28 February 2024

Maker of Angry Birds Game Steps Down

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Rovio, the Finnish gaming company behind the popular Angry Birds franchise, said on Friday that its chief executive, Mikael Hed, would step down at the end of the year. The management change comes at a pivotal time for Rovio, which in 2009 was one of the first mobile-gaming companies to become a global phenomenon, attracting millions of users who played Angry Birds on their cellphones and tablets.

The appointment of a new chief executive also comes as the privately held company struggles to respond to the trend in mobile gaming toward so-called freemium games, which let users play for free but require buying upgrades to access premium content.

Rovio introduced its first freemium game, Angry Birds Go!, last year but has been diversifying into movies, animation and theme parks to reduce its reliance on online gaming. But the freemium business model is now encountering its own struggles, as some gamers and regulators question whether companies are misleading customers by not adequately disclosing the cost of the extras. ​ In Angry Bird’s freemium offering, upgrades that allow online characters to access later stages of the game can cost as much as $60 each.

Other gamemakers, including Zynga and King — the maker of the Candy Crush franchise — have also seen signs of consumers’ flagging interest in freemium games. Investors worry that those companies, which were valued at billions of dollars in initial public offerings, may not be able to sustain momentum by creating new games that capture the public’s imagination.

In a sign of how much Rovio has changed since the original Angry Birds game, the company now generates nearly half its revenue from licensing the Angry Birds brand for consumer products like candy dispensers and lunchboxes, according to the company’s latest annual financial report.

The company said earlier this year that its net profit for 2013 fell by more than 50 percent, to $37 million, compared with the previous year. Revenue rose only slightly, to $216 million, from about $200 million in 2012.

Mikael Hed will be replaced as chief executive by Pekka Rantala, the company’s chief commercial officer, who previously spent 14 years working at the Finnish telecommunications giant Nokia. Mikael Hed has been nominated to the company’s board of directors, and will also become chairman of the company’s animation and movie business.

Click here to access the full article on The New York Times.

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