The company behind the Angry Birds mobile gaming sensation is on the hunt for further acquisitions as it attempts to turn the business into a global media giant, its chief executive told CNBC in an interview.
Rovio Entertainment is "actively looking" to snap up other ventures to grow the firm, CEO Mikael Hed said. It follows two buyouts for the company in under 12 months — Futuremark Games Studio in March, and Finnish animation studio Kombo in June of last year.
"We are definitely moving in the direction of becoming much more of a media company where we are centered around strong brands and Angry Birds is the first in hopefully a long series of strong brands," said Hed.
Rovio produced 51 games and almost went bankrupt before hitting on Angry Birds in 2009. The app's addictive game play, which involves catapulting brightly colored birds at fortressed pigs, proved crucial. As did the launch on Apple’s app store, which allowed Rovio to sell the game directly to mobile users without having to go through a third party.
The game, in its various forms, has since been downloaded more than 750 million times.
Rovio refuses to be drawn on exactly how much it is making from the Angry Birds brand, but one estimate put the figure at more than 100 million euros by the start of 2012.
Hed said the game was no longer the main driver of profits. "Merchandising for us is quickly becoming a very important revenue stream," he said.
And the company has grand plans for expansion. A TV series is slated to start this year, a film is in the pipeline and the company opened the first Angry Birds theme park on Saturday in the Finnish city of Tampere. It’s also working hard to capitalize on the brand’s massive popularity in China. "We’re actively exploring retail opportunities to find the best ways to monetize in China," said Hed.
Some question the wisdom of investing so much in one brand, particularly when its popularity currently hinges on the fiercely competitive mobile app space. But Hed is undeterred.
"Even when we launched Angry Birds there were something like 160,000 competing apps and now there are several hundred thousand more so that fierce competition has always been there," he said. "We do as we have so far. We keep making games that delight our fans, keep providing lots of updates, keep providing an overwhelming value proposition for our fans and simply keep making games that we are very proud of."
And Hed says fears of a second dotcom bubble are overblown.
"Unlike in the early 2000s, when the dotcom bubble hit, there were lots of companies on the Internet with lots of users but very few ways to monetize. The big difference now is that now there are many ways to monetize. That’s why there is a solid foundation for the companies and their valuations," he said.
There is speculation that Rovio is now eyeing its own IPO. Hed would only say that a public offering was an "issue for the owners of the company" and added that "no decisions about that have been made yet".