Riccitiello: Adding a Star Wars brand is not an innovation

Former EA CEO has some harsh words for the makers of Angry Birds

Rovio has been the subject of a stern warning from former Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello, after he questioned the way the company had gone about expanding its brand.

"I don't think branding has anything to do with making stuffed toys," he said at Gaming Insiders Summit, as reported by Polygon.

"They are great ways to extend brands but they can also diminish a brand. They can counter relentless innovation and polish.

"Adding a Star Wars brand is not an innovation. It plays pretty much as it did. Maybe tomorrow they will do something so fundamentally innovative that they will prove me wrong, but they haven't really mastered the microtransaction model. I wish they had put as much innovation and energy into the code as went into all the other stuff. Maybe they wanted to be Disney before they had done enough."

Funnily enough back in 2011 Rovio's marketing boss Peter Vesterbacka mentioned the same entertainment empire in a discussion about a possible IPO.

"Disney is worth $60 billion... that is our goal, and there is no reason we couldn't build a company that size."

Riccitiello departed EA in March.

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Latest comments (26)

Zbigniew Lebkowski 3D Artist & Animator 4 years ago
And since when were angry birds ever innovative?
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He's right I'm sure but the dogs on the street know Angry Birds is a light game - great at what it does but nobody serious looks to it for innovation. Industry execs however think "Because it makes millions, it has all the elements of great gaming and ought be taken seriously". Fair enough but millions in sales doesn't turn a hamburger into a steak. Maybe Rovio just wanna sell hamburgers.
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Tom Keresztes Programmer 4 years ago
The force is strong in this one.
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Show all comments (26)
Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 4 years ago
I must have missed the bit where Rovio said Angry Birds Star Wars would be the Mona Lisa of gaming.

Newsflash: Making stuff people like. Still OK.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 4 years ago
... says the man who added the Star Wars brand to World of Warcraft.

Without adding licensed franchise names to pre-existing products, the video game industry would not be where it is today. You can make of that what you will, but EA wouldn't be where they are today without licenses attached to their games.
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Nicholas Pantazis Senior Editor, VGChartz Ltd4 years ago
@ Christian EA put more money into The Old Republic than they did all the Mass Effect games combined... so no, EA banked on people seeing "adding Star Wars" as innovation and lost big on it.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 4 years ago
@ Christian

EA built a sports empire on the idea of their product being the one with the official license. It's EA FiFa, not EA Football. It took quite a while before those games became the benchmark in terms of gameplay.

The money EA made with those games was then spent buying the developers of the IPs you mentioned.
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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game4 years ago
Adding Star Wars may not be innovative, but adding Firefly, that' a whole other shiny story.;)

Mass Effect may not be the best example of an EA created IP, as the first game was published by Microsoft.

JR giving the ol' trash talk does make me wonder if he has a new company, or a company he has investments in, that is trying to be a main rival. Or is he saw that Rovio broke their relationship with Chillingo and moved to self publishing as soon as they heard the latter had been acquired by EA?
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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game4 years ago
But then isn't your earlier comment that
they always came up with their own IPs,
not entirely accurate?
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Edmund Gill Creative Director, SkillKash Limited4 years ago
Rovio is no Disney, and Zygna is no Nintendo. They did the right thing at the right time, but had nothing to follow it up with. Same can be said for Popcap with Bejeweled, an 80's game delivered at the right time on mobile, but it's not their innovation. It's a clone of Shariki. Good luck to them, but none of them have ever delivered any real innovation.
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John Riccitiello Investor 4 years ago
My comment was in response to a question about gameplay innovation. I love both Star Wars and Angry Birds and expect the new game to do well. But putting the two together does not, by itself, represent gameplay innovation.
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Raymond Goldsmith Chairman & CEO, ISM4 years ago
But they did say they will be another "Mona Lisa" like Disney which is just pie in the sky, or is it pigs !!
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John Riccitiello Investor 4 years ago
And note...I no longer am associated with EA.
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Raymond Goldsmith Chairman & CEO, ISM4 years ago
For sure it's been a phenomenal success but as a gaming IP let's put it in to perspective. Nintendo just achieved revenue in one weekend equal to that of Rovio's entire fiscal year !!!

They are slapping the brand on just about anything they can slap it on which is a sure sign of it being fashion led, with no strategic brand long term purpose and for sure, the fickle public will move on one day soon to what ever next becomes fashionable !!

There is nothing deep here it is what it promote and compare their stuff with something like Mario Kart insults intelligence...just like they are one day going to be another Disney !!!
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Edmund Gill Creative Director, SkillKash Limited4 years ago
Angry Birds and Star Wars don't really fit do they? As a Star Wars fan. I don't feel comfortable and think it damages the Star Wars brand. As an Angry Birds player, I don't think it adds anything to this type of game. It feels llike what it is, a commercial arrangement. Do Angry Birds players care about Star wars? I'm not so sure. Do Star wars fans care about Angry Birds, I doubt it.
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angry birds is the new kids on the block/nsync/hanson-jonas bros. of games. Popular sure, but will it stand the test of time? or just be replaced by the next kid band?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Todd Weidner on 18th October 2013 6:48pm

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Ruud Van De Moosdijk VP of Development, Engine Software4 years ago
Although I can see why a lot of people would say that Angry Birds Star Wars is still a money making product for Rovio, so it was a good decision. But I agree with John and also Raymond above that just slapping brands on everything does not make your more valuable or durable. In my eyes Rovio (and some other companies) have had a humongous hit but so far have lacked the right attitude to be more than their one hit. It takes more than rehashing the same thing to be a lasting creative and commercial force, and I am sure John will agree. I seem to remember that the rehashing of EA's FIFA series without innovation stopped after John took the helm, EA is still churning them out but at least the products themselves have been worked on, innovated and improved.
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Robert Mac-Donald Game Designer, Lethe Games4 years ago
Doing a re-skin of Crush The Castle (a popular flash game) with angry birds in it wasn't an innovation either. It sure made it one of the most popular things this age.

Andt they are still nowhere as popular as angry birds.

Not defending angry birds nor the lack of innovation, Just stating some uncomfortable facts about what is really going on with the industry.
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Simple we evaluate him on THIS strategy, and if it tanks we move on to the next executive - no need for long winded features trying to manage expectations.... either it works in six months or he is out! Simples.
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Christopher Ingram Editor-at-Large, Digitally Downloaded4 years ago
Rovio didn't prove itself with Bad Piggies? Not only did the game expand on the "Angry Birds" franchise in a new way, but it's a fantastic game on its own as well.

Also, why is it so bad for Rovio to build a massive revenue stream outside of its digital media? Nintendo has done this with its Pokemon franchise, Sega has done this with the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise and Activision has done this with its Skylanders franchise - what videogame publisher wouldn't want to capitalize on this market?
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Marty Howe Director, Figurehead Studios4 years ago
Games don't need to be innovative, they just have to be fun.
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Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game4 years ago
You could say the same about Lego Star Wars, but like that, kids love it, it introduced many of them to Star Wars to the first time, which is clearly good for LucasFilm/Disney, and actually, I know plenty of Star Wars fans who like the humour and references, even though some others may not.

Echoing an earlier comment, innovation is good, but not everything needs to be innovative, iteration is fine if it is good.
That and not all innovation is good, meeting a character in game that offers you a quest, then takes you out of a games to a DLC store was innovative, I'd rather that hadn't been done.
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Adam Campbell Game Production Manager, Azoomee4 years ago
One should practice what one preaches.

Angry Birds is not an innovative game, its a successful one and adding Star Wars amongst other brands is a good business move for them.
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Klaus Preisinger Freelance Writing 4 years ago
Player names, car brands, music, guns, military vehicles, there is no limit to what is being licensed in console games. There is not a quarterly report to be found that is missing licensing costs in the millions of Dollars. It works, so it is being done over and over.

The app stores on mobile phones are a cesspit of games having been rebranded with other IPs. "Temple Run Oz" or "Temple Run Despicable Me", take your pick.

We laugh about Sharknado, because for a moment there, we were lucid enough to see how a dumb movie is made more appealing by virtue of its outrageous title and premise. If it is done with a dumb game and a brand we like, we ignore it. Why? Collectively, the app store has decided, we are fast asleep while being mined for money with any pre-established impulses that will trigger a reaction. Wait for Star Trek Peggle, Mickey Mouse Zuma, Doodle Jump Avengers and Plants vs. Batmen.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 4 years ago
@Klaus: Althooooough... I hear Marvel Puzzle Quest is actually pretty good. Sometimes licensing works, sometimes (okay, most times these days) it doesn't...
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Roland Austinat roland austinat media productions|consulting, IDG, Computec, Spiegel Online4 years ago
As I said before, I wouldn't say sports games based on licences are comparable to movie, book or comic licences. It's something completely different.
I have read this sentence many times. It still makes no sense. Any license is the framework for - in our case - a game. There's no way around that.
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