Rovio, the developer of Angry Birds and the greatest supporter of inter-species warfare since Atari made Space Invaders, has said that it plans to be “much bigger” than Disney, a $24 billion cross-media empire and it’s not as unlikely as it might seem.
Both companies are in the entertainment business, Disney has a games division, and while the company’s efforts have mainly been console titles like Pure, the fact is they are already competing for gamer’s cash. The NPD group announced yesterday that sales of non-retail games hit $3.3 billion in the last quarter of 2011. That figure came from only four countries, the US, UK, France and Germany.
Add in the other 190 or so nations in the world and you have a huge industry (not that I’m saying Botswana buys much in the way of XBLA, Steam or IOS games but you know what I mean). China has already overtaken the US for the most smartphones and tablets with 24% of the world’s activations, 3% higher than the States.
China too has seen an 1126% increase in app sessions, and no, that’s not meant to be 11.26%. Want to guess what the top ripped off brand in China is? That’s right it’s Angry Birds. Obviously that means money taken out of Rovio’s pocket but there’s clearly a huge, huge market for the game in the country with the biggest population in the world.
In an interview with Business Insider Rovio’s chief managing officer Peter Vesterbacka said,
“Zynga is a game company. We stopped looking at ourselves as a game company. We sold 25 million plush toys last year. For us, it’s about making Angry Birds available everywhere.”
Disney too relies on toy sales, in fact, without them it’s unlikely Pixar’s Cars 2 would have ever seen the light of day. Even in television Angry Birds is getting in on the action with a cartoon deal with Nickelodeon. Okay so Disney Channel executives don’t need to worry (yet), but it’s another front for Rovio in its attempt to overtake its role model.
And with the launch of Angry Birds Space yesterday we’re seeing the launch of a franchise “bigger than most movie launches in Hollywood,” at least according to Vesterbacka. For a game that costs €2.39 for the iPad version that’s one big statement to make.
Hell, this is a company that signed a deal with NASA to make the first game announcement from space. When you’ve got an astronaut on the International Space Station drawing a pig’s face on a balloon and shooting a plush toy at it you know you’ve made it (although I assume Rovio’s balance sheet already told them that).
Even in the theme park scene Rovio is getting in on the action. Having signed a deal with Finnish playground equipment maker Lappset the company will be rolling out activity theme parks (but I think they should go with Vesterbacka’s description of the parks as Angry Bird “magic places” as reported by the British newspaper the Telegraph). The parks will open in Finland, the UK, America and China.
These “magic places” will have Angry Birds inspired features as well as a new arcade version of the game. Alright, so they’re essentially glorified playgrounds but it’s a step into a new field that few developers would ever be able to get into.
Rovio, if they can keep up momentum, just might have a chance at being bigger than Disney. Walt must be turning in his grave.
Update: Angry Birds Space has been downloaded 10 million times in three days.