Rovio Entertainment Limited, the makers of the Angry Bird franchise, is all set to open up its studio in London. Despite experts discouraging companies in Europe from shifting to the UK due to Brexit, Rovio however, seems pretty determined on going ahead, because they see this move as the next logical step in their road map to progress.
The Nordic studio already employs more than 10% of the elite gaming workforce in Finland and setting up the London studio is a great way of exploring and hiring new local talent who come with a fresh perspective into the company.
This was a much-needed revival given how the ‘Angry Birds’ firm almost hit rock-bottom in the past few years. But ask Rovio, and they seem to be singing from a different hymn-sheet. Their take – this is the right time to migrate.
The Rovio Report Card At A Glance
Angry Birds, the game, the company and the controversies – These have been the talk of the town for a while now. The Finnish studio, which shot to fame in 2009 with the unmatchable success of the Angry Birds game, had a dream run for a certain time period.
However, with the failure of games like Amazing Alex in 2012, Angry Birds Epic and Go! in 2013, combined with the dip in the growth of the Angry Bird licensed merchandise, Rovio had to lay off more than 300 employees between 2014 and 2015. It also saw the stepping down of two CEOs Mikael Hed and Pekka Rantala during this phase.
It suffered financially with net profits falling by 50% in 2013; a further decrease in profits by 73% and total revenue drop by 43% ensued in 2014. By 2015, estimated losses stood at more than 13 million Euros.
Yet, the Nordic studio did everything they could to dig their roots deeper and trudged on unfrazzled. Their recent success with games like Blast and Angry Birds 2, along with the massive success of the 3D animated comic adventure Angry Birds Movie by Sony Pictures, shows that they are here to stay.
According to Mark Sorrell, the head of Rovio studio, the company has to go beyond Angry Birds and create more new games that can become successful, if they wish to stay in the running for more than 100 years, which they intend to.
Angry Birds, the 52nd game of Rovio was designed for the iPhone platform in which the gamer had to solve a puzzle, save eggs by throwing birds and defeat pigs using slingshots. The game took the mobile gaming industry by storm and reached the top-most spot of paid applications within six months of being on Apple’s App Store.
Rovio raised 42 million dollars in March of 2011 through Felicis Ventures, Atomico and Accel Partners, and Angry Birds reached its one-billionth download in 2012; its two-billionth download in January 2014. Its YouTube channel had amassed two billion views by June 2015.
The Financial Struggle
The strategy then was about churning out as many games as possible all the while juicing the popularity of the Angry Bird franchise. However, this was neither sustainable and nor could it fuel the growth of Rovio Entertainment. The result – the company had to endure a dark phase where revenue and profits took a nose-dive.
In response, Rovio went into major course-correction mode. It put an end to games that were not doing well, taking a step back to analyze what went wrong and how. The 400-member strong Finnish studio understands the value of keeping the gamers interested and accepts that they do not make products, rather provide services. Hence, a strategy to reflect those thought-processes had to be put in place.
With the new thinking and giving importance to quality over quantity, Rovio has seen an encouraging operating profit in 2016, which means good things are in store for the studio. The box-office success of the Hollywood movie Angry Birds 3D has got them new licensing deals and added to the revenue bringing Rovio to a stable stage, where they can look at growing their numbers.
Thus, already having a premise for setting up an office at London because of their existent consumer products department, Rovio studio head Mark Sorrell, told that this was a natural step of succession during his announcement about the London office in the Pocket Gamer Connects London earlier in this week.
The London studio is open now and aims at recruiting high quality talent to stand up to the high level expectations that the industry has with their brand. Mark made a point by telling that they are not a startup and they are not pressurizing themselves to produce quick games at the moment.
Rovio is willing to take it slow and steady and hire not more than eight people in 2017. They are not looking for mavericks, rockstars or ninjas, rather mature minds and a diverse team that can settle and flourish in a Finnish work environment.
The Future Planning
The year 2019 is when Rovio London plans to launch its first title as they want to take these two years in developing, testing and ensuring that the new game is just the touch of perfect. Although, most new studios are under tremendous pressure to prove a point by rolling out their first game within six months of setting up shop, Rovio is not in that rat race.
This London studio is going to concentrate on developing multiplayer mobile games and they understand that this genre takes time to develop, irrespective of how amazing and experienced the team handling the project might be. Rovio also believes that the entire team has to put in their heart and soul into coming up with the new game, and they are willing to invest that much time into the mobile MMO.
The strategy Rovio London studio will follow is to ensure not to repeat old mistakes. They want to focus on making fantastic games, might be less in number, but great enough to match, if not surpass, the success of their all-time popular franchise of the Angry Birds.