A promising statement from Mikael Hed at Rovio.
We took something from the music industry, which was to stop treating the customers as users, and start treating them as fans. [...] If we lose that fanbase, our business is done, but if we can grow that fanbase, our business will grow.
I have three suggestions for steps Rovio could take to build their fan base.
One: Release the game engine as copylefted free software. This would allow the free software community to hack and innovate on the engine yet require the community to give those improvements back to Rovio. This could lead to a better engine and even if it doesn’t, it will surely draw more people to the game (the headline itself would be huge, let alone the practical interest it would generate). Rovio would still be free to release their own proprietary version of the engine if they made innovations they didn’t want to share. Further, they could sell exceptions to the copyleft requirements if third parties wanted to use the engine in another application and release it as proprietary software.
Two: Apply a CC BY-NC license to the game’s skins and related artwork with proactive demands for attribution. The Non-Commercial restriction would work well alongside restrictive trademarks to protect certain revenue streams. If someone tried to sell products (e.g. other game versions or stuffed toys) that used the copyrighted works without permission, Rovio could take legal action but fans would be free to remix and display the artwork for non-commercial purposes. This could lead to Angry Birds artwork being seen by more people and therefore, generate more interest in the game. This is not to say that Rovio is actively pursuing fans who do amateur remixing, but why not explicitly promote it by changing the copyright terms?
Three: Authorize/endorse an official version of Angry Birds built by fans. Encourage fans to use the above openness to build new levels. Hold a contest and pick the top levels that make it into Angry Birds Fanatics. Also, a contest could also be held to develop new birds. Again, a contest where Rovio determines the best fan-made bird that makes it into the official version. Such steps would surely generate an even larger fan base.
Any other ideas?