The creators of Angry Birds, the phenomenally successful iPhone game in which players catapult animated birds into hard hat-wearing pigs, has raised $42 million from investors to expand overseas and create a new series of games.
The funding round was co-led by Accel Partners, which has previously backed Facebook, Groupon and Skype, and Zennstroem’s venture capital firm Atomico Ventures, Rovio said on Thursday. Angel investor Felicis Ventures also participated.
Rovio wants to expand across markets including mobile, social media and other platforms, and via merchandising and media production and partnerships, it said.
“With Angry Birds, we have successfully launched not only a strong new brand, but also a whole new entertainment franchise,” Mikael Hed, chief executive and co-founder, said.
“Angry Birds will continue to grow, and we aim to create more similar success stories. We will strengthen the position of Rovio and continue building our franchises in gaming, merchandising and broadcast media,” he added.
Hed told Reuters in August he planned to turn Angry Birds into a fully fledged entertainment brand in the way Walt Disney’s Pixar has done with characters from Toy Story and Monsters, Inc.
Angry Birds game – in which players have to help birds destroy the pigs who stole their eggs, with the help of a slingshot – has broken new ground in mobile gaming by staying at the top of the charts, unlike most mobile-game crazes.
More than three trillion pigs have been squashed by 40m people playing the game worldwide just 15 months after the Angry Birds ‘app’ was first available to download from Apple’s iTunes.
The game has attracted a string of celebrity fans including Justin Bieber, David Cameron and Salman Rushdie, Rovio said. In October 17-year-old Bieber tweeted: “I love Angry Birds it’s so sick.”
While the Prime Minister’s office has said Mr Cameron “loves it” and plays the game on his iPad, which also carries the game as do Google Android-based devices, the UK’s Daily Telegraph said. Mr Rushdie has described himself as “something of a master” at Angry Birds.
“This investment will give Rovio wings,” Zennstroem said. “Angry Birds is one of the fastest-growing online products I’ve seen, growing even faster than Skype, and the company has done a brilliant job of extending it across different platforms and merchandise.”
Over 75 million paid and ad-supported versions have been downloaded. Revenue share and revenue per copy vary, the company said. Rovio said in August it is aiming for 100 million Angry Birds downloads through the next year or two.
“We thought we would need to do ten to 15 titles until we got the right one,” said Niklas Hed, a 30-year-old co-founder of Rovio. But in March 2009 a Rovio designer showed Mr Hed designs for a game involving a flock of birds and masses of colourful blocks. “People saw this picture and it was just magical,” Mr Hed said in an interview with Wired magazine.
Mr Hed finally knew he was on to a winner when his mother, who is not a computer game fan, burned the family’s turkey at Christmas because she got distracted playing the game. He said: “I realised: ‘This is it.’ ”
Rovio was founded in 2003 after three students including Niklas Hed – Mikael’s cousin and now Rovio’s COO – won a game-development competition sponsored by Nokia Oyj and Hewlett-Packard CO. It changed its name from Relude in 2005. [via The Telegraph (UK), The Guardian (UK) and Reuters]