Rovio this morning teased the launch of its next gaming title due to arrive on Monday – a game that appears to be a sequel to the current Angry Birds Star Wars. An image accompanying the announcement features a bird dressed like young Anakin Skywalker, wearing racing gear, as in the 1999 prequel Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace. It’s not too hard to then draw the conclusion that this is the direction Rovio is headed, especially after announcing an expanded licensing agreement with toy maker Hasbro, which will ship new toys and games based on the Angry Birds Star Wars lineup and a racing game called Angry Birds Go later this year.
The move to launch yet another version of Angry Birds into an already saturated lineup of similarly themed games — which over the past year have also included the arrivals of Angry Birds Space and Bad Piggies, in addition to the original Angry Birds Star Wars — is not surprising.
“Angry Birds” is nearly synonymous with Rovio’s brand, even as the company has been struggling to define itself as something broader. So far, those efforts have seen limited success.
Rovio’s launch of Amazing Alex, a physics-based game released in July 2012, was its first non-Angry Birds title in nearly three years. Initially, the game shot to the top of the App Store charts, even ranking No. 1, leading some to declare that Rovio’s days of being a “one hit wonder” were over. But Alex has not quite sustained the momentum of the Angry Birds line. For example, the paid version dropped to the 73rd most popular game and 42nd most popular app in the U.S. later that fall, and today it ranks the top 250th most popular paid game in the U.S., according to AppData, or the top 205th per Distimo. It no longer ranks in the top 400 paid apps in the U.S., and the free version is also not currently ranked in any leaderboard, AppData also notes.
This March, Rovio followed up with another non-Angry Birds title with the release of “The Croods” in conjunction with Dreamworks. That game is not featured in the top 400 free or paid games on iOS in the U.S., also per Distimo. AppData, however, notes it’s No. 369 in the Top Grossing iPad games in the U.S.
Finally, this May, Rovio announced a new angle on its desire to move beyond Angry Birds: it would begin to publish and market third-party titles through a new program called “Rovio Stars.” The company hopes that transforming itself into a third-party publisher will help it shift its image from being a little too “one note” into that of a fully fledged gaming and entertainment company.
Though over the years, Rovio’s non-gaming revenues have continued to grow (up from 30 percent last year to 45 percent this April), games still account for over half (55 percent) of Rovio’s business. And in order to have more new toys, games or heck – even soda – to sell, Rovio will have to keep the hits coming, or at least sustain those it has today…even if that means yet another Angry Birds title.