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Angry Birds builds nest in China

By Du Jie and Wang Huan (Xinhua)

08:35, June 14, 2012

BEIJING, June 13 (Xinhua) -- Rovio Entertainment Ltd, the Finnish company behind the mega-hit game Angry Birds, with more than 1 billion downloads to date, has big plans for the Chinese market.

In an exclusive interview with Xinhua, Rovio co-founder and chief marketing officer Peter Vesterbacka said the company hopes to incorporate traditional Chinese fairy tales into the themes of a number of activity parks to be built in China "in the not too distant future."

"We're looking at the amazing stories in Chinese history as themes for our parks," Vesterbacka said.

Haining City in east China's Zhejiang Province is "the first that has been announced" for the park, he said, with negotiations for others underway with a number of Chinese cities.

The world's first Angry Birds activity park opened in Finland in April.

Vesterbacka's philosophy is to make the parks part of the neighborhood, just like a school, grocery store or library.

"Instead of building one massive amusement park, we're planning to build hundreds, maybe even thousands of activity parks here in China," Vesterbacka said.

The Angry Birds game, in which players throw birds from slingshots at evil pigs, has become a hit in China, turning the country into the second largest market for Rovio, following the United States. To capitalize on the game's success, the company opened its first overseas office in Shanghai late last year.

Over the past year, Rovio has expanded its business beyond games and now sells plush toys, books and clothing. It even sold mooncakes featuring Angry Birds during China's mid-Autumn festival last year.

In May, the company revealed that its merchandising and licensing revenues accounted for about 30 percent of its sales in 2011. Vesterbacka said the entire value-added chain, rather than the game alone, has created the worldwide success of Angry Birds as a brand.

"We built the fastest-growing brand in the world using a game called Angry Birds. We already have a very strong presence in the physical world. So it's not just a game any more," he said, adding that the goal is to make Angry Birds "a permanent part of the pop culture."

The game's popularity in China has also made Angry Birds' merchandise highly pirated, bet Vesterbacka prefers to frame this in a positive way.

"We're happy about the fact that we're the most copied brand in China -- that's a good start. Then we would like to sell our licensed products," he said.

Rovio announced last November that China would be the first country to have Angry Birds retail stores. Vesterbacka said the company's working on creating a nice shopping experience for its Chinese fans, and there will be some interesting developments in the next few months.

The company previously announced there has been 40 million downloads of the Angry Birds game in China.

To cash in on the Chinese market, Rovio has opened an online store selling spin-offs on Alibaba's Tmall, one of the most popular e-commerce platforms in China.

Earlier this month, the company launched a new online game in cooperation with Coca-Cola China and Chinese Olympic teams. It is set at the upcoming London Olympic Games.

Before the Chinese New Year, Rovio joined with Sina Weibo, China's popular twitter-like service, to offer free downloads of its clips "Year of the Dragon" and other comics.

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