Founded 2003 | Location Espoo | Employees 550 | Key staff Mikael Hed (CEO, co-founder), Niklas Hed (co-founder), Peter Vesterbacka (CMO), Harri Koponen (COO) | URL www.rovio.com | Selected softography Angry Birds, Angry Birds Seasons, Angry Birds Space, Amazing Alex, Bad Piggies, Angry Birds Star Wars | Current projects Unrevealed Angry Birds titles, prototyping multiple projects
Thanks to Angry Birds’ popularity and a keen eye for brand placement, Rovio has grown to a dizzying 550 employees. By the time you read this, the chances are that figure will have grown again. With its recent Star Wars tie-in, the company has cemented its cultural relevance, while the recently released million-selling Angry Birds Trilogy on PS3, 360 and 3DS has proven that the avian videogame phenomenon has appeal beyond mobile devices. Surrounded by plush Angry Birds toys, we spoke to SVP of game development Sami Lahtinen and SVP of brand marketing Ville Heijari about where Rovio goes next.
You’ve grown at a rapid pace over the past couple of years. How has Rovio changed as a result?
Ville Heijari We’ve definitely gone from being a game developer to being a media and entertainment company. Obviously, our game studio side has grown most significantly, but we’ve acquired an animation studio, we’ve set up a consumer products department, which is focusing on licensing the Angry Birds property and different retail operations, and so on.
Sami Lahtinen From a games development point of view, we have ramped up our operations quite significantly. We are now about 220 employees in the game business unit, and we have four different studio entities: two here in Espoo, one in Tampere, and at the end of 2012, we opened up our Stockholm office. So ramping up our capacity to build more, and better, games is of course something that has been ongoing during the past couple of years.
Was it a challenge to manage such an extravagant expansion?
VH No, it has been a walk in the park… [Laughs] We gained 300 employees during the past year. The first challenge was finding the right talent, of course, as many companies are doing very well in Finland, so there is competition over talent, especially in Helsinki. Which is why we opened a studio in Tampere.
What’s the next step for the company?
VH We have different Angry Birds games, and that’s all building the brand. And then something like Bad Piggies is definitely in the same domain, but it’s a spin-off and we can see it becoming its own thing. We have a lot of other in-house properties cooking, too – there’s a lot of prototyping going on. In December, we had 263 million [monthly active users], which is more than Twitter has! So we have a massive audience who we can also publish games for, so we’re in discussions with many developers about publishing different properties.
Angry Birds casts a big shadow – how will you approach the challenge of releasing new IP?
VH Angry Birds definitely has a life of its own, so 2013 is going to be about building up Rovio as a brand. The publishing effort is part of that, making Rovio the stamp of quality. We have a big task ahead of us, but we want to educate people that, ‘Hey, we’re the developer of Angry Birds; we’re bigger than Twitter.’ [Laughs] We know what we’re doing, we have the development power, and we’re actually a really cool place to work.