Should Zynga Be on the Hunt for Some Angry Birds?

Zynga walked away empty-handed last month after bidding unsuccessfully for PopCap, which went to Electronic Arts.

So what’s next for the acquisition-hungry company?

What about an even tastier target: Rovio, the Finnish developer of the popular Angry Birds franchise.

It’s not just a fantasy game. Rumors have been circulating in the gaming world that the two companies have already engaged in talks. Zynga, as it always does, declined to comment about that speculation.

But, if you think about it, an acquisition or partnership makes an awful lot of sense.

Most importantly, the pair would form a global powerhouse that would have a huge and active audience of players on both mobile and social platforms. Zynga has roughly 148 million unique visitors on Facebook every month.

And Rovio’s Angry Birds has passed more than 250 million downloads in a completely mobile market with one single and very addictive game involving pissed-off birds attacking egg-greedy pigs.

As a recent piece on Rovio in The Wall Street Journal noted:

“There are now 120 million active monthly ‘Angry Birds’ game players, the company says. To compare this to another media property, there have been more than 25 million copies sold of the best-selling console game of the past year, ‘Call of Duty: Black Ops.'”

Rovio certainly wants more and has been extraordinarily vocal about its intentions of raising more money, and its goal of achieving one billion downloads.

While that potentially offers one billion reasons alone that Zynga should be interested, here’s five more on why such marriage might be a good match:

  1. Adorable stuffed animals: Rovio has done a much better job at building a brand and entertainment franchise than Zynga. And it has spread its wings way beyond games and into other categories such as movies, books and toys.
  2. Plenty of cash: Zynga has a lot of cash on its balance sheet and is getting closer to raising $1 billion more in an IPO. And it has the appetite for big buys, offering to buy PopCap for $1 billion in a failed bid.
  3. Free-to-play: Both companies have embraced the “free-to-play” business model, where games are given away and then monetized by selling virtual goods or additional content to players.
  4. Zynga’s risk factors: One of the San Francisco company’s known risk factors is its dependency on Facebook. Mobile would offer some diversity. Since its track record so far on phones and tablets has been questionable, Rovio would cover them on that front easily and give them much needed talent in the arena.
  5. One-hit wonder: Rovio developed a long list of mediocre games before it came up with Angry Birds. It’s obviously a major hit, but does Rovio have what it takes to be an independent company, or does pairing up with another organization give it some wiggle room to continue experimenting?

And, to be fair, here’s one reason why such a pairing might never happen: Both Rovio’s and Zynga’s top management are well known for their stubborn and definitive personalities and, more to the point, not playing well with others.

Ironic, but — if you want to use an Angry Birds metaphor — it would not be easy to join two companies who both want all of the eggs for themselves.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald