On the back of its huge breakout success with the Angry Birds franchise, which has accrued well over a billion downloads and has spread its wings away from mere gaming to plush toys and merchandising, Rovio has made no secret of its intentions to expand its offerings.
As well as looking to snap up IP from third-party developers, such as the recent acquisition of Casey's Contraptions, now known as Amazing Alex, earlier this year the Finnish company announced its attention to build a new 30-person studio in Stockholm, Sweden.
And having already made an impressive coup by appointing ex-EA Easy GM Oskar Burman to head up the studio earlier this month, the developer has already brought on its first hire in the shape of DICE and Battlefield 3 senior producer Patrick Liu as its new creative director.
Develop asked Liu why he decided to leave DICE after its huge success with Battlefield 3, and how he plans to move Rovio forward.
Why did you decide to join Rovio?
I think they are really exciting. I’ve been looking for something new to do, just from a personal standpoint. I’ve been doing the other kind of games for a while now and I’m always very restless. The Rovio opportunity turned out to be very unique.
They’re giving us this chance to build something new from scratch, and it’s in Stockholm which I love. It’s just a very unique opportunity that I couldn’t say no to.
What does your new role as creative director actually entail?
I’m not sure actually. It’s just Oskar and I right now. We’re only two people but we are hiring. We’re going to build a new team of probably around 30 people.
But in the short term I’m going to help build up the studio, head up the culture of the it and what we’re doing, and then probably move on to what kind of games we’re going to build.
What are your plans for the future? What kind of content are you looking to create?
We’ll see. I can’t say that much right now. Obviously we’re looking into building all kinds of stuff. Rovio needs to, and I think its known, that it is exploring other areas, we can’t just be doing Angry Birds.
But that said we’re going to look into that a lot as well and we’ll see in the future what comes out of it.
So you’ll be looking to make more new IP internally rather than more third party acquisitions?
I can’t comment on that.
This role seems quite different to what you’ve done before, why have you chosen this particular role?
I’m pretty convinced there will be a convergence of mobile and traditional core games, that they’re moving towards each other both ways.
Looking at what I’ve been playing personally lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time on my iPad playing games and I really want to work with stuff where my passion is, and I feel that right now this is where my passion really is, and that’s why I looked into doing this.
When do you think you’ll have the full development team set up?
We hope to do it as soon as possible. As soon as we get enough people in we’ll start doing things. There’s no real timeline, we just want to get things started as soon as possible.
Have you and Oskar drafted up the ideal people you’d like to bring in or is that still an on-going process?
It’s an on-going process, it’s all very new still, especially for me. We’ll see, hopefully we’ll have a good plan soon.
Why did you decide to leave DICE? Especially after five years as senior producer there.
I think it’s good timing really. DICE is a great studio, DICE has never been as good as it is right now after shipping Battlefield 3. We have a really great momentum at DICE. I feel like it’s better to leave on a high note than when times are bad.
I’m happy with what I did for Battlefield 3, and now it’s time to do something else.
What do you mean by doing something different? You’d prefer to work with a smaller team? Different platforms?
Exactly, a new creative environment, new challenges. And building a studio is really my biggest excitement, I’ve never done that before. That opportunity to build a studio is really what drives me right now, so that’s the main reason.
Obviously David Goldfarb has also left recently, but you said this is a great time for the studio. Is there a sign of there are some sort of problems there? Or that people don’t want to work at such big developers now?
No. I think specifically David and I are really coincidences. I don’t think there’s been anyone else that has left DICE lately, it’s just coincidence.
But you just wanted to move away from that kind of environment?
As I said, I go where my passion is. Never say never. My passion might return to triple-A military shooters one day and hopefully I’ll be able to return there. But right now I feel like I want to try out making mobile games and build a new studio.