Angry Birds creator nets $42 million investment

by Phil Hornshaw

Hope you’re not tired of Angry Birds, because its creator, Rovio Mobile, has plans to keep legless birds flying around our heads for the foreseeable future. At least for the rest of the millennium.

Rovio is looking for investors. Well, actually, it has already found investors, in the likes of Accel Partners and Atomico, a venture capital firm created by the co-founders of Skype, and their $42 million, according to GigaOM.

What the heck could Rovio need money for, you ask? That’s a good question, considering that Angry Birds is now being reported as being among the most profitable video games in history. A report from CVG explains how the game was made for just $140,000 and has generated something like $70 million. Angry Birds has seen 42 million downloads across all platforms since its release, with about 25 percent of those being paid. Its active community across all platforms includes 40 million players.

Of course, there’s more to maintaining Angry Birds than just the development costs and initial marketing, which the $140,000 represents. Since then, Rovio has done a whole lot to expand the brand, including a ton of marketing and the manufacture of other merchandise like plush toys and clothes. But even when those costs are considered, the Angry Birds franchise is still hugely successful.

But Rovio wants Angry Birds to be a bigger phenomenon than just a huge, super-popular mobile game. The company says it has already sold 2 million Angry Birds plush toys, and there’s talk about an Angry Birds animated series, among other things. The game is already seen a cultural explosion -- Conan O’Brien did a sketch about the game last week by creating a life-sized bird-flinging setup in his studio, and Rovio has partnered with the upcoming animated film Rio to create a movie-themed version of the game.The $42 million, which Rovio raised in Series A funding from Atomico, Accel and Felicis Ventures, is going toward expanding Angry Birds into other channels. For one, the game has spread to several other platforms already from its initial release on the iPhone: Android has a strong showing of Angry Birds games, and a $9.99 version of the game is downloadable on the PlayStation Network for PlayStation 3. Windows Phone 7 is getting a version of the game, as is the Nintendo 3DS.

Rovio wants to bring the game to Facebook, as well, and if it takes a lesson from the insanely popular and high-grossing games of Zynga like FarmVille and CityVille, that could mean the addition of a lot of in-app purchases to the formula. It wouldn’t be the first time Angry Birds has done that -- it recently added the Mighty Eagle to its games, which players can pay for to use to solve puzzles that they are stuck on -- but it still could be a different way to play Angry Birds, which is an interesting development.

In fact, one might expect the Angry Birds formula to start seeing some changes, especially as Rovio is raising funds to expand the game as much as possible. For the last few weeks, another $0.99 casual game, Tiny Wings, has unseated Angry Birds from the top of the App Store’s Highest Grossing app list.

Angry Birds is still doing just fine, having released a new version of its Angry Birds Seasons title with additional St. Patrick’s Day levels earlier this week. But with money to work with, Rovio is surely going to find new ways to expand Angry Birds’ popularity, both in and out of the game that started it all. If Rovio wants to hold onto its position as king of the App Store -- if not King of All Mobile -- it’s likely going to start teaching its enraged avian stars some new tricks.