At one point a few years ago, Rovio was the hottest company on the planet, thanks to its best-selling Angry Birds franchise that was seemingly everywhere. Between licensing, business deals and various releases in the bird-flinging series, Rovio saw a huge profit for the past few years. 2014, however, told a different story.
A report from Time showed that the publisher had a drop in revenue last year, down to $158.3 million ($169 million), with profits dropping to $10 million ($10.6 million). In addition, licensed merchandise sales also plummeted, dropping from $73.1 million ($75.7 million) to $41.4 million ($44 million) in just a year’s time.
Even with new releases from the company, including Angry Birds Transformers, it was clear that the franchise was losing steam, with the industry-wide move to free-to-play games leaving the original premium model of Angry Birds behind. Rovio made changes to the game, added more sequels and free-to-play versions, as well as reorganizing the company.
Now, according to Fast Company, the company’s new CEO, Pekka Rantala, has a plan to bring the company back to high profits. After spending 17 years at Nokia (where he was VP for marketing the company’s gaming handheld N-gage), Rantala brings heavy experience to the role. He has a big task ahead of him as the mobile game market continues to evolve rapidly.
When asked if Angry Birds was a fading fad, he answered, “I understand the question. I definitely get it,” says Rantala. “But last year our Angry Birds games had more than half a billion downloads, so I think that’s just one data point to show that Angry Birds is not a fad.” In addition, he was quick to point out Angry Birds‘ popularity on social media, including a YouTube channel with 1.6 billion views and 27.5 million followers on Facebook. The chart below highlights these numbers.
So how does Rantala think the company will bounce back With a forthcoming big-screen adventure due next year. That may seems like a ways off, but Rantala says it ties in with the company’s return to form. “We envision ourselves as an entertainment company with mobile games at its heart,” he said, pointing out the fans behind the franchise. “We get tons of mail from our fans from all parts of the world. Many of them write their ideas about what we should be building, what kind of new levels our games should haveâ€”and we actually do take those ideas into account. When Angry Birds turned five years old in December, we launched 30 new levels in our game and all of them were based on drawings coming from our fans.”
As for the movie, “some years ago Rovio was approached by many studios who wanted to buy the rights to make a movie,” he said. “I am really proud that the company made a very bold decision not to sell the rights but instead to make the movie by themselves.
“It’s a huge investment for a company of our size. Some people might think we are crazy, but we are very excited, and we are very confident that this is the right move because when we decided to make it we decided to make it right.”
The company will continue releasing new games in the meantime, such as the free-to-play Stella Pop, a variation of the hit series Bust-a-Move, but formatted for the Angry Birds universe. Still, all eyes are on the franchise’s big-screen debut next year. “The business peaked very much during 2013,” Rantala says. “And now it’s normalized and the movie will create the next boost for the business.”
The only question now is how well it’ll fare until the movie releases.
More quotes from Rantala, including his vision of how to turn Rovio into a “Disney for the digital age,” can be found here.