, but only when we can add a layer of interactivity. I think in the right location, with the right attractions, we could also have a completely Angry Birds branded park.
Angry Birds around the world
The latest Angry Birds Activity Park by Lappset opened on 25 May at Lightwater Valley amusement park in North Yorkshire, England (see elsewhere on this page). The smaller English park Sundown Adventureland launched its own Angry Birds Activity Park last summer, and will soon expand it with the addition of various themed rides.
The original and largest Angry Birds attraction to date is Angry Birds Land at Särkänniemi in Tampere (Finland’s second city), featuring both a large Lappset play area and various Zamperla rides. Rovio has also partnered with the Finnish Holiday Club chain to realise Angry Birds Activity Parks at four of its properties across the country.
In the USA, Angry Birds fans can engage with the brand at Angry Birds Space Encounter at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Cape Canaveral, Florida, and Space Center Houston in Texas. Featuring a mix of play equipment, midway-style games, mazes and educational challenges, each of these attractions is dedicated to the Angry Birds Space franchise.
For the Harbin International Ice & Snow Sculpture Festival in northeast China earlier this year, Rovio produced an entire section dedicated to Angry Birds. Elsewhere in the country it has installed a number of free-to-use Angry Birds playgrounds, and has plans for many Angry Birds Activity Parks. The ambitious Finnish company is also considering additional attraction concepts around the world using some of its other intellectual property.