Angry Birds Space, the new version of the most downloaded game in history, has been launched on iTunes, Android, PC and Mac.
Angry Birds Space’s launch has been accompanied by a level of fanfare normally only seen around big Hollywood releases – including T-shirts, toys, TV shows on Nickelodeon, a companion book by National Geographic, and a tie-up with Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retailer.
Angry Birds has been downloaded 700 million times, and parent company Rovio is now estimated to be worth $8.8 billion, just two years after the game first launched.
Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retailer, will stock limited-edition T-shirts, plush toys and snacks containing clues that unlock bonus levels of Angry Birds Space, which will be available beginning on Thursday in app stores, from where users download software applications.
The iTunes version is priced between $1 and $3 for an HD iPad version. The Android version is available free, supported by in-app adverts.
Peter Vesterbacka, marketing chief of the company behind the world’s most downloaded game said that Rovio, the makers of Angry Birds, sees itself as an entertainment brand, not just a games company.
“We want to make Angry Birds a permanent part of pop culture,” he said, comparing the brand to Nintendo’s Mario and Sanrio’s Hello Kitty. “We’re just getting started.”
Angry Birds, in which the player uses a slingshot to catapult birds to destroy green pigs hidden in fortresses, has been downloaded more than 700 million times, and is the fastest-growing game on Facebook.
Rovio raised its profile hugely last year by hitching a game to the hit animated movie Rio, made by News Corp’s 20th Century Fox, even burying a clue to the game in the movie studio’s Super Bowl ad.
Rovio’s value has been estimated in recent media reports at up to $8.8 billion, little more than two years after it first released Angry Birds for the iPhone.
“It’s as good a guess as any,” said Peter Vesterbacka, comparing Rovio to Facebook games maker Zynga, which went public in December and has a market value of $9.5 billion.
Rovio has also signed up a top U.S. retailer to put its branded toys, books and T-shirts in dedicated areas of thousands of stores nationwide, timed to coincide with the launch of its new Angry Birds Space game this week.
The company also plans to open branded retail stores in China soon.
Rovio has about 300 staff, up from 50 a year ago, and has had to move out of central Helsinki to new, bigger headquarters next to mobile phone maker Nokia.
Peter Vesterbacka reiterated that Rovio was in no hurry for a public listing. Its last funding round was last year, when it raised $42 million from venture capital firms Accel, Atomico and Felicis Ventures.
He said Rovio had not needed the money and had raised the capital primarily to attract onto its board investors such as Atomico’s founder Niklas Zennstrom, a co-founder of Skype.
“This year we’ll be very busy, like we were last year, with building up the infrastructure,” said Peter Vesterbacka.
“We can fund our own growth.”