Rovio, the gaming company behind the hit Angry Birds franchise, is axing 37% of its workforce–260 jobs, to be exact. Employees working on the company’s long-awaited 3-D feature film will not be affected by the cuts.
Years after the release of its flagship Angry Birds game in 2009, Rovio is struggling to find its footing. The company’s revenue all but came to a standstill in 2013, following three years of significant growth, and has not bounced back since.
The job cuts are a preemptive measure for what Rovio expects will be yet another underwhelming year: The company “forecast[s] flat sales and falling profits” by the end of 2015, according to Reuters. Rovio already laid off 110 employees back in October.
“Fundamental changes are needed to ensure Rovio succeeds in its global ambitions to be the leading entertainment company with mobile games at its heart,” CEO Pekka Rantala said in a statement.
Rovio has been working on the Angry Birds feature for years; the company told Fast Company back in 2012 that it was planning a movie for 2015 or 2016. When Fast Company profiled Rantala in March this year, he called the film a “golden egg” that would help the company increase game downloads and sales of merchandise.
The company is hedging its bets on the movie, so much so that Rantala said earlier this year that he thinks its success could set Rovio on Disney’s path:
Rantala is particularly optimistic about Rovio’s growth potential in the future and its chances of becoming a modern-day Disney. It is the reason why the company is betting big by making the first 3-D animated Angry Birds feature film, due out in 2016…
“For the first time, our characters are going to have lips, wings, and will also speak,” says Rantala, who isn’t shy about comparing the film to Pixar hits. “It’s exactly the same level. And people who’ve seen [parts of] it have been very excited. It’s a very, very funny movie. It’s a family movie but at the same time I can guarantee that young adults who go and check out the movie will love it.”
And yet, despite Rantala’s claims and a voice cast that features Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Bill Hader, and Maya Rudolph, the film has had little to no promotion–not even a teaser trailer.
A Rovio spokesperson, however, told us the film’s release date has been moved up, from July 2016 to May 2016, because “things are going so well.” In a recent interview with IGN, Gad also pledged his support for the movie:
“It’s really a thing. And in fact, when I was approached about it, I actually said no, for many reasons, the most significant of which was I did Olaf [in Frozen] and I don’t want to play another animated character, especially right now. The producer was like ‘Just let me kind of pitch out this movie to you’ and did this reel for me of what he was thinking about, and it was this 30-minute visual pitch and it blew my socks off.
It’s really irreverent, and like that Lego Movie sensibility it’s subversive and funny and unexpectedly smart and really beautiful. Actually gorgeous. The little I’ve seen of it has really impressed me.”
Rovio unveiled the Angry Birds 2 mobile game, a direct sequel to its magnum opus, on July 30. It has since racked up almost 50 million downloads, Variety reports.