The Angry Birds movie is coming out May 2016, but that’s too late to save a number of jobs at the company responsible for the early mobile gaming hit.
Rovio, the Finnish publisher that created Angry Birds, revealed today that it has cut 213 jobs. This comes as the result of the “employee negotiations” that the company announced August 26. This will reduce the developer’s costs, but it also means it won’t have the workforce to chase after a plethora of different potential ventures as it has before. In a statement, the company acknowledged that it will have to pare back its ambitions. Most notably, the company attempted to act as a third-party publisher with its Rovio Stars partner program, which never took off.
These layoffs are the latest evidence that Angry Birds has lost its appeal despite releasing Angry Birds 2 in the first week of August, which GamesBeat noted “focuses on ugly freemium features” in our review.
“Rovio Entertainment will restructure and concentrate its activities around three primary business areas: games, media and consumer products,” reads a Rovio statement. “The negotiations applied to the whole organization, excluding those working on the production of the The Angry Birds Movie in the United States and Canada. The company will actively provide career support for those made redundant as a result of the reorganization.”
The bird-flinging physics puzzler was a massive success on early iPhone and Android devices because it was one of the first to introduce a fun mechanic that worked effortlessly with touchscreens. Rovio also put a lot of effort into designing its characters, and that paid off on the back end because Angry Birds was (and still is) a highly recognizable brand — especially among children.
But mobile gaming made a rapid shift away from the “premium-priced” games like Angry Birds. While Rovio’s marquee games often required players to pay a dollar or more to download, that business model was supplanted by free-to-play games like Candy Crush Saga. Rovio has since attempted several free-to-play releases, but none have caught on like some of the top releases from the past few years.
Now, Rovio is seemingly left in a situation that is similar to publisher Namco in the 1990s. Pac-Man, a Namco creation, was a massive arcade hit, but it never fully made a successful transition from the quarter-munching machines to home consoles. This left Namco to try different things with Pac-Man, which included a variety of games, TV shows, and consumer merchandise. The franchise finally got some well-received games in recent years with Pac-Man: Championship Edition and Pac-Man 256 on mobile, but even those releases don’t come close to matching the popularity of the original game during the height of “Pac-Man Fever.”
Of course, Rovio will also continue making its latest game, a puzzler made in collaboration with Shakira. That follows the strategy that developer Glu Mobile established with its Kim Kardashian game.
And while Angry Birds isn’t as popular as it once was, it’s still something most kids recognize. With the movie on the way, and Rovio refocused on delivering games, media, and branded products, it could find a way to sustain itself if can’t figure out a way to grow.