Interview with Rovio: “We’re quite confident that we can make quantum physics fun”

12 Oct, 2012

Gotta love Twitter. We pinged Peter Vesterbacka in our story about the collaboration between CERN and Angry Birds, and half an hour later we saw this tweet:

So here’s the interview!

How exactly do we imagine a collaboration between Angry Birds and CERN? 

Peter Vesterbacka (laughs): ‘Well, it will bear strong similarities to the way we already work with NASA.

For quite a while, we’ve been quite big on learning here at Rovio, and we’ve been investing a lot of money in creating learning services. So what we announced today – together with CERN – is the Angry Birds Playground brand, that we’ll use for all these things. Our goal is actually to make learning fun. I always use the example of how boys in Finland speak better English than girls since the late eighties, because boys play more games in English when they copy what they see on television. They learn by mistake almost, it’s not that they set out to learn English. They’re just having fun, but they end up speaking better English. That’s pretty much what we try to do with Angry Birds Playground.

We’ve had many discussions with CERN in the past months, the talks go back even from before they found the Higgs Boson – which we had some fun announcing together. So we essentially said: modern physics is exactly 100 years old, but it’s not really well understood. I certainly don’t understand it (laughs). Like most people, if you would say, ‘I’m going to teach you about quantum physics, I’ll say, okay, maybe next time because I have a meeting, you know? It just doesn’t seem like the most exciting thing.

But we think that together with CERN, it must be possible to come up with a way to teach this. I mean, these people at CERN are obviously the best brains on the planet, and we have some pretty good people working at Rovio to. So we’re working on all kinds of books, animations, board games, etcetera. And obviously, we’re not going to tell you that you’re learning about quantum physics – we’ll just make a game and you’ll learn about Higgs fields and stuff. We already had a small example when we announced the Higgs Boson, when we showed how pigs and birds collide in a particle physics accelerator – but obviously that was only a very trivial example, we’re working on much more stuff.

We’re really excited about working with CERN. I don’t know if you’ve very been there, but it’s an amazing, fun place, where you bump into all these crazy smart Nobel winners in the cafeteria.

Do you see this as a money making venture, or more a philantropical project?

Vesterbacka: We’re running a business, so we expect to make some money as well. But if you look at how we do things, monetisation is not the first object. We want to make fun experiences for our fans, and we think that if we make great games, we’ll make lots of money. We’re not: make a monetisation scheme and call it a game, we do it the other way around.

What do you think?

Personally, I think this collaboration is somehowe delightfully subversive, both on the part of CERN and of Rovio – probably more so for Angry Birds, because getting CERN to work with such a young company is in some ways the ultimate marketing hack, right? Do you have any insights on this? Know any great collaborations between brands and revered institutions? Let us know at

Photo: let’s excite some electrons!

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About the author

Raf Weverbergh

Editor of whiteboard. Raf Weverbergh was a magazine journalist whose work appeared in magazines like Rolling Stone, Playboy, Mail on Sunday, Publico and South China Morning Post. He is the co-founder of FINN, a corporate communications agency where he advises startups and multinationals on their PR and Mustr, the easiest media database for PR professionals. You can contact him on Twitter, Linkedin or Skype (rafweverbergh).

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