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Rovio's Skyrocketing Growth and the Increasing Dominance of Smartphone Gaming

By Michael Comeau

NEW YORK ( Minyanville) -- Finland's Rovio Entertainment, maker of the phenomenally popular Angry Birds series of mobile video games, just released its full-year 2011 financial results, and the numbers are spectacular -- particularly when compared with the old-school of the video-game industry.

For 2011, Rovio's revenues hit $106.3 million (¿75.4 million), jumping more than ten-fold from 2010 as downloads of Angry Birds, Angry Birds Seasons, and Angry Birds Rio reached 648 million.

Rovio also reported that actively monthly users reached 200 million, making the Angry Birds franchise about one-fifth as big as Facebook in terms of user count.

And it's not all about the top line. Rovio is extraordinarily profitable, with a pre-tax margin of 64% that easily outpaced industry giants like Activision (ATVI) and Electronic Arts (EA), which are growing at much slower rates.
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And according to Reuters, Rovio is planning an IPO on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 2013.

It makes sense.

Zynga (ZNGA), though down nearly 50% from its March high, is still valued at nearly $6 billion.

Also, note that Zynga recently paid $180 million to get its hands on OMGPOP, maker of the monster mobile hit Draw Something, and reportedly made a $2.25 billion offer for Rovio.

EA and retailer GameStop (GME) have also paid huge sums to get their hands on casual/social/mobile gaming companies.

So it's obvious that there is a whole lot of money chasing the fast-growing producers of these addictive games.

Now, looking at Rovio as a potentially investable public company is pretty tricky. Wall Street will want to see evidence that the company is more than a one-trick pony. Angry Birds shows no signs of falling from grace, but there was a time when investors thought the same thing about Guitar Hero and the Nintendo Wii. And while there are plans for an animated Angry Birds film a few years down the road, there's no telling if the public will care by then.

However, we should be looking at Rovio's Angry Birds as something else: A symbol of how much the video-game industry has changed with the increasing domination of smartphone platforms like Apple (AAPL) iOS and Google (GOOG) Android.
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