“Angry Birds,” the game that involves firing birds with a catapult, has now been downloaded an incredible four billion times, according to Rovio, the Finnish startup behind it.
It’s the most downloaded freemium game in the world, and a game that people from all walks of life have spent hours and hours playing obsessively.
Headquartered in Espoo, Finland, Rovio has recently appointed a new man to the helm of its games division in a bid to inject to energy into the company.
Wilhelm Taht, formerly Rovio’s head of external products — which encompasses the likes of “Angry Birds Transformers” and “Angry Birds Go!” — was appointed executive vice president of Rovio Games at the start of the year.
He sat down with Business Insider during his visit to the Mobile Games Forum (MGF) in London — where the company has a handful of its 470 employees.
New IP and older users
Early on in the interview, Taht reels off a few of his tactics that he believes will help Rovio get to a better position.
“We’re doubling down on existing performers. We’re trying to age up the audience across our games portfolio quite significantly. We’re trying to innovate and we’re trying to develop new IP.”
In order to attract an older audience, Taht said Rovio will focus on new genres and creating new products. He added that the company could take a slightly more “edgy” approach to its existing products in order to pull in older users.
Founded in 2003, Rovio has struggled to capitalise on the success of “Angry Birds” since it launched in 2009. None of the other games in its portfolio have come close to the “Angry Birds” franchise in terms of download numbers or revenue, leading critics to believe the company may be little more than a one-hit-wonder.
“Brands ebb and flow over time and our goal is to have other IPs as well,” said Taht. “But our goal is also for ‘Angry Birds’ to stay alive for a very long period of time. I think it has some unique traits.”
Taht realises that “Angry Birds” has lost some of the traction it had two or three years ago but he’s optimistic that the new $80 million (£56 million) “Angry Birds Movie” will help build brand awareness when it’s released in May, adding that he’s seen it multiple times and that it’s good comedy for all.
Beyond “Angry Birds,” one game in the Rovio portfolio that’s apparently gotten off to a good start since launching last autumn is “Nibblers.” Taht said he was unable to reveal download numbers at this stage but on the Google Play Store it has 4.5/5 stars, based on 36,544 votes. Gaming website Pocket Gamer gave the game 8/10 in its own review.
In the new game, a gang of fish climb out of the sea to explore the islands around their watery home, searching for fruit and dodging lizards to advance through 200 levels.
“It [Nibblers] was a quiet, soft release,” said Taht. “It’s started to scale up and we’ve significantly increased user acquisition over Q1. Does it have the traits and all the components that can create IP on the level of Angry Birds? I don’t know. I think it can grow fairly big with time and effort.”
He added: “Very few brands grow to the level of Angry Birds.”
IPO or acquisition
In terms of funding, acquisitions, or an IPO, Taht said: “We’re not in selling mode. We have no need to raise any funding at this time.”
Instead, it looks as though the company wants to rely on the money people pledge through in-app purchases. Nearly all of Rovio’s games are currently free to download with the option to make in-app purchases.
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