Rovio today took one more step to grow the ubiquity of its games worldwide: it is launching mobile apps for of Angry Birds Friends, a social version of the game, created for Facebook that has picked up 60 million installs and 15 million monthly active users on Facebook’s desktop platform in the year since launch, according to Facebook. The news was announced during a Facebook mobile event in Helsinki: the social network is doing the rounds in Finland this week talking to mobile games developers based in and around the city — home to two of the biggest mobile games developers there are, Rovio and Supercell.
Pictured here is a screenshot of how it will look.
The news also comes on the same day that Rovio published annual results for 2012 — a requirement for all companies, even private ones, under Finnish law. Those results showed revenues of $195 million, and a growing proportion, now at 45%, coming from Rovio’s non-gaming business, specifically merchandise like books and IP licensing for plush toys and more.
Adding another platform for an already-popular game will give Rovio more exposure for its brands, an important part of the business to keep up demand for that merchandise. It is also an essential move to respond to current trends in gaming, which see the vast majority of the most popular games favoring a free-to-download model with revenues picked up through in-app purchases, a shift from the paid model that has fuelled a lot of growth for Rovio to date.
“Rovio I think is very inspired by Supercell, which is absoutely ruling the App Store when it comes to top grossing apps,” Julien Codorniou, who heads up Facebook Gaming partnerships, pointed out in an interview with TechCrunch. “No one caares about paid as much as they do about grossing.”
Codorniou also notes that Rovio is already huge on Facebook’s platform, with the top three games on Facebook last year Angry Birds editions from Rovio (the next two, he notes, were from Supercell).
For a company that built its business taking an early lead in the fast-growing world of smartphones, Rovio has been surprisingly slow to embrace social gaming. Codorniou tells me that he had a member of his team visiting Rovio once a month for about 18 months to get the company to launch its first social game on Facebook, and now mobile. It may be because up to now Rovio has been relatively reluctant to cannibalize revenues in areas like paid apps, but with that business maturing, and merchandising taking off, it’s created an opportunity to become more open with free games.
Last month, Facebook noted that there are some 250 million people playing games on Facebook.com each month, with one in five daily visitors to Facebook.com playing one.