You are all, I take it, familiar with Angry Birds: the fat round red birds, the rather irascible looking yellow triangular ones, the explosive black ones, the white ones that drop the incendiary eggs, the blue parrots with the boomerang tendencies… look, I know it’s addictive, but can you please stop playing it while I’m trying to talk to you?
The reason I mention it is that Rovio, the developer team behind Angry Birds, has just announced that it has received $42 million in Series A funding
in a round led by Accel Partners and Atomico Ventures. Now, for a (relatively) small mobile content developer $42 million is a substantial investment at the Series A stage, although – to be fair – Rovio does have form. Over the past fifteen months or so since the launch of Angry Birds, the company has been collecting enviable statistics and plaudits at a rate of knots, with more than 12 million downloads on the iPhone since launch (and, at $0.99 a pop, and at a 70% revenue share, I make that just over $8.3 million in cumulative revenues from the App Store) together with more than 30 million free downloads via the Android platform. Such was the demand for the game - put it down for five minutes, won’t you?
– that it infamously crashed the GetJar servers when it was first made available on that app store. Along the way, it also picked up a "Best App" award at the GSMA Mobile Awards in Barcelona last month.
Unlike many other apps, we keep playing it. It is a staple of my train journeys of an evening; but fellow commuters who observe this bespectacled gent muttering to himself as he flicks furiously at his touchscreen can empathise, in that they, too, are hard at work trying to get that parrot to wheel round and knock the tower down. It appeals to all ages - perhaps its greatest achievement, certainly so in my eyes – is that it kept the kids quiet for the 30 or so minutes it took our meal to arrive last Friday evening. Such is the demand for Angry Birds that, according to Rovio, “40% of new customers on the iOS platform purchase the Mighty Eagle downloadable content”: thus, a nice little earner there also from virtual items.
And – in this is where it leaves most of its rivals trailing – we have here perhaps the first game, designed for a mobile handset, that has become a merchandising franchise. Rovio has shifted 2 million cuddly toys (two of them are sitting on my colleague’s desk); it has confirmed that an animated TV series is in the works. The Angry Birds are thus following in the footsteps of characters such as Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog, those respective creations of Nintendo and Sega which have successfully permeated just about every form of consumer good known to man.
With this in mind, my question is this: is the success of Angry Birds in this regard indicative of the fact that mobile content has now reached the point whereby we are likely to see a whole host of Angry Bird-a-likes making the transition from downloadable app to TV series and/or cuddly toy? That mobile is now of equivalent standing to other, more established gaming/content devices? Or is it simply that the guys are Rovio were far ahead of the game in this regard, that it represents an exception that is unlikely to be equalled by other mobile content players in the short term?
You don’t care, do you? You’re trying to wipe the smirks off those green pigs.