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业内话题:《愤怒的小鸟》能否成为手机游戏神话?

发布时间:2011-03-12 13:56:56 Tags:,,,,

《愤怒的小鸟》开发商Rovio最近融资4200万美元可以算是手机游戏行业的一件标志性事件。

Rovio的这一举动证明,至少已有一家手机游戏公司对投资者的吸引力及估值(尽管Roivo的估值尚未公布,但注定不会是一个小数目)堪比社交游戏公司。从某方面来说,这一新兴行业还会发生一种转折,即Facebook平台的市场规模逐渐缩小,而手机领域却将成长为一个更大的市场,因为手机用户是Facebook用户的五倍以上。

在手机游戏行业,新兴公司都正准备与原来的巨头公司打一场硬战,成为身价数十亿美元的公司,尽管这听起来还有点遥远,但已有信心十足的投资者相信,这一领域的战火已经点燃,在未来几年中必定更是硝烟四起。ngmoco公司首席执行官Neil Young就曾在上周的采访中表示,他相信这个市场在未来几年内会出现估值达数十亿美元的公司。Rovio公司可能最有胜算,因为它的用户总数已接近1亿。

angry-birds-costumes-concept

angry-birds-costumes-concept

除了Rovio之外,这一战场上的其他被看好的竞争者还包括EA、Zynga,以及去年斥资4.03亿美元收购ngmoco的日本社交游戏公司DeNA。除此之外,还有不少其他刚出道的新兴企业也争先涌入这一领域,例如获得互联网先驱马克·安德森(Marc Andreessen)1800万美元投资的手机游戏发行商TinyCo等。另外据游戏邦所知,著名手机及社交游戏公司Digital Chocolate也在本周初融资1200万美元,另一家公司Pocket Games也在去年12月获得了红杉资本的500万美元融资,加入战局的竞争者还在不断增长。

Rovio公司董事长Peter Vesterbacka表示,有许多投资者主动找上门商谈投资事宜,但他们现在的运营情况良好,Rovio并不缺钱,资金对他们来说并非关键因素。他们最关心的是找到合适的合作伙伴,但有许多人却没发现iPhone游戏之外的发展机遇,Rovio希望创建一个娱乐品牌,他们相信自己可以打造一个价值数十亿美地的产业链。

Rovio的投资者包括Atomico Ventures(该风险基金会由Skype的联合创始人Niklas Zennstrom组建)、Accel Partners(Facebook的风险投资公司),以及超级天使基金会Felicis Ventures,它们在Aydin Senkut的牵头下参与了本轮融资。

Accel Partners的一名合伙人Rich Wong表示,他与Vesterbacka已是老相识,并在去年七月的MobileBeat大会上与Vesterbacka接触,询问因Rovio公司何时准备上市,他们二人的这番交流经过了一段漫长的过程。据Wong所称,Rovio是一家成立已八年的手机游戏公司,在《愤怒的小鸟》问世之前曾开发了51款游戏。这一点打消了Wong及其合伙人向游戏公司投资的顾虑,他们原先认为这一领域的投资风险太大,因为没有人可以保证这家游戏公司的成功并非只是昙花一现。这已成为困扰风险投资行业多年的一个老问题,直到最近Rovio在芬兰组建了一个资深开发团队,才打破了这种僵局。

Peter Vesterbacka & Mikael Hed

Peter Vesterbacka & Mikael Hed

Rovio原名为Relude,是一家成立于2003年的手机游戏公司,三名联合创始人Niklas Hed、Jarno Vakevainen和Kim Dikert均为赫尔辛基工业大学的校友。这三人曾参加了由诺基亚和惠普赞助举办的手机游戏大赛,而当时在惠普工作的Vesterbacka恰好是该大赛的评委,他建议这三名学生创办自己的手机游戏公司。而后这三人确实采取了行动,并通过Digital Chocolate发行了《King of the Cabbage World》这款手机游戏,并开始承接EA的《极品飞车之生死卡本谷》等外包项目。后来Mikael Hed(上图右)也在2009年初加入成为该公司的CEO,引导他们自主开发内部游戏,雇佣次承包商接手他们的外包项目,以便他们集中精力开发新的iPhone游戏。

他们希望充分利用iPhone的触摸屏等硬件功能,创造令人难忘的游戏角色,锁定所有手机用户,构想出了《愤怒的小鸟》这个创意,让玩家发射小鸟弹弓进攻绿色小猪的堡垒。他们仔细研究了让弹弓机制有效发挥作用的方法,同时也在小鸟进攻失败时,小猪们的嘲笑声等诸多细节上下了不少功夫。

最后,他们终于在2009年12月通过手机游戏发行商Chillingo向iPhone平台推出了这款游戏,最初在芬兰App Store登陆,很快又成了瑞典热门游戏,后来在英国App Store也登上了冠军宝座,最后在美国手机游戏排行榜居首。这款游戏在社交网站的影响力迅速扩散,苹果也在App Store大力推荐《愤怒的小鸟》,每分钟都有Twiiter用户提到这款游戏。

后来,Vesterbacka告诉他们,如果他们有志于将《愤怒的小鸟》打造成影响力更大的项目,他就加入Rovio团队。Accel的合伙人Jim Breyer很有投资远见,他与Rovio的领导人分享了自己在Marvel董事会的一些经历。Marvel原先是一家漫画公司,后来因电影作品开始壮大,最后通过自主创造电影作品收回了知识产权,掌握了相关产品的所有控制权。

这也正是Breyer对Rovio的发展建议,他的看法得到了Vesterbacka的认同,所以Rovio现在开始认真考虑自主创建品牌,掌握更多主动权。Vesterbacka表示,“与Marvel的发展经历一样,你得自己完成许多事情,我们认识到有很多事情得自己来做才行,不能外包给其他公司。Niklas Zennstrom的看法与我们的想法一拍即合,Aydin的观点也同样如此。”

《愤怒的小鸟》的发展潜力让Wong联想到了美国著名漫画家查尔斯·舒尔茨所创作的连环漫画《花生》(PEANUTS),该漫画在1950至2000年间的报纸上进行连载,已成为世界上最成功的连环漫画。Wong去过舒尔茨所掌权的溜冰场,还有纪念舒尔茨的博物馆(游戏邦注:舒尔茨已在2000年谢世)。wong认为,《花生》已成为流传数代的品牌,《愤怒的小鸟》虽然还不能与其相提并论,但它每月都有4000万玩家,玩家每天的游戏时长累积达2亿小时,所以它还是可以借鉴这种发展模式。

Google Trends

Google Trends

包括Accel在内的所有人都很清楚,《愤怒的小鸟》已成为一种文化现象。从以上的谷歌趋势图中就可以看出,《愤怒的小鸟》知名度已经超过了《宝石迷阵》、《FarmVille》、米奇老鼠以及《CityVille》。谷歌趋势图可以表明,现在有许多人都在搜索“愤怒的小鸟”这个词条,它是一个项目知名度变化的重要衡量标准。

Wong表示,“《愤怒的小鸟》会成为这一代的《花生》吗?我的岳母都在玩这款游戏,所以《愤怒的小鸟》当然有这种希望。在过去数十年中,我想除了Twitter之外,还没有哪种事物发展如此迅速。”

Vesterbacka在采访中表示,Rovio计划把这款游戏当成一个系列品牌来经营,就像任天堂的《马里奥》,迪士尼的《米奇老鼠》一样。游戏邦获悉,该公司已推出《愤怒的小鸟》毛绒玩具,也正商谈相关电视节目或电影合作项目,开发了《愤怒的小鸟》节日版本,根据每个季节或假期更新游戏主题,而且还将推出植入20世纪福克斯动画电影《Rio》品牌元素的新游戏《Angry Birds Rio》。

据Vesterbacka所述,“我们的目标就是让《愤怒的小鸟》成为一种流行文化,我们已向这个方向迈进了一大步,只要我们这样做,自然会创造许多收益,获得大量发展机遇。我们并不局限于短期目标。”

《愤怒的小鸟》越成功,它就越极可能为Rovio创造有保证的收益和利润,Rovio对风险投资的依赖就越小。Wong表示,是否应该向Rovio投资已经不再是个问题,难的是如何说服投资者相信Rovio能做到这一点。

Rovio目前也正与其他颇具知名度的公司商谈进军视频游戏领域的计划,但Vesterbacka认为,他们还没有遇到一家能够让Rovio快速实现这一目标的合作伙伴。

在Rovio向新平台进军的过程中,它一直与Accel的投资组合公司保持紧密的联系。发布Android版本游戏时,Rovio选择了GetJar这家独立应用商店作为合作伙伴,后者也是Accel的投资项目之一。此外,《愤怒的小鸟》广告业务主要在谷歌AdMob平台展开,AdMob在被谷歌收购前也曾获得Accel的投资。Accel十分清楚手机游戏行业的投资情况,并知道如何让游戏实现跨平台发展。经过数月的谈判,所有人终于同意了这桩投资交易。

Rovio将利用这笔资金,在今年将公司人员规模扩大到100至200人左右。该公司还将向Facebook进军,创建一个独立的《愤怒的小鸟》网页。Rovio有可能针对绿色小猪或者“神鹰”等配角开发新游戏,让《愤怒的小鸟》成为无处不在的产品。

在未来,Rovio也可能推出《愤怒的小鸟》之外的其他原创游戏,当然这个前提是,这些游戏的影响力有可能超越《愤怒的小鸟》。(本文为游戏邦/gamerboom.com编译,转载请注明来源:游戏邦)

How the Angry Birds deal could lead to mobile gaming nirvana

The $42 million investment in Angry Birds creator Rovio could be a watershed event for mobile games.

The deal shows that at least one mobile game company is able to attract marquee investors and a valuation (as yet still unknown but undoubtedly big) that social game companies attracted in their run-up to the big time. At some point, the industry will flip, with Facebook becoming the smaller part and mobile becoming the bigger part, since the number of mobile phone users is something like five times the number of Facebook users.

In mobile gaming, upstart companies are readying themselves to battle with established giants to become multibillion-dollar mobile game companies. This may sound like the bullish investors are smoking crack. But bullish observers believe the battle has begun and will play out over the next couple of years. Neil Young, chief executive of Ngmoco, said last week in an interview that he believes multibillion-dollar companies will be created in this market in the next couple of years. Rovio itself is perhaps the most bullish of all, since it is closing in on 100 million users.

Besides Rovio, the contenders include Electronic Arts, Zynga, and DeNa, which fired the first shot across the bow when it bought Ngmoco last summer for up to $403 million. Others are moving into the game. Marc Andreessen’s venture firm invested $18 million in mobile game publisher TinyCo just a week ago. Digital Chocolate, an established maker of cell phone and social games, raised $12 million earlier this week. Pocket Games raised $5 million from Sequoia Capital in December. There are lots of chess pieces in motion.

“We were approached by a lot of people and talked to a lot of investors,” said Peter Vesterbacka (pictured top left), the Mighty Eagle at Rovio, responsible for business development. “We were in a good position because we didn’t need the money. The money was not the key thing here. It was more about getting the right people involved. We wanted people who bought into our bigger vision. A lot of people don’t see beyond an iPhone game. What we are trying to do is build an entertainment franchise. We believe we can build this into a multibillion-dollar ecosystem.”

Rovio’s investors include Atomico Ventures, the venture fund created by Skype co-founder Niklas Zennstrom; Accel Partners, the veteran VC firm that invested in Facebook; and super angel fund Felicis Ventures, headed by Aydin Senkut. They slowly came around to a meeting of the minds with Rovio.

Rich Wong, a partner at Accel, said he had known Vesterbacka, who joined Rovio in the spring of 2010 and was a former HP manager, for a long time. Wong caught up with Vesterbacka, who formerly worked at Hewlett-Packard, at our MobileBeat conference last July, about the time when Rovio was starting to go public with all of its success with Angry Birds. Vesterbacka also met Senkut at MobileBeat.

They started a conversation and began the slow process of earning trust, Wong said. Rovio was an eight-year-old company that had worked on 51 games before Angry Birds. That helped Wong and his partners get over any fear that investing in a game company could be a highly risky thing, since there were no guarantees that a game company could be more than a one-hit wonder. Such fears had stymied VC investments in games for many years until recently. Rovio had a team of veterans in place in Finland.

Originally called Relude, Rovio began as a mobile game firm started in 2003 by three students from the Helsinki University of Technology: Niklas Hed, Jarno Vakevainen and Kim Dikert. They had participated in a mobile game competition sponsored by Nokia and Hewlett-Packard. Vesterbacka, then at HP, was one of the judges, and he suggested the trio start their own mobile game company. They did so and got Digital Chocolate to publish the game, King of the Cabbage World, on cell phones. They started doing work-for-hire games such as Need for Speed Carbon for Electronic Arts. Mikael Hed (pictured top right) joined them as CEO in early 2009 and steered them toward making internally produced games they could own. They hired subcontractors to do their work-for-hire jobs so they could free a team to focus on new iPhone games.

They wanted to exploit the iPhone’s hardware, such as its touchscreen, and create memorable characters. They conceived Angry Birds — where the player would slingshot birds with bushy eyebrows at green pigs in fortresses — and targeted at everyone. They focused on every detail and wanted to get the slingshot game mechanic just right. They paid attention to details, such as the animations of the birds crashing into the pig fortresses and the laughter of the pigs whenever you failed to demolish them.

They launched the game on the iPhone in December, 2009, via Chillingo, a mobile game publisher. It caught on in Finland first and then became a hit in Sweden. It hit No. 1 on the App Store in the United Kingdom and then made its way to the top of the charts in the U.S. The title spread through social media and Apple featured it in the App Store. People began tweeting about Angry Birds every minute.

Vesterbacka talked to Mikael Hed about joining Rovio and said he would only do it if the company was committed to making Angry Birds into something huge. They all agreed on the larger vision. Jim Breyer, the Accel partner who helped land Facebook in the venture firm’s portfolio, knows a lot about betting big. He told the Rovio leaders about his experience on the Marvel board of directors.

Marvel grew up as a comic book company, became huge with movies, and then took creative control of its own properties by bringing movie production in-house. It pretty much came to own everything.

That’s what Breyer suggested for Rovio. Vesterbacka said that advice was useful and that the company is now thinking seriously about how to build itself up so that it can retain more creative control and not dilute the brand with small-time efforts.

“Like the Marvel experience, you have to do a lot of stuff yourself,” Vesterbacka said. “We realize we have to do that. There are a lot of things that we just can’t outsource to others. Niklas

Zennstrom also immediately got the vision of what we wanted to do, as did Aydin.”

The potential for Angry Birds reminded Wong of the star of his Santa Rosa, Calif. hometown, Charles M. Schulz, the creator of the Peanuts comic strip, which ran in newspapers from the 1950s to 2000. Wong went to an ice rink that Schulz owned and the museum in his honor as well (Schulz died in 2000). Peanuts became a multigenerational brand. Angry Birds has a way to go before that happens. But about 40 million Angry Birds fans play the game each month. And roughly 200 million hours are spent with the game each day.

It became clear to everyone, including Accel, that Angry Birds was growing into a cultural phenomenon. As you can see from this Google Trends chart, the awareness of Angry Birds began to surpass Bejeweled in October, and by November it blew past FarmVille, which at the time was the most popular game on Facebook. Google Trends show how many people are searching for a term and is a good measure of the changing awareness of a subject.

“Could Angry Birds become the Peanuts of this generation?” Wong said. “My mother-in-law plays it. It absolutely can. In the past decade, I can’t think of anything except Twitter that has become so popular so quickly.”

Vesterbacka said in interviews that Rovio’s plan was to treat the game as a franchise, similar to the way that Nintendo treated Mario or the way that Disney handled Mickey Mouse. The company made

plush toys with the Angry Birds characters and started talks about TV shows or a movie. Then it came up with Angry Birds Seasons, a free game that had constant updates based on seasons or holidays.

And it announced that it would create Angry Birds Rio, a new game connected to the upcoming Rio animated film being released April 15. The relationship with Twentieth Century Fox enabled a cameo appearance by the Angry Birds characters in a Super Bowl commercial.

“Our main goal is we want to make Angry Birds part of pop culture,” Vesterbacka said. “We have come a long way toward that goal. Once we do that, the money and other opportunities will follow. We don’t optimize for short-term profits.”

The more successful Angry Birds has become, the more it has generated solid revenues and profits for Rovio. And the less it has needed venture capital money.

“Whether we should do the deal was no longer a question,” Wong said. “Convincing them was the hard part.”

Rovio also talked to the established game companies in the video game market. But Vesterbacka said, “We didn’t meet with any company that we felt could make us move faster toward our goal.”

As Rovio moved to new platforms, it began dealing closely with the portfolio companies of Accel. On Android, Rovio launched an exclusive on GetJar, the independent app store and one of Accel’s investments. It also had to rely on advertising through Google’s AdMob division, which was also an Accel investment before Google acquired it. Accel was clearly in-the-know when it came to mobile investments and how to craft multi-platform strategies. After months of talks, everyone finally agreed to do the investment.

“Every VC says they add value,” Wong said. “But this was a good combination.”

Rovio will use the money to grow to 100 or 200 people this year. The company will create a presence on Facebook, but that will be part of a larger web strategy that includes a stand-alone Angry Birds web site. Rovio may create games around spin-off characters, such as the green pigs or the Mighty Eagle. Rovio is going to milk it until Angry Birds are everywhere — or we all get sick of it and move on to something else.

And at some point in the distant future, Rovio may get back to creating original titles beyond Angry Birds. That’s the only way to create something that could be bigger than Angry Birds.(source:venturebeat)


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