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Rovio, which has made a small fortune spinning out products from the wild success of its “Angry Birds” mobile games, is now moving into book publishing, and plans to self-publish its first book — a family cookbook focused on egg recipes — both as a traditional volume and as an app in the coming weeks.
Peter Vesterbacka, the “Mighty Eagle” who oversees marketing and business development for Rovio, said that the developer has been in discussions with Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN), Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) and Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) to distribute the volume. His comments were made during a presentation at the Open Mobile Summit in London today.
He told mocoNews that Rovio decided to self-publish the volume after discussions with traditional publishers quickly broke down: “They offered to help us make the book, in exchange for 90 percent revenue share,” he said. “It was a short discussion.” By self-publishing, Vesterbacka says Rovio will net 90 percent on sales of the volume.
It may seem to some that Rovio is spreading itself too thin — remember that “peanut butter memo” at Yahoo? (NSDQ: YHOO) — but it turns out that despite how wildly popular Angry Birds is, it’s not making as much money as you would think.
Vesterbacka says that Angry Birds is on course to clock up 1.2 billion hours of usage in the U.S., which he pointed out was more than the time that Americans will watch TV: one billion hours. “Yet we are not even making three percent of their revenues from advertising, so we have a long way to go. It’s still very hard to sell mobile advertising.”
Rovio has so far been quiet on how much of their overall revenue today is coming from non-gaming activities, but Vesterbacka says it’s substantial: “It’s not a hobby,” he said. “It’s not like Apple TV. We have sold three million of these [holding up his plush-toy-keychain] and we have made a lot of money.” He also pointed out that Rovio has sold 20-30 million official t-shirts. “We can make a lot of money selling toys and t-shirts.”
Of course, books are only one extension of Rovio’s brand: there have been dozens more, in the form of t-shirts, plush toys, phone accessories and even earings. As Vesterbacka repeatedly said today, Rovio is not a mobile gaming company, but a major entertainment brand:
“It’s more than games.” He cited last week’s purchase of Finnish animation studio Kombo (financial terms undisclosed), as an example of how it will invest into new areas.
“It’s pretty obvious what we are doing there. We’re getting serious about animation.” He says that the animation videos that Rovio has put on YouTube (NSDQ: GOOG) have had 120 million views to date. “We will make more, and what do you know? One day we will make a movie.”
“It’s an example of what you can do starting from mobile. We’re one of the first to do that but you can expect other brands emerging from mobile and going to other places.”
China. It’s not often that you hear companies celebrating knock-offs of their hard-won branding success, but Vesterbacka takes the view that copying is the sincerest form of flattery — and a forecast for the company’s potential in the market. “We’d much rather sell and officially license products there, but if no one copied us that would mean that nobody cares,” he said. “Next year, our ambition is to be the most copied brand in China because that would mean we are the leading entertainment brand there.”
He repeatedly emphasized that China is “extremely important” to Rovio. “Our ambition is to have 100 million downloads of our game in that market this year.” The main route to cracking China, he said, is to build custom versions of Rovio’s games for that market.
“We are in the top three brands in China already,” he said. “If you walk into stores, you see Disney (NYSE: DIS), Hello Kitty and Angry Birds.”