Rovio Entertainment: Joy as a Fingerprint of Success
The world of games is fascinating, and with the booming competition, not everyone can take it by storm. But, for Finish students Niklas Hed, Jarno Väkeviinen, and Kim Dikert, taking their gaming challenge to the next level was a driving force. And when the trio created their own gaming mogul, Rovio Entertainment, the market noticed.
The creator of easily one of the most played games out there - ‘Angry Birds,’ Rovio Entertainment delivers high-value experiences to players. Sharing the joy of gaming globally, Rovio is more than just gaming and maintains an environmental and community mission as well.
With 4 billion game downloads, 52 tailored games under its belt, and over €78.9 million in revenue in 2021, Rovio stood the test of time and continues enriching the market with its products.
From gaming wannabes to gaming wizards, here is how Rovio’s gaming trio set the platform up for success.
From Competition to Entrepreneurship
It all started in 2003 as a game. At the time, Niklas Hed, Jarno Väkeviinen, and Kim Dikert were all Technology University of Helsinki students. They decided to participate in a competition sponsored by Nokia and HP to develop mobile games. They created the mobile game King of the Cabbage World - and won the contest.
Niklas, Jarno, and Kim were all so young and inexperienced that they didn't know what to do after. What they did know was that they were passionate about games.
Peter Vesterbacka, working at HP, was amazed by the team's results and passion. He thought that the next reasonable step should be for Niklas, Jarno, and Kim to start a company that makes games. And that's exactly what the trio did!
Without a doubt, the trio took Peter's advice and started Relude in 2003.
They sold the King of the Cabbage World to Sumea, which was renamed Mole War later on.
The game became one of the first commercial real-time multiplayer mobile games.
After this new success, Relude got its first investment from an angel investor. Subsequently, in 2005, they renamed the company Rovio Entertainment.
It Takes Time and Patience to Make a Blockbuster
At first, the team was small and mainly focused on developing mobile games. One of the reasons why Rovio was focused on mobile games was because Niklas knew the mobile games market would become huge and offer a place for everyone.
In a period in which smartphones were not yet available, the ultimate achievement was to develop a game for a color-screen mobile that works on an internet connection.
The first 6 years were not that easy. The team at Rovio had about 10 people and put lots of energy and investments into developing 51 games. Not all Rovio Entertainment games were released because the team made many mistakes and learned important lessons that led them to success.
The company was facing near bankruptcy and was struggling to keep its business afloat. Only eight months later, in 2009, their 52nd game called 'Angry Birds' was released.
Hard Work Pays Off
The release of Angry Birds was a breakthrough moment for the video game developer. In the next few weeks, game downloads rapidly grew. Six months later, the game scored first place in the Apple App Store chart for paid apps, where it remained for months. This was only the beginning of Angry Birds' fascinating success. Angry Birds was successful beyond the game. First, plush toys got introduced in 2010, and millions of products covered store shelves nationally. The Animated series 'Angry Birds Toons' came after the toys, followed by the release of the video game sequel, Angry Birds 2, in 2015.
The Angry Birds Movie - Rovio Entertainment’s Arrival in Hollywood
In 2016, Angry Birds arrived in Hollywood through the movie release of the same name.‘The Angry Birds Movie’ was the first movie made by a mobile game developer and opened at number 1 in 50 countries, a true blockbuster hit. The film is a computer-animated comedy film based on the Angry Birds game series. Layer on, the film 'The Angry Birds Movie 2' followed in 2019, becoming the highest-rated movie on Rotten Tomatoes and a favorite among Netflix subscribers.
A Storm on the Way to the Clear
From the initial idea to develop mobile games, Rovio also expanded in a few other fields. In 2011 the company acquired Kombo, an animation company based in Helsinki. The basis of this acquisition was to produce a series of short videos. The year after, it initiated a partnership with Activision to bring Angry Birds to video game consoles and handhelds. Next came the launch of the Toons TV channel, broadcasting Angry Birds Toon. In a few years, the company wasn’t just a video game developer; it also became a video game publisher.
Rovio survived the financial struggles in 2009, thanks to the release of its blockbuster. But, after 5 years, the success of Angry Birds Epic and GO started fading. As a result, Angry Birds merchandise lost its profits. Rovio made a heartbreaking decision to lay off 370 employees and close their Tampere and London studios to save itself.
With this move, the Rovio animation division was acquired by Kaiken Entertainment.
Catching the Right Direction
The good thing was that Rovio had brilliant people with too many great ideas. The company's huge potential and ambition led its team to aim to develop and release around 400 game ideas per year. But, given the many ideas, overlapping concepts, and lack of innovation, this number was impossible to reach.
This was a critical moment to stop and think about the most important thing for the company's future success. Defining their goals, main focus, and ultimate concept was important. Once they simplified all ideas, the Rovio team could take a proper direction for the company and even came up with a brilliant slogan that captures their mission - "We craft joy with player-focused gaming experiences that last for decades."
Rovio Entertainment Corporation Funding
Niklas and his co-founders entered the business without putting earnings first. They didn't even know how to make money with the product on hand. They struggled a lot with their small team before 'Angry Birds' was released.
They successfully raised $76.1 million over 3 funding rounds. The third of which was in 2018 by post-IPO equity. Quantum Venture Partners and European Investment Bank are the most recent investors.
In 2017, Rovio Entertainment Corporation became a publicly traded company on the stock exchange with an IPO share price of $13.6 and a company value of $1 billion.
Rovio completed 4 acquisitions in ten years: Kombo in 2011, Futuremark in 2012, PlayRaven in 2018, and Ruby Games in 2021.
Rovio Entertainment, Today
During difficult times, many changes in leadership positions were made for the company. Things finally stabilized when Alexandre Pelletier-Normand took over as CEO at the end of 2020, supported by Rene Lindell as CFO.
Today, more than 4.5 billion enthusiasts have downloaded Rovio games; that's more than half of the global population. Rovio games crossed all the boundaries and are even played in Antarctica and the International Space Station.
Rovio is located in several locations, including Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Canada, and Turkey. All in all, it has 7 game studios. About 500 people are employed from over 50 nationalities. Starting in Finland, Rovio grew into an international company. Yet, still, it is Nordic pride, proving that the gaming industry is possible in the north too.
Beyond the company's mission is its sustainability. Rovio aims to create joy responsibly by focusing on creating a safe and enjoyable environment for all. The company improves inclusivity, equity, and diversity and supports greater society and people.
Twenty years ago, three young students' game passion was just a dream. Today, Rovio makes among the most successful gaming giants on the market. And given its contribution to the economy, society, and the environment - Rovio Entertainment has certainly become the face of every modern business.