Do you have any portion of your retirement fund invested in electronic entertainment? Read this, then call your broker. This week, preferably.
So I had to look a name up for this post, though in retrospect I’m not sure why I bothered. I’m reasonably certain that the name “Peter Vesterbacka” will permanently cease to be noteworthy in the next year, if not sooner. Mr. Vesterbacka is one of the head marketing executives for Rovio Mobile. Still no idea? Rovio makes a game you may have heard of called “Angry Birds.”
Anyway, this guy recently claimed that his company was worth as much as Zynga (whom you might know from Farmville, et. al.) within earshot of someone who actually printed it in a magazine. For the record, Zynga is probably worth substantially more than a billion dollars (yes, that’s billion) so for this character to claim that his company and it’s inexplicably successful bird-catapult simulator somehow rates ten figures takes some serious pills, me droogies. They’re in high cotton now, but the fact that they’re flogging this license into Angry Birds toys, Angry Birds clothes, Angry Birds jewelry, even an Angry Birds cartoon show, indicates one of two things to me:
A) Management knows that they got lucky, knows that they have no more ideas of any substance, and that they’d better cash in right now before this thing collapses totally.
B) Management has no idea that they got lucky, and furthermore are so utterly clueless that they lack any grasp of the fact that flooding the whole world with Angry Birds merchandise is the fastest and surest way to engineer a backlash against your brand from which it will never, ever recover.
In any event, this will be bad for anyone who’s got any financial stake in Rovio. I understand that they aren’t a publicly traded company at the time of this writing, but you never know who might catch wind of this.
Moving on. In every other respect beyond the sheer volume of cash involved, I find it pretty appropriate that the guy I was talking about above decided to compare his company to Zynga. I will state right now that I believe Zynga is about to become the gold-standard example for what happens when an entertainment company underestimates the speed with which your audience’s sophistication can grow. I have a theory about hardcore gamers (such as myself) and Zynga games. You see, if a Zynga title snares a ‘core gamer, the fascination doesn’t seem to last too long. I think this is because Zynga titles seem to consist mainly of all the horrible, tedious, repetitive, soul-crushing parts of games like Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy without delivering any of the good stuff.
Now please note that this is tantamount to saying that Zynga games are very much like the first installments of Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, which are now both venerable franchises. The games us ‘core gamers played in our childhood have evolved into products with less grinding for levels/gold/whatever that deliver a more rewarding, more articulated experience. What I’m getting at is that we’ve been innoculated against Zynga treadmill games because we already did all that twenty years ago. If a company were to release a game that bore a fundamental mechanical similarity to the first Dragon Quest or the original Final Fantasy, they’d be laughed out of the industry by the vast majority of their target audience. We’ve played that game. We want something better.
Mark my words. If it can happen to socially awkward, angry young men, it can happen to bored housewives, too.
Now this is all speculation on my part, but I think it’s pretty solid. I understand games. I know a good one when I see it, and neither of these companies have products that really justify their success. We’re at this moment living in a world strangely similar to the one we lived in at the turn of the millennium. Whether or not this money will vanish when exposed to direct sunlight remains to be seen, but if I were you I’d keep my savings in Gold or Blue Chips for another few months at least.
(Oh, and by the way, I’m not a financial advisor. I’m a teacher. I can find my my own *** with both hands and a map.)