Rovio has become synonymous with Finnish mobile gaming. And for good reason. It's undeniable they've built an empire and completely raised the bar of what a mobile game can accomplish. But taking a look at the charts, it's getting harder to sideline Helsinki-based Supercell's success in gaming, no matter if they don't get quite the same media bump of a red Angry Birds sweatshirt.
Right now, Rovio has pushed out the three iterations of Angry Birds, Angry Birds Space in March, Amazing Alex in July, and Bad Piggies just this past week. Supercell meanwhile has Hay Day, which launched in June, and Clash of Clans, which launched in August.
Rovio has a longer history. The company was founded in 2003, but didn't see their first breakaway success until the release of Angry Birds in 2009. In March 2011 Rovio raised $42 million in venture capital funding from Accel Partners, Atomico and Felicis Ventures, but after some digging, it looks like that investment went back to the owners.
Last May, Rovio announced their revenue was €75.4 million for the 2011 fiscal year, which only included the Angry Birds franchise games. At that time, Merchandising and Licensing income generated around 30% of their revenues.
This is likely an inaccurate metric, but Supercell counts 58 employees on LinkedIn. Rovio meanwhile counts 335.
Supercell meanwhile was founded in June of 2010. In May of 2011 they raised $12 million in a round led by also by Accel Partners. The company posted revenue of €151 000 for 2011, but a lot has changed since then; at that time they were building off the Facebook platform with Gunshine.net.
The two are also split by their platform decisions. After Gunshine.net Supercell has gone with a decidedly "tablet first" strategy, which still hasn't stopped it from keeping their two latest releases steadily in the top 25 of the top grossing iPhone charts. Pocketgamer points out that there's a lot more volume under the iPhone charts, making it possible Supercell is accruing most of its revenue from there.
In contrast, Rovio's goal is to be anywhere and everywhere. Just Push Start quotes Rovio's CMO Peter Vesterbacka as saying, “With all our games, we’re going for all the screens: Smartphones, tablets, TVs, the web, so we really want to bring Space to all the screens as well. As always, we have limited resources, so we can only do iOS, Android, PC and Mac for the launch, but the other platforms will follow shortly after.”
Due to this strategy Rovio's growth has been unprecedented. They reached their 1 Billionth download last May, and continue to the top iOS and iPad grossing figures with their new releases, which is tougher and tougher to do with paid apps these days.
Part of this growth can maybe also be attributed to partnerships. Angry Birds came pre-installed on the Nokia Asha, which Nokia was churning out at the rate of 14 phones a second, or 1.2 million phones a day.
Supercell's Hay Day and Clash of Clans have been staying strong in the top grossing games in the app store. Currently Hay Day is located at #25 on the iPhone and #19 on the iPad, after peaking at #21 and #12 respectively. Clash of Clans is now currently at #2 on the iPhone and iPad after peaking at #1.
To put these numbers in perspective, in August CSR Racing said they were earning more than $12M a month on iOS, when they were topping the charts.
Just like their platform strategy, Rovio's marketing is everywhere and anywhere. Merchandizing has pushed Angry Birds straight into pop culture, and seems to be going nowhere soon. The company also has a strong Asian strategy. After seeing near-daily foursquare airport checkins on Rovio CMO Peter Vesterbacka's twitter, you begin to wonder how powerful amphetamines have gotten these days.
Supercell takes a more laid back (and cheaper) approach, relying on the strength of their game. CEO Ilkka Paananen responded to an article that points out how low Supercell's marketing costs are by saying, "i think the quality of our products is our best marketing weapon. People just talk about them to others," in a tweet.
Supercell's games are more social than Rovio's, allowing them to be "everywhere" without PR pushes, or seeing game-branded soft drinks or candy in stores. Still, there are plenty of other social games on the market, perhaps leading them back to
I think there are two takeaways from this. Gaming companies can still grow huge revenues without being Rovio's size, even when they're operating in Rovio's shadow. When you think of gaming in Berlin, you think Wooga. When you think about Moscow, you think Zepto Labs. Helsinki is deservedly Rovio turf, but it's a shame how Supercell seems to be forgotten, even with it's stickeyness in the app store.
I think we should also change our perception of Helsinki as a Nokia town. Instead, we should evangelize Helsinki as new mecca for mobile gaming. Perhaps it will be self-evident whenever Grand Cru gets around to releasing Supernauts.