In a move to diversify beyond its (in)famous Angry Bird franchise, game company Rovio has opened a new studio in London. The United Kingdom-based team will direct their efforts towards massively multiplayer online games (MMOS), with the express goal of new IPs beyond Angry Birds.
The studio will be Rovio’s fifth, including the three already in Espoo, Finland and the one in Stockholm, Sweden. The company also maintains a global network of partner developers, including Shanghai-based studio MYBO.
Rovio London aims to build a team of approximately twenty members over the next two years. According to their careers section, the company is currently hiring in the United Kingdom for the roles of Senior Artist/Art Director, Technical Director, and Game Developer. The London studio aims to have eight staff members by the end of the year.
In a statement, Mark Sorrell, Head of Studio, said, “We believe that the best game experiences are those that you share with other people. So we’re starting a studio to do exactly this. We look forward to bringing a diverse team together to deliver unique MMOs that are creative, inclusive and delightful.”
The London studio will likely be under heavy pressure, as Finnish-based Rovio is heavily dependant on Angry Birds for its success, to the point where the lack of a new game made Ars Technica consider adding the company to their infamous Deathwatch. The original Angry Birds game, launched in 2009, remains the top paid mobile app of all time, and Rovio leveraged the brand early and fast, licensing it toward numerous consumer products. However, the last few years have been hard for the company, with earnings dropping from 2013 through 2015 as licensing fell and the company lacked new hits to make up the difference. The company even went so far as to lay off a third of its workforce. The first half of 2016 seemed to break this trend, as the company showed year-over-year growth. This positive outlook was enhanced with the debut of the Angry Birds movie, which brought in $350 million in box office receipts, and the launch of a new Angry Birds game.
However, these successes continue to emphasize how much Rovio relies on its flagship franchise. With a new Angry Birds movie currently in the planning stage, the company may have only a short window of opportunity to develop and launch a new MMO before its attention is wholly absorbed by the movie. Rovio has not announced any specifics for its first MMO, besides the adjectives “creative, inclusive and delightful.”