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How Angry Birds plans to get to 1 billion fans

By Stacy Cowley, CNNMoney tech editor

FORTUNE — Here’s a fun stat: The 300 million players who have downloaded Rovio’s Angry Birds games have flung more than 100 billion avians — more birds than actually exist in the entire world.

“Our goal is to be the first brand with a billion fans,” Peter “Mighty Eagle” Vesterbacka, Rovio’s chief marketing officer, told attendees Thursday at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech. “We don’t talk about consumers, users — we want fans.”

Angry Birds might seem like an overnight, stroke-of-luck success, but it was the 51st game launched by 8-year-old Rovio, and the game’s now-iconic characters and addictive nature were carefully crafted. Vesterbacka isn’t impressed with much of what he sees cropping up on Facebook.

“I personally think a lot of the social games are not so much fun,” he said. “They’re a bit like smoking — you know it’s not good for you, but it’s hard to stop. But once you do stop, you don’t go back.  Our approach is that games have to be fun, so you want to go back and play.”

The social market — the one that built Zynga into a powerhouse with annual sales of nearly $600 million — may be peaking. PlayFirst CEO Mari Baker said her company’s research shows that smartphone gaming is growing much faster than social gaming.

Rovio isn’t putting all its eggs (the ones those malevolent pigs haven’t stolen away) in the gaming basket. The company recently acquired Finnish animation studio Kombo and is two to three years away from making its first movie: “There’s a lot more to the Angry Birds story than you’ve seen so far,” Vesterbacka said. It’s also launching a self-published book line, with its first title — an Angry Birds cookbook — due out later this year.

But the company is mindful that each new Angry Birds creation has to feel exciting and original. The wrong sequel model is the one Hollywood uses, when it tries to clone its hits.

“We’re not working on Angry Birds 2,” Vesterbacka said. “We’re working on new Angry Birds experiences.” He cited Nintendo’s Mario Bros. franchise as a role model, where dozens of installments have lured in new players for more than 25 years.

Watch the whole discussion in the video below:

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