Rovio’s irritable-yet-lovable Angry Birds have conquered construction sites, mines, Rio, the Golden Pistachio, a slew of international holidays and all four seasons, and after their most recent trip to space, it looks like the furious fowls will fly off even further to a galaxy far, far away. On Monday morning, Finland-based Rovio Entertainment announced “Angry Birds Star Wars,” a new game for iOS and Android devices, set to release on Nov. 8.
Rovio released a brief 20-second teaser on Monday morning to announce the game.
Paul Southern, vice president of licensing and consumer products marketing for Lucasfilm Ltd., told USA Today that Rovio’s Angry Birds will not merely be transplanted into the Star Wars universe; rather, they will take on the unique personalities of the classic space saga.
“They are not Angry Birds dressed up as Star Wars characters,” Southern said. “They are characters in their own right.”
For example, Southern said the Red Bird will specifically take on the role of Luke Skywalker as an X-Wing pilot from the first Star Wars movie released in 1977, “A New Hope.” Other birds appear to represent Chewbacca, Han Solo, C-3PO, Princess Leia, and Obi-Wan Kenobi.
“They’ve got personalities which are kind of similar,” Southern said.
With the collaboration of Rovio and Lucasfilm, Angry Birds Star Wars also ensures the dark side of the Force is well represented.
“You will see a pig-esque Vader and pig-esque stormtroopers,” Southern said.
Players have downloaded more than 650 million “Angry Birds” games, and with two of the biggest pop culture brands from recent memory colliding in a single game, Rovio may see its franchise skyrocket to new heights.
“We wanted this game to feel like one of the biggest, if not the biggest, entertainment launches of the year,” said Rovio’s North American GM Andrew Stalbow.
Last November, Rovio's CMO Peter Vesterbacka announced that Angry Birds has become the most downloaded game of all-time and fastest-growing game in history, scoring 500 million downloads in less than two years since its December 2009 release.
This is a fantastic landmark achievement for us, and we're extremely delighted to see such an incredible amount of people enjoying our games, said Rovio CEO Mikael Hed. We remain committed to creating more fun experiences and bringing exceptional quality to 'Angry Birds' fans everywhere.
But even with six Angry Birds-themed games and countless levels and collectibles, people still want more Angry Birds. The company has been growing in size to accommodate the high demand, developing a long line of Angry Birds-themed toys, apparel, accessories, board games, a cookbook, and $25 million worth of sales from plush toys alone. Rovio has opened up stores in Helsinki and China – Rovio’s second largest and fastest growing market – even though most of its available merchandise is already pirated.
“We're insanely profitable,” Vesterbacka said. “We are very, very profitable. We're not a publicly traded company yet but we can fund our own growth.”
The brand has grown so big that Rovio last year recruited former Marvel Studios chairman David Maisel, producer of the Iron Man films, to produce a feature-length Angry Birds movie.
“Hollywood is hot for the brand,” Stalbow said. “There's a very strong focus on Angry Birds to turn it into an entertainment franchise. That's why I joined.”
Vesterbacka believes Rovio could go public soon: The company received $42 million last March from investors like Accel Partners and Niklas Zennstrom's Atomico Ventures. Now that the company has released a few more games outside of the typical “Angry Birds” game structure – namely “Bad Piggies” and “Amazing Alex” – Rovio CEO Mikael Hed said it's very possible the company would have another funding round before going public.
“We're still building a lot of our infrastructure, our company, our platform, everything,” Vesterbacka said. “There's a lot of good discipline in having to be ready to go public.”