VC-Backed Rovio’s Angry Birds Game Sets Record with 500M Downloads in Less than 2 Years

Rovio CEO Mikael Hed. Photo by Georgina Prodhan, Reuters
Rovio CEO Mikael Hed. Photo by Georgina Prodhan, Reuters

(Reuters) – Mobile gaming company Rovio Entertainment said on Wednesday its hit game Angry Birds had reached a record 500 million downloads in less than two years since its launch.

“It’s more than any game ever before,” Rovio’s marketing chief Peter Vesterbacka told a conference in Helsinki.

Unlike most mobile-game crazes, Angry Birds — in which players use a slingshot to attack pigs who steal the birds’ eggs — has stayed at the top of the charts since it was launched for Apple’s iPhone on Dec. 11, 2009.

Vesterbacka said the company’s next aim was to reach 1 billion fans globally, on devices including mobile phones and computers.

The gaming company is expanding the brand across traditional merchandising, to items such as toys and baby products, and is taking the birds to the big screen with film studios.

Earlier this year, Rovio raised $42 million from venture capital firms in an investment co-led by Accel Partners (which previously backed Facebook and Baidu) and Atomico Ventures (a venture firm created by Skype founder Niklas Zennström).

Rovio was founded in 2003 after three students including Niklas Hed — CEO Mikael Hed’s cousin and now Rovio’s COO — won a game-development competition sponsored by Nokia Oyj and Hewlett-Packard CO. It changed its name from Relude in 2005.

Vesterback last month told Bloomberg Television that Rovio could go public in 2012. “We’re not ready to file for an IPO tomorrow,” he said. “Maybe a year from now.”

Vesterback also said the company believes its valuation is greater than $1 billion. “We’re happy with our valuation, but we think it’s probably a bit north of that [$1 billion],” he told Bloomberg TV.

(Reporting By Tarmo Virki; Editing by Helen Massy-Beresford)