Bits: Angry Birds and Its New Nest Egg

Rovio, via Associated Press

AUSTIN, Texas  — Angry Birds, the wildly popular game for mobile devices that challenges players to sling grumpy birds at complex formations of smirking pigs, has close to 100 million downloads and a flourishing line of merchandise like cute plush toys.

So why did Rovio, the Finnish firm behind the game, raise a $42 million round of venture financing from Accel Partners and Atomic Ventures?

It wasn’t about the money, said Peter Vesterbacka, who heads business development at Rovio.

“We could have kept going without any financing because we are profitable,” said Mr. Vesterbacka in an interview late Thursday night.

Rovio, Mr. Vesterbacka says, has big ambitions. It wants to spin out its games and characters into a Disney-size empire. It’s worth noting that one of the partners at Accel Partners, Jim Breyer, sits on the boards of Facebook and Wal-Mart Stores. Both companies could be crucial future partners for Rovio when it come to distributing its games and toys.

Rovio already has big plans to bring a new version of its game to Facebook  this spring. Rovio will also add social features to the original Angry Birds that will allow people to find their Facebook friends and smash some piggeries with them. The company says it is investigating several other ventures and ways to expand the business on several fronts, including television and movies. The company plans to funnel some of its fresh venture cash into its content creation and animation.

Rovio may also consider expanding in its more popular territories. The 50-person company will largely remain in its headquarters of Helsinki, Finland, but will explore setting up shop in some of its other popular markets. After the United States, Angry Birds has the most users in China and South Korea.

Rovio’s large round is the latest in a rush of financing for the  mobile gaming industry. Digital Chocolate recently raised $12 million in cash. TinyCo, a newer entrant behind the simulation game Tap Resort Party, raised $18 million from Andreessen Horowitz. Several mobile game companies, like Ngmoco, Playdom and Playfish, were recently acquired.

But while Rovio says it has heard many interesting offers for acquisitions, the company has no plans to sell anytime soon.

“We’re just getting started,” said Mr. Vesterbacka.

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